Director – Francis Lawrence
Writer – Mark Protosevich, Akiva Goldsman
Starring – Will Smith, Alice Braga, Charlie Tahan
It is unusual I will come out of watching a film not entirely sure what I thought of it. Normally I immediately have either a more negative or more positive opinion of a film as soon as the credits roll. With I Am Legend, however, I am torn between two extremes; enjoyment and annoyance.
Based on the novel of the same name, I Am Legend tells the story of a virus which spreads throughout the world either killing everyone or turning them into flesh-eating, vampire-like creatures. Will Smith plays Robert Neville, a military scientist who is immune to the virus and who seems to be the last surviving virus-free human. The film follows him as he tries to survive in the city as, apparently, the last man on earth.
Much of I Am Legend’s strong points are contained within the first half of the film. The film opens with a sequence that lets us know that humankind has found a cure for cancer but unfortunately most of those who are cured start to either die or mutate into vampire-like creatures. Then we jump to three years later to New York City which has been deserted by most humans, and only Neville and wild animals seem to remain. We watch Smith’s character, along with his dog, survive in the city; hunting for food, exercising, searching for other possible humans and just generally doing the best he can with what he’s got. I seem to find films fascinating that have one person in it for almost the entire movie. It gives the audience a chance to see an actor show off any true acting ability that they might have by having to act by themselves. Smith proves here, as he already did with The Pursuit of Happyness, that he can act and this is shown not necessarily from the beginning but once the film progresses. We see him go from as happy as a person could be in his situation to almost a complete wreck after everything takes a toll on him. The film has a lot more heart and sentiment to it than I was expecting and for that I must give it credit.
Having not read the source material, or the previous incarnations of it, before seeing this film I almost literally went in blind. I have came across a few people who have literally been angry at the film for doing so many things wrong and almost nothing right due to their love for the source novel and previous films. But since I didn’t have any experience with the story I wasn’t annoyed at it for doing wrong what the other material did right. What I am annoyed at, however, is a few of the little things that happen. A lot of the film substitutes logic and sense in the name of entertainment. Although you can’t take what happens too seriously, because the whole idea itself is ludicrous to say the least, but there were just certain things that just would not happen even within such an unbelievable story as this.
But for the most part the first half of the film at least provides some all out entertainment, some genuine chilling moments and that much welcomed heart to it. It is at around the hour mark that things start to turn sour. There is something that occurs (which I won’t spoil for any of you) that comes completely out of left field and almost completely removed me from my involvement in, what was up to that point, a pretty effective film.
From them on, save for a few moments of glimmering hope, the film took a dreadful nose dive. Although it may satisfy action fans out there anyone looking for anything else will surely feel as annoyed as me. It takes what made the first half of the film effective, creepy, enthralling and attention grabbing and almost completely flushes it down the toilet. And all this in the name of turning up the action dial, something which I severely hold against the film. So with regards to the direction the film takes at around the hour mark you are going to be in one of two groups; thrilled with the increase in action or annoyed with the unnecessary turn of events. Unfortunately I am more in the latter category (although admittedly some of the later actions scenes were pretty impressive on their own).
Now when it comes to special effects I can take a bit of inconsistent moments and even moments which look fake. But the main special effects, of the vampires, in this film look completely fake as does most of the surroundings of the destroyed and abandoned city. Why they couldn’t use real people as the vampires instead of these clay-looking wasted money special effects I will never know.
The ending of the film is what I had the biggest problem with. If they had come up with a better ending I could have forgiven all the mishaps up until then but sadly they have what is bordering on a cop-out and what is certainly an anti-climax. It left me feeling almost cheated and disappointed that I had got my hopes up for an effective ending. Whether or not the source material ends in the same way I for one do not know. But if it does then I will have the exact same problem with it.
I Am Legend is a strange film for me; I both liked it and didn’t at the same time. There are a lot of good things in the movie, which fortunately prevail over the bad, but too much is done wrong for the film to be great. Further reflection and a second viewing may alter my opinion to a clear “liked” or “didn’t like” but for now I Am Torn.