I Am Legend (2007)
Release Date: December 14th, 2007 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Francis Lawrence Actors: Will Smith, Alice Braga, Charlie Tahan, Salli Richardson, Willow Smith, Darrell Foster
hough this is the fourth time the story for “I Am Legend” (based on the novel by Richard Matheson) has been adapted for film (first as “The Last Man on Earth,” second as “The Omega Man,” and third as “I Am Omega”), the script is unduly similar to countless other horror and sci-fi films of late. Lone survivor Robert Neville (Will Smith) faces the monotony of isolation (as seen in “Silent Running” or even “Cast Away”) and grasps at the hope that he can discover a cure for the virus that has wiped out civilization (as seen in “28 Days Later” or “Resident Evil”). The constant jump scares become routine and the stodgy creature designs are curiously reminiscent of “The Mummy’s” Imhotep, lending to a picture that might be intriguing at first glance, but can’t deliver on its engaging premise.
From the first few minutes of the film, it’s more than apparent that the last man on earth is not alone. And that’s when the suspense hits. The most impressive (for fans of the genre) and simultaneously annoying aspect of “I Am Legend” is the lingering apprehension – a sense of perpetual unease. It’s not intellectual or psychological tension like that found in the works of Alfred Hitchcock, but mere boo sequences that jounce with unexpected flashes of movement. Startling the audience with fulminating noises, sudden commotion, or creatures lashing out at the screen may be easily effective, but it’s also cheap. And due to the regular intervals at which scream-inducing shocks assault the senses, it becomes entirely predictable as the movie progresses.
A lot has been left to the imagination, especially during the adaptation of the novel, from which the film deviates so greatly that taking its title was far from necessary. The post-plague breakout is narrated through dream sequences and flashbacks to explain why Neville is alone in New York. And while much of the deterioration of humans into vampiric zombies is left undeveloped in the background, the reverse effect, in which the creatures begin to grow smarter and appear to follow a leader, is completely untouched. In fact, the last thing viewers hear of Neville’s experiments on infected humans is that they have de-evolved into the most primitive of life forms – and yet, the very next second, they seem to be plotting intricate traps and training rabid dogs to attack.
In an attempt to demonstrate Neville’s loneliness as the last man on earth, the plot has him propping up mannequins in the neighboring video rental store to simulate interactivity with humans. It’s a relatively successful demonstration of the mental instabilities he suffers at the hands of extreme isolation; but even at its finest, when Neville finally confronts a female mannequin that he continually jokes (to his dog) about approaching, it feels like an inferior take on an idea already seen in other movies. At the same time, a single shot of one of the mannequins seemingly turning its head as Neville passes by, becomes the highlight of the picture’s creepiness.
By the end, “I Am Legend” remains notable for Smith’s onscreen charisma and his ability to sustain a one-man show. But the film as a whole offers nothing new to the genre. Straying far from the source material’s deeper, thought-provoking storyline (involving multiple factions of human digression and vampire tendencies), this update hopes to compensate with sensational action sequences and monster thrills, but poor creature designs and a chancy conclusion (alternate endings were readily available) work to counteract the blockbuster entertainment value.
– The Massie Twins