It’s the end of the world as we know it, and no one’s feeling fine.
That is except for the last man on earth, Robert Neville, played by Will Smith, who gives a fine performance as the unlucky survivor in a world full of aggressive night crawlers. Smith is star worthy of his recent inclusion on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame in ‘I Am Legend.’
The first hour is well worth the thrill ride that is action packed and visually stunning. Set in the post apocalyptic metropolis of Manhattan, the remnants of civilization loom large over the dim shadow of a lone man and his dog. The marooned wasteland becomes a silent but formidable character; a smart choice given that most of the dialogue is delivered to mannequins and a loyal canine that easily steals some of Smith’s thunder.
The dead silence of the first hour is a frightening risk with a big payoff. The audience will be mesmerized at the tremendous cinematography and grip their seats from what lurks in the underbelly of the Big Apple.
Inexplicably immune to a pandemic disease and armed with military discipline and enough knowledge to give hope to mankind for finding a cure, Neville experiments in his make shift lab inside his fortified brownstone Manhattan apartment and issues radio transmissions in the hopes of finding another lost soul.
The challenge of this third adaptation of Richard Matheson’s classic novella “I Am Legend” is capturing the essence of loneliness against the persistence of survival. In a recent interview with Richard Matheson, he says of this film, “It’s fantastic. It caught the spirit of my book very well. The whole idea of him being alone and what he’s going through is very important.”
Director Francis Lawrence of ‘Constantine’ has the uneasy task of pitting one man against the law of the land by day and the unnatural law of ‘The Infected’ – nocturnal, blood thirsty mutants spawned by an inoculation against cancer. All this with virtually no interaction with any other human beings and to balance this tall task, flashbacks provide some answers as to how this mutation spread and the emotional loss that underscores Smith’s performance.
It’s a shame that the film ultimately fails to deliver with a recyclable ending and uninspired twists of convenience.
Hollywood must still believe that happy endings make for happier audiences. Maybe that’s why independent films are becoming so popular…(hint, hint movie moguls), they’re not afraid of leaving loose strings which in the case of ‘I Am Legend’ would’ve left a door wide open for sequels.
The last half hour of the film screeches to standstill after the timely arrival of the deus ex machina in the form of a woman, Anna, played by Alice Braga. She somehow manages to find her way into the cut-off city and rescue Neville without as much as a scratch. And she’s a hell of a good driver too. Not one mutant got run over in the making of this film.
This is the fork in the film that otherwise would’ve been a gem of the genre. Anyone who has seen ‘28 Days Later’ already knows how the film ends. There’s some bloodletting, an explosion and a noble sacrifice. Mankind survives after all and it’s a bit disappointing.
Trust is the key word here and for the most part Francis Lawrence and his two teams of screenwriters seemed to put faith into the man who brought us legendary classics such as “Somewhere in Time,” “The Incredible Shrinking Man” and the most famous Twilight Zone episode “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.” Given that Richard Matheson is one of the most revered and enduring writers, “inspiring” George A. Romero’s ‘Night of the Living Dead,’ it’s shortsighted to alter what made the original story so significant and gives the title its meaning.
At least they used his title unlike the previous attempts ‘The Last Man on Earth’ and ‘The Omega Man’ considering how this version ends, however, this is a bittersweet victory.
Hollywood has yet to learn from its mistakes, and this is more than evident here. Based on the ground breaking novella by Richard Matheson, the film ‘I Am Legend’ is the third attempt at a cinematic adaptation of the legendary classic. Aided by special effects, and dramatic cinematography, this version does shine like a new penny but like its predecessors, the departure from Matheson’s original work produces the fluff of legends.
Director: Francis Lawrence
Cast: Will Smith & Alice Braga
Running time: 1:40
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Written by MR Hunter