I Am Legend

After watching the crapfest that was “One Missed Call”, it was decided that “I Am Legend” was the mouthwash needed to cleanse away the remnants of the shit sundae we had just consumed. Here we go then…

I Am Legend (2007)

As I mentioned in my “I, Robot” review, I’ll watch Will Smith in anything and “I Am Legend” is no exception. In fact, it may be useful to keep “I, Robot” in mind for this review as there are some similarities (Other than both titles beginning with “I”)

“My name is Robert Neville. I am a survivor living in New York City”

The basic plot follows Robert Neville (Smith), who is the lone survivor of a virus which wiped out the human race. He’s not quite alone however, as there are thousands of vampiric creatures called “Dark Seekers” who come out at night in search of blood. Dr. Neville is also trying to work on a cure for the mutation in his lab at home, using captured “Dark Seekers” as test subjects. Er… and that’s it for a good long while. He also has a dog named Sam who sweeps the Greatest Movie and T.V. Canine Awards (or the “Barkies” as they’re also known). I really liked the feeling of isolation the film gives us. The huge, sprawling and incredibly noisy New York City is silenced and been taken back by nature. It’s eerie and beautiful in equal measures. I like the fact Neville talks to mannequins and Sam throughout. It’s a nice touch and a surprising insight into human behaviour as after thinking about what I’d do in the same situation, I’m sure I would be doing something similar if only to stave off insanity for another day.

So, time to check your play-at-home “I, Robot” checklist. So far we should have one tick next to “Man who is separated from society somehow”. Done? Back to the review…

All goes well until about three quarters of the way through when the film decides that it should abandon all the well-crafted tension and melancholy it has built up and go for an all out action-y ending. If I was to pinpoint the moment where the film begins to soil itself it’s when he meets Anna and Ethan. Yes, it seems Will Smith has some kind of “minimum number of lines” clause in his contract ‘cos that’s all the other people seem to be introduced for- as dialogue trampolines. (i.e. for Smith to bounce lines off, not to jump up and down on them- this was apparently too much to hope for.)

“Nothin’ happened the way it was supposed to happen.”

Back to the “I, Robot” checklist. Annoying kid? Check. Annoying woman? Check. All subtlety thrown out the window to appeal to the popcorn-munching ‘tards out there? Double check.

The ending. Well, it’s an ending, I suppose. If I hadn’t read the book, I’d have probably liked it, but as I have, the ending angered me. Why? Well, it misses the entire point of the book and therefore we are cheated out of the real explanation of the title “I Am Legend”. Let me elaborate. In the book, Neville realises that these Dark Seekers are the new human race and that after all his failed tests and experiments (which resulted in Dark Seeker fatalities) he is now a myth to them, a sort of “boogeyman” who captures and kills them. He is sentenced to execution (the beings in the book are capable of speech and are intelligent unlike the snarling, roaring beasties in the film) and the book ends on a very sombre note. In the film, he finds a cure and dies protecting it by blowing himself up in a huge fireball, taking the Dark Seekers with him. The film’s explanation of the title is that Neville died to enable his annoying sidekicks to escape and spread the cure. Therefore, they are “his legend”. So Neville went out in a blaze of glory and is now legendary because of it. Gawd Bless Americuh!

Luckily, there is an alternate ending on the Blu-ray which is more like the book’s ending, but unfortunately it feels like too little, too late. The damage has been done.

Finally we return to the “I, Robot” checklist. Add a tick to “Wasted potential” and “Maltreatment of the source novel” and you’re done. Congratulations. That was completely pointless.

I’m going to give “I Am Legend” a four star rating despite the crappy third act. This is because it has a great concept, some really affecting scenes and (although ignored in the latter part of the film) a fantastic undercurrent of tension and malice which you just don’t see these days.

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