I AM LEGEND

Will Smith as Dr. Robert Neville

Although this is the third film version of Richard Matheson’s well-known novel, I Am Legend, it is certainly easy to welcome back another try, because it is the first time the story (which is of such futuristic caliber) can be told with equal amount of big-budget effects. It is also fine that the film is being made for a third time because they’ve waited long enough (it’s been over 35 years since The Omega Man) to tell this interesting story to a new generation of moviegoers, and it’s certainly at a time when something like what’s proposed in the film can actually put a scare into us on a deeper level. It all centers around scientist Robert Neville, who as the film opens appears to be the only person left in all of New York City – and possibly the world – after being the sole survivor of a devastating backfire virus that swept through 588 million people in 2009 instead of curing cancer. We are introduced to him as he roams the streets of the city three years after the virus struck, with only his faithful canine, Sam, at his side. The opening portions of this film are beautifully put together, almost operatic in tone even, and Smith is just spot-on in the title role. Francis Lawrence, who previously directed a filmed I disliked called Constantine, seemed to be a nice choice to take on the project, at least in the opening half. There is no doubt that the tale itself is important and timeless, but this remake took some odd steps in fleshing it out and ultimately makes it just mild success as opposed to something more, which it certainly could have been.

The computer generated effects of a ruined and desolate New York City are absolutely fascinating to look at and are flawless, but when the infected humans are unveiled as they lurk through the night, the CGI becomes more and more disappointing. One of the main setbacks that the film forces onto itself is the choice to reveal the creatures so early on. Yes, they are eerie and effectively scary when first shown in a great scene of tension, but the more we see them the less we are offset by their presence. Lawrence does a terrific job constructing Neville’s first interaction with the infected, creating one of the most memorably frightening moments of the year in thrillers. But as much as that scene was great as a stand-alone sequence, it proves to be too good and makes some of the later scenes, especially the final showdown with the mutants, seem a little disappointing. The movie has such good sound and editing work that it would have done well to not show the infected until at least after the half-way point, for sometimes the sense of something lurking rather than knowing what’s lurking is more effective. Although this is almost a major detriment to the movie’s success, there still are a number of things to admire and recommend about  I Am Legend, with the premier plus being Smith’s full-fledged movie star performance. A lot of people have compared his portrayal of the estranged Neville to Hanks’ performance in Cast Away, and that’s fair to do so. He handles this tough role in a careful manner, never crossing a line that would lose any authenticity. We learn to care for this character very much, as induced by well-made flashback sequences right before the virus hit the city. He rushes to get his wife and daughter on a helicopter and out of the area, in hopes of one day meeting up with them again. Of course if he wants to do this he must first find a cure for the terrible ordeal, because he is a man who has no choice but to stay until a job is finished.

I think I Am Legend could have benefited greatly from a longer running time. It runs by at a brisk 101-minute pace, which to me is oddly too short for a picture with such an epic feel. By the end of the film I was torn on where I was as far as a final verdict for my opinion of it, because it really takes a turning point later on that swayed my faith in the entire thing. I saw it a second time the evening after and came to the conclusion that even with the fairly large concerns I had with some of the climactic decisions made, there is definitely enough entertainment and such a strong performance by a lead actor at the height of his success, to make it ultimately worthwhile. To get what we’ve gotten, which is something much better than the average blockbuster of it’s kind, is somewhat of a miracle. To want something more is just greedy, so we’ll do good by settling for a slick action film.

Rating: B

PG-13
1 hour 41 minutes
Warner Bros.

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One Response to “I AM LEGEND”

  1. Amanda Says:

    I really want to see this movie.
    even though it sounds as if you did not entirely fall in love with it.
    it seems like it will have a huge impact.
    great review love.

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