Ken's Review: I Am Legend - A Refreshing Twist on a Classic Concept
by Ken Evans
December 13, 2007
It has been a long time since I was truly tense during a film. By tense I mean that I was gripping the arms of my chair and trying to brace myself in case something jumped out to scare the audience. Man, I love that feeling! That feeling of knowing something is about to happen but not knowing what. That is what hooked me on I Am Legend. As soon as I started to grip onto my seat and push myself back into my chair I knew I was in for a wild ride.
I Am Legend deals with the last man on earth after a virus wipes out the world's population. Robert Neville (Will Smith) wakes up everyday in New York City with only his dog, Samantha, to keep him company. He hunts and gathers supplies during the day and researches to find a cure during the evening. Once the sun goes down he confines himself to his home, as it is his only protection from the "Dark Seekers".
I hate spoilers so I'm not saying anything more about the plot. I hadn't read anything about this story before I saw it and was rewarded with numerous surprises during the viewing. However, I will say that the trailer, which was played to death before just about every movie I saw in the last few months, has a ridiculous amount of spoilers. They are subtle but definitely there if you pay close attention. I'm almost at the point where I don't want to see trailers anymore. Either they give away too much or give you a false impression of what the film will be like. Anyway, that soapbox is for another time.
You might hear that that I Am Legend is slow and boring in parts, but I totally disagree. The pacing was perfect, which I actually noted to myself while watching. Sure there are parts where we watch Robert Neville in his daily routine. These parts have purpose behind them, to show the mundane life that Neville is now forced to live. Although these parts have purpose, I too would go crazy if that was all that this movie was made up of. What the director did to break these scenes up was to add flashbacks between them. He shows us just enough so that we understand what Neville has to deal with, then takes us back to before everyone had died. It was a genius way to break up any monotony while also giving us the back story.
What I really enjoyed about this film was the concept behind it and the performance of Will Smith. The concept is creative and exciting to contemplate. Put aside the fact that this is basically a twist on The Omega Man and The Last Man on Earth, everyone knows and no one cares. The idea behind these stories is solid and I want more. I Am Legend gives us a taste of what it would be like to be completely alone in a once hugely populated city. The depression, hunger, silence, lack of hope, and loneliness are palpable. I felt like I was submerged in that empty world. I was completely drawn into the film which I find is a rare thing.
There is no need to say that Will Smith is a great actor because that should already be known by now. He has already proven himself with his work in The Pursuit of Happiness and Ali, for which he received Oscar nominations for Best Actor. His work in I Am Legend probably won't be nominated for an Oscar, but it is truly one of his best performances. I felt connected to him and could sense desperation. He was able to portray sadness, insanity, joy, humor, and intense longing. In every emotion he was believable and it never felt forced or contrived. It was a wonderful performance.
So, if it had a great concept as its foundation and a great performance by practically the only person in the film, why isn't it a perfect film? The answer is in the ending. It's not that the ending is horrible, because it's not. The ending isn't even bad. It was really just disappointing. The movie was so cool and surprising that I expected an equally cool and surprising ending. What I got instead was the average, basic ending that is the norm for a sci-fi / horror / thriller film like this. I kind of feel like they didn't even try to come up with a better ending and just opted for the run of the mill ending, trying to wrap up the story.
Even with a bit of a disappointing ending, I still really enjoyed I Am Legend. It was exactly what I needed after just seeing Atonement and Alvin and the Chipmunks (sigh). If you want to see a very entertaining film this weekend, I Am Legend should be at the top of your list. It shouldn't be a very hard decision when the only competition it is going up against is Alvin and the Chipmunks and The Perfect Holiday.
Reader Feedback - 8 Comments
I think theres a very good chance it was the ending they were re-filming about an month ago. Maybe they went with the more original ending in the book and Warner Brothers didn't like it (that'd be normal for them) Roll on the Special Edition DVD and we can see for ourselves. Take wait to see it, cheers for the review 🙂
Dr Phaust on Dec 14, 2007
The book end would have been better but they changed the story so much it wouldn't have had the same impact.
Heckle on Dec 14, 2007
The reason this seems to be atwist on The Last Man on Earth and The Omega Man is because all three were film versions of Richard Matheson's novel I Am Legend.
Jamie on Dec 15, 2007
Which had vampires in it.. fuck!! Can't anyone just TRY and keep to an ORIGINAL concept... This'll be another "Dawn Of the Dead" - which IS inspired BY the book I am Legend which DID have vampires. Just cause 30 days of night sucked, doesn't mean all Vampire films have to..
Az on Dec 16, 2007
Just came from seeing the film. I have not seen last man or omega which I might go rent now.Anyway,I loved the movie intensity as well. Will played a strong, emotional role. my beefs were as follows: The ending, could have been stronger i agree also. You don't leave the audience hanging on like that. They ended it right after the climax! You just started to get on the edge of your seat when the infected busted into the house, like okay, now we see a nice monster chase human for awhile! All that time alone and that is all he could blow up? Shoot up? You got a big ass city deserted to play with, just Will and the infected, they finally really face off and it ends as soon as it begins? Then again, I guess it is more realistic, because how many of the infected could he really kill before they would have gotton him anyway? He said there were over two million of them, so I guess they didn't want it to seem too superman, More in the middle of fiction and non-fiction feel to it. They could have let him fight them a few blocks or something though. Second, it would have been nice to see the pup grow up in that lifestyle. It was a smart dog, however, if this dog grew up helping Will fight these things off, this should have been the world's sharpest German shepard, not making the mistake of running into the dark so early in the film. She should have been a hell of alot greater sidekick, shit, they should've let her take out at least one of the infected dogs before she went out! They had enough room to make this film at least three hours and I think people would have sat through it. Oh yeah, I know it was pg-13, but Will is alone for so long, first person he comes in contact with is a woman, so he doesn't have to turn brokeback, but no romance takes place?
jdizzle605 on Dec 18, 2007
Holy crap see this in IMAX! Just saw it last night and it was totally worth the extra money to be enveloped by the film and the sound. Then throw the Dark Knight prologue on top of that...you've got a good 13 bucks worth. Was it the best movie ever? Eh it wasnt bad...but seriously, I haven't been to a movie in a good while that made me so TENSE. That was its best accomplishment.
Ryan on Dec 20, 2007
Yes Yes Yes! See this in IMAX. Definitely worth the price of admission for the Dark Knight trailer alone. But this movie was super-intense, and the IMAX experience certainly added to that. While it definitely wasn't even close to the best movie of the year (I'll probably never watch it again), it was worth my time, because I nearly destroyed my metacarpals by gripping the armrest tightly the entire time. A very fun flick.
Mark on Dec 21, 2007
UMM THID MOVIE ROCKEEDD and always I love will smith's ACTINGGG but ending could have been better !
XOXOXO on Dec 24, 2007
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