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It seems to me that Will Smith is the most universally appealing actor working today. He is one of the few actors around right now who can carry a film on his name alone. Time was when Tom Hanks and Jim Carrey could do it, but even they have started to slide, as have names like Tom Cruise and Harrison Ford. But, Will Smith is still consistently knocking them out of the park. His last film, "The Pursuit of Happyness", for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor, grossed $162 million dollars. Before that, his comedy "Hitch" grossed $177 million. Before that, "I, Robot" brought in $144 million. The truth is - Will Smith has not had a film gross under $100 million at the box office since 2000 - now that is an incredible record of success. "I Am Legend" marks Smith's first sojourn into the horror genre, though some would argue that the film is more science fiction than anything else. My money is on horror. Based on the popular novel from horror writer Richard Matheson, "I Am Legend" is one of those films that is going to immediately strike ire from the fans of the text, and strike criticism from those who just can't see Will Smith in a horror film, though they evidently forget his role in "Independence Day". The film is directed by Francis Lawrence, who last brought us "Constantine", another big budget effects extravaganza. I was expecting to be amused, but not blown away. I enjoyed it far more than that.
The film opens with a doctor (Emma Thompson) being interviewed. Turns out that she has used the measles virus to discover a cure for cancer. However, her cure turns into a nightmare when it begins transforming people into ravenous creatures. Eventually, most of the world is wiped out and there is only one man left alive in New York City - Robert Neville (Will Smith), a military colonel who also helped to cultivate the virus and now hopes to find a cure, even though there is no one left around and the people transformed by the virus come out to hunt at night, resembling vampiric zombies. Neville goes about his day with his dog Samantha - following the same routine, using a distress beacon to let other potential survivors know where he'll be. Every now and again, he is forced to steep into the darkness, where the creatures reside, in order to rescue his adventurous canine, but otherwise he stays away and keeps boarded up inside his apartment, which he has transformed into somewhat of a fallout shelter. He doesn't bother them unless he has to, and they don't bother him unless they have to. However, the creatures start getting smarter and eventually set Robert up, leading to some of the meatier material in the film. Flashbacks show us what happened to New York City right before the outbreak, as we see the military destroy the Brooklyn Bridge in order to quarantine the island. Is Neville the only man left alive in the world? Can he find a cure and transform the creatures back into humans? You'll have to watch the film.
What doesn't work in the film are some of the special effects. The sequences in New York City are very impressive, with the city turned into a jungle - lions and deer running wild and grass sprouting up from the cement - but the creature effects are a little lackluster, at times. They felt similar to the same kind of effects from "I, Robot", which I also had a problem with. The creatures looked more akin to the creatures from "The Descent", but what made those creatures work was that they used make-up and prosthetics on real people. I also had a problem with some of the directorial choices, as in the decision to have Neville go on this random Bob Marley rant that did nothing except make the film seem so stereotypical. I thought some of the dialogue in the flashbacks was lame, especially between Neville and his wife, but not all words can be winners in films like this. And, finally, I had a hard time explaining little things in the film. For example, how does someone get onto and off an island that has been isolated? No bridges. No ferries. This was just one of those little things that bothered me because it's one of those things that makes me think the director thought the audience was going to be too dumb to notice or care. But, those were really my only complaints of the film. For the most part, "I Am Legend" was highly affective.
The best thing going for the film is Will Smith. He carries the role and the picture, and he does it with the same kinetic persona that we're used to seeing from him. He's funny when he needs to be, intense when he needs to be and heartbreaking when he needs to be. Smith gets one scene towards the middle of the film that I compare to Tom Hanks' scene in "Cast Away". It just breaks your heart. Then, he has another scene in the video store with a mannequin which is so nicely played and Smith makes it work, when most others could not have done so. I also enjoyed how intense the film played. I was not expecting as much horror as I received, and other than some questionable special effects, it worked very well, especially when we first get a glimpse of the creatures, which I compare to the same scene in "The Descent". Director Francis Lawrence knows how to build tension and keep an audience entertained and that talent was on full display here. "I Am Legend" kept the audience engaged from beginning to end, no question. I love being surprised by films and I just wasn't expecting much from "I Am Legend". Halfway through the film, I realized that I had been given far more than I ever anticipated. This was not just another big budget effects ride.
