Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Zompires are legend.
This film was selected from ‘The 250
Hey teenage girls that are unexplainably obsessed with vampire movies and tv shows, eat your heart out. It was practically every year that Will Smith came out with a summer blockbuster, and it almost always was released on the Fourth of July weekend. Well, this wasn’t a summer blockbuster, I am Legend was actually released in December, but at the same time, this was one of his last blockbusters. I don’t know if I’d really count Men in Black III or After Earth, but I would say his last blockbuster was Hancock, which was released in 2008. Anyways, I am Legend is based off of a book with the same title, and has been done in film twice before (The Last Man on Earth, and The Omega Man). I’ve actually read the book, which I’ll get to, but let’s first talk about the Will Smith movie version.
So we have Robert Neville, a brilliant scientist and man completely immune to a virus that spread three years prior, transforming virtually everyone into something that resembles a cross between a vampire and a zombie. Every day, Robert trails the streets of New York, completely alone (with a dog) as he struggles to survive. The things he does daily is hunt, rent videos, install security, raid homes for medical supplies and food…you know…everything you’d expect if you were the last person on Earth. Meanwhile, he has been attempting to concoct a cure from his own immune blood with no real luck. That may all change, though, when the zompires begin showing signs of heightened intelligence.
Let’s talk about the book and get that out of the way. The book, holding the same title, has almost no connections to what the movie did, other than the name Robert Neville and the central idea of being the last man on Earth in a world filled with zompires, attempting to find a cure. Liberties were clearly taken for everything else. Yeah, it had the same story, but the book had a lot less “scary” moments, and more scientific. It also poses a lot of theoretical questions that honestly make you think. The book isn’t a horror or thriller, but it really opens your mind and makes you think…it’s very well written. Also, the reason that Robert Neville is legend in the book vs. why he is legend in the movie is completely different. I won’t go into details, but I’m happy with both explanations. By the way, the reason he is legend in the alternate cut of the film is also not the book’s explanation. All of the movies had a different idea of what made him so “legendary”, but if you ever get the chance, I implore you to read the book. It’s quite the interesting read. Notice that I didn’t complain about the film taking liberties…because I don’t care and in fact I think that’s great.
Now, back to the movie. I have to say that after you watch the film the first time, the mystery that holds it together is obviously not there anymore. You know how it ends, and you won’t soon forget. Problem is, the mystery of not knowing what’s in the dark or what will come next is ultimately what made this film so creepy and heart-racing to begin with. Not having that anymore is unfortunate, but it is still a very well done and exciting movie. If you haven’t actually seen it yet, definitely watch it, it’s a must-see. If you have, on the other hand, the need to see it again isn’t as magnificent. I love it because I’m a Will Smith fan, but I realize that the effect it has is dimmer after you see it once.
That being said, the movie is gorgeous. During production, they cut off a New York street and decorated it with shrubs and piled cars everywhere, and just made it look so…dystopian. The rest of the look was done in CG, I’m sure, but if you ever want to see a film about being the last person on earth, this is a pretty good place to start…it’s very believable in terms of visuals. The acting…I’ve seen better by Smith, but as far as action and suspense goes, this is a pretty good addition to his resume. He adds incredibly well to this whole concept, and the drive that keeps his character there is impressive. It’s the only thing his character has left to do, but he feels obligated to do it anyway. You’ll see, it’s honestly well thought out.
When you think Will Smith’s Top…I don’t know, 5-10 movies, I am Legend is most surely going to be among that list. It makes quite an impression when you first watch it. It’s also based on an incredible book by the same name that has been made into a movie four times, this being the third. The only other movie worth mentioning is The Last Man on Earth, starring Vincent Price in 1964.
After you watch this once, the mystery is gone. That feeling you once had as Will Smith enters the unknown, dark building of what lurks on the other side….is completely gone. You know how it ends, you know all the shocking moments, all of the surprises, all of it, and that knowledge alone can water down the overall experience. It’s still a good movie overall, but the level of entertainment based solely on the first viewing is pretty important.
Neville: God didn’t do this. We did.