Tuesday, January 08, 2008

I Am Legend

"(to mannequin) I promised a friend I would say hello to you today...please say hello to me...please say hello to me"

Directed by: Francis Lawrence

Written by: Akiva Goldsman & Mark Protosevich

Starring: Will Smith

My rating: 8/10

I Am Legend tells the story of the last man on earth left behind after everybody else had been killed by a virus. Based on the novel of the same name by Richard Matheson, the story has had two previous incarnations on screen, one starring Vincent Price (The Last Man on Earth) and the other starring Charlton Heston (The Omega Man) which are legends in their own right. Hollywood's disregards the old "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mantra as usual and decided to remake the story yet again.

Two things make this film stand out from most Hollywood apocalypse epics. Firstly, the visually stunning depiction of a empty, modern New York is simply amazing and impossible not to marvel at. The production design really gives the haunting impression of a city stopped in its tracks. New York City is so familiar a character in films, that its ghostly appearance is all the more striking. Secondly, the casting of Will Smith as pretty much 90% of the cast was a stroke of genius as few actors of our generation have the intense likeability and wonderful acting skills that Will Smith has, as well as being able to easily pull of the action hero role. The twice Oscar-nominated Smith acts up a storm here as he carries the entire film with dialogue spoken to his dog and some mannequins. Many, many scenes which could have been really hammy were saved by Smiths ability to stay in touch with basic, primal emotion.

The film also bravely keeps the pace very slow for the first hour, apart from a few chase sequences, the events in Robert Nevilles life are shown to be mundane and lonely. The human aspect and sense of loss is elevated here and as the audience sees Neville begin to lose control of his sanity at certain points, it takes on the veneer of a tragedy. The last half hour contains more action sequences and running around but overall the story stays centred on the central character.

The film, unfortunately, is extremely flawed. The filmmakers made the dreadful mistake of creating the CGI monsters. With our advanced technologies today, one may have hoped for a better outcome, but the monsters look like rejects from a 1990's computer game. This was extremely distracting and destroyed much of the tension surrounding the creatures advancement. Also, the screenplay left out so many important plot points and left so many threads up in the air that its hard to believe anyone even read the script before production. It is never explained why Robert Neville is immune to the virus, it is suggested that the monsters are becoming less and less human, yet they have learned to use pretty sophisticated techniques of trickery without the least reaction of surprise from Neville.

However, despite its problems, the film does exactly what it set out to do: it entertains, thrills and tugs at the heartstrings. After all, it's a blockbuster, not an art film, so the very fact that it bothers to address the delicate human tragedy makes everything else seem forgivable. I would recommend seeing this film to be entertained, and try to avoid over-thinking the plot-holes (of which there are many). Sit back and marvel at the wonderful job they did of portraying post-apocolyptic New York City...its worth the admission price alone.

-Charlene Lydon 10/01/08

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