So, kudos to director Francis Lawrence for crafting a quality horror film, and kudos to Will Smith for continuing to choose successful projects. The film took in $78 million this weekend, which was about $30 million more than analysts predicted. Never underestimate the drawing power of one of the most popular actors on the planet. Will Smith really is the new $100 million dollar man. Move over Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, Harrison Ford - old news, old news, old news. "I Am Legend" is one of the most entertaining rides of the holiday season and it serves up far more thrills and chills than you would ever expect. The audience I watched it with absolutely loved it, and rightly so. What else can you say about a film that goes out of its way to make sure the audience is satisfied? Fans of the novel might be disappointed, and probably will be, by some of the changes, but the film in itself is so enjoyable that I just forgot all about them. "I Am Legend" is not going to change the world and does really bring anything new to the table, but it plays all the old stuff so well.
- added 12/17/2007, 12:02 PM
Overall, I enjoyed this film. But I was annoyed
be a few things. As you mentioned, the CGI is
lacking, half the time it looked like I was
watching a Disney Pixar film or something, but I
eventually looked past that. The other things that
annoyed me were the cheap loud noises scares, I
really fucking hate those, and the ending was a
bit of a let down, should have been longer. But
overall I really liked it. The first time we see
the creatures in the dark was really well done in
- added 12/31/2007, 01:54 AM
the ending should not have been changed. Richard
Matheson wrote the book and hes famous for his
twist endings, he wrote most of the original
twilight zone stories, and the original ending is
- added 04/21/2008, 12:03 AM
In one scene in the movie, Smith picks up a CD
and proclaims that it is, quite simply, the best
album ever released. That album was
"Legend", a greatest hits compilation
from Bob Marley that was released a few years
after his death in what could easily be seen as a
money-grabbing technique. I found that rather
ironic, as this film was sort of like that album;
I Am Legend was a release that features the
"audience friendly" pieces from the
source material while at the same time cutting out
or changing everything that made said source
material so effective.
"Jammin'" and "I Shot the
Sheriff" good songs? Of course, but those
are the type of songs that play on the radio for a
couple of months and are then forgotten about.
Marley wouldn't be remembered if not for his huge
impact on the music scene with songs that actually
had substance to them, and "I Am Legend"
(the novel) wouldn't be remembered if not for the
ingenious ending and the twists that led up to
"I Am Legend" (this
movie) chose to go the greatest hits route,
borrowing the general plot and some of the more
audience friendly scenes while cutting out
everything that had substance. It converts the
material from a smart and shocking - I guess you
could say "monster movie" - into a
mindless Hollywood blockbuster that features
plenty of explosions, plenty of false scares, and
of course, a "send the audience home
I did enjoy the
opening scenes, I loved the look of the city, and
yes, Smith did do a great job with the role; that
scene with the mannequin would sound laughable on
paper, but he made it work. I wouldn't have
minded if the ending had simply been changed, but
I did have a problem with what they changed it
into: another Hollywood blockbuster that did good
on opening weekend and sold a bunch of DVDs, but
will be all but forgotten about a year from now.
- added 10/06/2008, 03:19 AM
I finally sat through this film from beginning to
credits... and was utterly shocked at the shameful
waste of Mr. Smith's talent this film
He does his best to wade
through cliched last minute escapes and painfully
predictable sound scares... and actually manages
to forge a believable portrait of a knight without
a kingdom with his tremendous ability to exude
humanity, even through some of the most ham-fisted
dialogue I've heard in a modern big-budget flick.
He is badly miscast as the story's original
titular character... but he somehow manages to
outshine the meager script's lackluster
description of his on-screen persona. Good show,
Will... good show.
shit-storm surrounding his stellar performance is
almost laughable in it's baffling lack of
explanation for even the most simple plot points.
After the opening salvo of scenes that promise so
much... the rest of the film crumbles into typical
Hollywood action fare that belittles the hubris
present in the source material. Without spoiling
the latter part of the film directly, let me just
say that the additional characters that suddenly
"pop" into the narrative are so
ridiculously bare and cliched that it beggars
description. The whole forced, last-minute
"butterfly" symbolism actually hurt my
ears and eyes...
I won't even bother
to comment in detail on the almost laughable CGI
work in the film that looked, in some spots, that
it was ripped from a made-for-TV SCi-Fi Channel
folks have problems with the film's changed
ending... I found that this piece of shite was
riddled with problems long before the director
witlessly decided that he had a better finale for
the film than the man that originally penned
Still, having the whole point of the
film's title ripped from it so that a typically
predictable happy ending could be crammed in is
A sty in the eye of
good science fiction/horror cinema...