I Am Legend... Albiet the Usual One...

I Am Legend , a film review...

In typical Hollywood fashion, a film that took over 15 years to make it to the screen mangles the original story based on I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. Sure, I Am Legend is going to make money at the box office. It is a sci-fi movie staring a graying Will Smith (Independence Day, I Robot) as Robert Neville, I mean profits are almost guaranteed at this point. The theater I was in was packed with young college men, home on break with a pocket full of fresh money from their mommies, and heading to the theater to be followed by the bar. Those guys lucky enough to have dates were in trouble, because obviously they had duped their dates into coming to a “guy” movie.

I, for one, am getting a bit tired of the Hollywood money making vehicle that becomes so bland in the end that it feels like we have seen it twelve times already. I mean isn’t this just like The Postman? Or should I say Hollywood’s version of David Brin’s The Postman? Well, maybe it is a bit closer to 28 Days Later, but hey, there is ALWAYS a utopia out there for all of the survivors, right? Can’t we take a note from George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (he has been doing it since the 60’s) and NOT have a happy ending? Or at least an ending you don’t expect or hope for? I have not read what Matheson thinks about the film yet, but I was hoping for HIS ending. The one where the freaky vampires rule the world, and humanity is altered forever. Needless to say, this is not what happens in the Bob-Marley-Don't-Worry-Be-Happy version that Hollywood has concocted for viewing public. The film has some of the ominous tone and fear that Matheson's novel has, but on the whole, the film and the novel are two completely different experiences.

But is the sugarization of the film industry I Am Legend’s fault? No. This movie was visually stimulating, emotionally moving (a bit), thought provoking (for sure), and over-all worth the ride. The CGI vampires were a bit over-done, but we have even begun to wink our collective eye at this type of animation and nod saying, “it’s okay, we know it’s fake but we like it.” And having nearly wet myself from a fright at one point, I can attest to the validity of such CGI shenanigans.

Will Smith’s interaction with store mannequins, and his loose grip on reality really holds the film together. At one point, Smith’s character Neville holds an assault rifle aimed at one of his mannequin “friends” “Fred”. “Fred” has been moved, obviously by someone or something, and Neville feels betrayed by Fred but at the same time questions whether or not Fred has actually come to life. The range of emotion demonstrated in this scene by Smith is amazing, and probably worth the price of admission alone. Trying to imagine Schwarzenegger in the title role, which he was originally slated for back in the mid-1990s, seems a stretch, and I think Smith was a much wiser and sophisticated choice.

With a relatively simple plot, this movie is one that movie goers can easily wrap their minds around, and delivers everything it promises, even if it is exactly what we expect.