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I Am Legend (2007)

  Tags: action, Alice Braga, based on book, Charlie Tahan, creature, end of the world, Francis Lawrence, i am legend, nocturnal, post-apocalyptic, remake, sci fi, Will Smith

Your rating: None Average: 7.3 (7 votes)
Reviewer Rating: 
7

iamlegend.jpg
Rating #: 
7/10
Director: 
Francis Lawrence
Runtime: 
101 minutes
Cast: 
Will Smith, Alice Braga, Charlie Tahan


This film has been in the making for over a decade and is actually one of the first projects added to the UHM database when the page opened in the summer of '99. At the time Ridley Scott was going to direct, with Arnold Schwarzenegger set to play Robert Neville. However, due to budget concerns, the studio canned the project and it remained silent until 2002, when Michael Bay was in talks to direct, with Will Smith replacing Arnie as Neville. The script was changed to deliver a smaller budget, but it also made some dislike it, and was eventually shelved again, and Bay and Smith went on to do Bad Boys II.

Finally, after a few years and rewrites later, the script was given the go-ahead and Constantine director Francis Lawrence took the director's seat. Smith returned to the project, which worried myself and many others, thinking the film would turn into a big-budgeted action pic with a bunch of cheesy one-liners thrown around. Of course, something similar to that would have likely happened, had the project been given the greenlit with Arnie still attached.

This marks the third film adaptation of Richard Matheson's original novel. More of a direct remake of 1971's Omega Man, this movie depicts Will Smith as Robert Neville -- the seemingly last normal human being left in the now broken and torn city of New York. Accompanied by his trusty dog, Neville spends his days searching for food and supplies, and his nights curled up in a ball, with a firearm nearby, as the moans and screams of the "dark seekers" fill the city's night skies.

Constantly haunted by visions of his deceased wife and daughter, Neville is determined to find a cure for this epidemic and prove that his living is not without a purpose. For once I've actually read the story before seeing the movie, but as luck would have it, I really don't remember much from Matheson's written work, since so many years have passed. Though, there have been some obvious changes from what I can remember.

One of the biggest changes in the story is the fact that what were once considered "vampires" are now just rabid unintelligent hairless nocturnal beings, driven by a blind violent rage. Although the majority of the creatures seem unintelligent, there's one brute that shows some brains, as he's shown throughout the film and seems to have a vendetta against Neville. Unleashing dogs on him and at one point pushes other infected aside as he makes his way to Neville, with hopes to have first crack at him.

This is likely the replacement of Neville's intelligent infected neighbor from the original story, who would constantly call out Neville's name, taunting him and foreshadowing his eventual demise. At one point Johnny Depp was rumored to have a role in this film, and was thought to play that particular character, but it was proven false when it was revealed that no such character even existed in the script.

I had an idea on what I would expect from this film, and after seeing Will Smith in more dramatic roles, threw out the persona of him simply as a one-liner action star. Luckily, Smith actually pulls off a decent and believable job as the last man on earth, whom also seems to be on the brink of insanity due to his lack of human contact for over three years. I've seen a lot of post-apocalyptic films, but in my opinion I Am Legend was the best interpretation.

The emptiness of the normally crowded New York was shown to perfection, which makes sense considering they had to shut down parts of the city to film certain scenes. With the stranded cars, streets filled with grass, and wild animals roaming around, I couldn't help but feel as though I were in Neville's shoes. We're also shown a lot of silent scenes (mostly in the beginning) of Will just going about his normal routine, which were probably some of the best moments in the film.

However, the movie is not without its faults. I was really digging the film until we were finally shown the infected. I have to admit, I've seen better CGI in video games. How anyone could think that they did a good job on the visual effects is beyond me. Originally the infected were played by real actors, but director Francis Lawrence reportedly didn't feel they were convincing enough, which doesn't make any sense at all, considering the ones in this movie (much like I said earlier) looked like they jumped out of a video game.

Why couldn't they have just gone the route of the creatures in The Descent? Had the infected been delivered differently I would have likely given this movie a higher rating, which it seemed to deserve until I saw the horrible effects. Regardless, we're stuck with what we're given, and the movie was still a good watch. The story seemed to rush a bit towards the end, but I wasn't deterred nor was I disappointed by the climax.

This was a good film that had potential of being a great film had it not been for the horrible CGI creatures. Aside from that, Will Smith did a decent job as Neville and convinced me into thinking he was the last man on earth. Although the story was tweaked a bit, I still enjoyed what was delivered on screen and wasn't disappointed by the somewhat rushed climax. Worth a check.

Posted on June 15, 2010 - 10:36am | FrighT MasteR

 

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