I Am Legend
|Distributor:||Warner Home Video|
Robert Neville is a brilliant scientist, but even he could not contain the terrible virus that was unstoppable, incurable, and man-made. Somehow immune, Neville is now the last human survivor in what is left of New York City and maybe the world. For three years, Neville has faithfully sent out daily radio messages, desperate to find any other survivors who might be out there. But he is not alone. Mutant victims of the plague—The Infected—lurk in the shadows…watching Neville’s every move…waiting for him to make a fatal mistake. Perhaps mankind’s last, best hope, Neville is driven by only one remaining mission: to find a way to reverse the effects of the virus using his own immune blood. But he knows he is outnumbered…and quickly running out of time.
Will Smith stars in the third adaptation of Richard Matheson’s classic science-fiction novel about a lone human survivor in a post-apocalyptic world dominated by vampires. This new version somewhat alters Matheson’s central hook, i.e., the startling idea that an ordinary man, Robert Neville, spends his days roaming a desolated city and his nights in a house sealed off from longtime neighbors who have become bloodsucking fiends. In the new film, Smith’s Neville is a military scientist charged with finding a cure for a virus that turns people into crazed, hairless, flesh-eating zombies. Failing to complete his work in time—and after enduring a personal tragedy—Neville finds himself alone in Manhattan, his natural immunity to the virus keeping him alive. With an expressive German shepherd his only companion, Neville is a hunter-gatherer in sunlight, hiding from the mutants at night in his Washington Square town house and methodically conducting experiments in his ceaseless quest to conquer the disease.
The film’s first half almost suggests that I Am Legend could be one of the finest movies of 2007. Director Francis Lawrence’s extraordinary, computer-generated images of a decaying New York City reveal weeds growing through the cracks of familiar streets that are also overrun by deer and prowled by lions. It’s impossible not to be fascinated by such a realistically altered cityscape, reverting to a natural environment, through which Smith moves with a weirdly enviable freedom, offset by his wariness over whatever is lurking in the dark of bank vaults and parking garages. Lawrence and screenwriters Mark Protosevich and Akiva Goldsman wisely build suspense by withholding images of the monsters until a peak scene of horror well into the story. It must be said, however, that the computer-enhanced creatures don’t look half as interesting as they might have had the filmmakers adhered more to Matheson’s vampire-nightmare vision. I Am Legend is ultimately noteworthy for Smith’s remarkable performance as a man so lonely he talks to mannequins in the shops he frequents. The film’s latter half goes too far in portraying Smith’s Neville as a pitiable man with a messianic mission, but this lapse into bathos does nothing to take away from the visual and dramatic accomplishments of its first hour. —Tom Keogh