This marks the third time that the 1950's novel I am Legend has been made into a film, the first two being The Last Man on Earth (review coming soon) and The Omega Man (starring Chuck Heston). While I have never read the novel, I am told that this version strays the most from it so it's odd that they went with the novel's title. This also marks the one millionth time that Will Smith has played the same character. You know, the uber-good guy, the heart of gold man who has nary a single character flaw. The Boy Scout, the superman, the gentleman who saves the day.
In his other films, this has been enough for me to stop paying attention, but here it works in his favor. I Am Legend's premise is a familiar one - a virus has wiped out 90% of the world's population. A minute handful of people have proven to be immune to it while a larger minority have been "changed" by it - turning into superhuman cannibals with their mental capacity dulled to mere instinct and a severe chemical reaction to UV light. Vampires in other words.
Smith is a military scientist who lost his family during the chaos of NYCs evacuation and now is, literally, the last man in the city. His days are spent with his dog, Sam, driving around town looking for food, picking out new DVDs to watch from the video store and slowly losing his mind to loneliness (he holds conversations with mannequins he has placed around his neighborhood and watches video tapes of programs like The Today Show).
Occasionally he comes into contact with the vampire people and attempts to capture them to use in his lab experiments where he tirelessly attempts to find a cure for the virus. This is where Smith's character could really only be played like a guy like him - he doesn't give up and he continues to promise to "fix this", always the problem solver, always the good guy. A guy like Clive Owen would fail miserably in this role since his type of character would have long ago given up and barricaded himself into his home with stacks of porn and barrels of booze.
I Am Legend has some triumphantly scary moments and does an amazing job of making an abandoned city feel menacing. You are constantly waiting for something to jump out at you and there is a level of tension running through the first half of the film. The problem is that when they do eventually jump out, it's a major disappointment. As Hex said last night, "in the future, everything will be animated." Why the producers chose to go with the ridiculous CGI monsters instead of simple makeup on live actors is beyond me. It's distracting and, honestly, not very well executed.
That aside, this is a pretty good movie, much better than I was expecting. Even the moments that are designed to be sad, as obvious as they are, as easy to see coming as they are, got me. It's exciting, simple and kept me very entertained. Worth a viewing, but you may want to wait to rent it.
- Complaint Depart