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Dec 23, 2007

Fletch's Film Review: I Am Legend

There's a book-to-film adaptation out in theaters right now that has some people up in arms. It takes place in a world like ours, but not quite. It has an ending that's is alternately seen as confusing and frustrating. It features an animal in one of the main roles.

But I reviewed The Golden Compass a few days ago. (Like you didn't see that one coming.)

The truth is, there doesn't seem to be nearly as many people upset about the adaptation of I Am Legend as there are about Compass. This could be because either not many people have read the book or because those that have barely remember it (it was first published in 1954). However, I think this is more due to the fact that the movie has almost nothing in common with the book. As I read and have seen, this movie shares its lineage more with Cast Away and 28 Days Later... than it does with the story of a man who hunted vampire-like beings in mid-70s Los Angeles.

Not that that should matter much, except maybe to the book's author, Richard Matheson. The film stands up pretty well on its own two feet, thanks largely in part to the charisma of Will Smith. Though he has more to work with than Tom Hanks ever did (who was stuck with only a volleyball to bounce lines off of), Smith is one of the few stars I can think of in today's Hollywood that can not only hold the screen alone (mostly) for 90 minutes, but keep you more than entertained and wanting even more. You heard right - this is the rare blockbuster that left me wishing it was 30 minutes longer; with a 101 minute run time, there were a number of places the filmmakers could have gone with the story or holes that could have been filled.

It's not all wine and roses, though. I Am Legend has a number of problems, the most prominent of which is the undercooked yet overdone "infected" humans. With CGI quality echoing that of a PlayStation 2 game, you are immediately taken out of the movie every time they appear on screen. More vexing, though, is their behavior - I'm not giving away anything when I tell you that Robert Neville (Smith) is "alone" on Earth because most of the humans on earth have been killed. The remaining few that survived are either turned into the aforementioned vampiric infected or the immune (like Neville). That said - the infected are still human at their core. They have a virus that affects their behavior, skin tone, sensitivity to light, etc, but they remain homo sapiens. Why then (why?!?!) are they running, jumping and slamming into things as though they are not only impervious to pain, but have the strength of a rhinoceros, the speed of a gazelle, and the agility of a spider monkey?

If you manage to get past that, though, you'll likely enjoy the film.

Fletch's Film Rating:

"You seem a decent fellow. I hate to kill you."


7 people have chosen wisely: on "Fletch's Film Review: I Am Legend"

Nick said...

Hmm... it had never crossed my mind about them having the extra strength/defenses as a flaw of logic. I actually just finished a novella of my own that is in this genre (except aliens, like Invasion of the Body Snatchers) in which the ones that are taken over ("The Changed" is what they're mostly called, but I'm getting off topic) end up with more strength, no pain receptors, enhanced senses, etc. I just figured it was working something similar on this. The virus removed pain sensors in the body, and doing other biological mumbo-jumbo, too. After all, if the virus can make them ultra-sensitive to UV rays, I'm sure it can do other things. Long story short (too late), I didn't see it as a problem, just a part of the virus that was unexplained (and didn't need to be).

I agree with the vampire CGI, though (if you've read my own review of the movie, you'd see that was my biggest complaint, as well). Though when I went to see it a second time, I noticed something else illogical. When Will Smith is in that empty building looking for his dog (after it ran off to chase the deer), he finds that whole nest of the vamps. He shines light at them, breathes heavily, steps on money, and bangs into a wooden beam... yet they never even stir. Yet at the end of the movie, when the vamp is clawing a hole in the ceiling, the little boy make a tiny whimper, and it's suddenly like 'CHARGE!'

James said...

With CGI quality echoing that of a PlayStation 2 game.

Oh man!! I thought the same thing!! They looked so fake. It was bad and they all looked like the same guy copied over and over a thousand times.

Yeah and what's with them being able to leap into the air and swing from the lap posts like chimpanzees???

Overall I liked it just for the artistic nature of making NYC look all destroyed and in ruins. I though playing golf off the wing of an SR-71 jet was pretty cool.

Fletch said...

Yeah, the CGI seems to be the biggest complaint across the board for this movie. Really, it deserves every last complaint it gets; considering how big a film it is and the budget it had, for them to look so bad is really a phenomenally big faux pas. It'd be like having King Kong come out and everything looking great except for Kong himself.

Even if I'm going to accept an unexplained explaination about the virus making them bigger/stronger/faster/pain-free/etc., with them being humans at their core, wouldn't their bones break? Are there no limitations? I know this is getting nitpicky, but the fact remains they didn't explain anything - I can buy skin tone changes and senstivity to light, what with the dangers of UV rays already being a well-known thing. But the rest just seems a stupid plot device meant to make them seem more dangerous/deadly. It's also completely unncessary.

James - I too am a sucker for the artistic side and beauty of some of the shots of the desolate city. It's a big reason why I love the 28 Days/Weeks series as well.

Nick said...

Fletch: I suppose I just thought of it like any other normal turning of a vampire. If you think of vamparism as a virus, when it is transfered to the human body, the human becomes stronger, faster, and their bones don't break nearly as easy, even though they're still humans at the core. I guess that's why it didn't bother me. They're just like... feral vampires.

NFL Adam said...

Nothing is going to beat Heston tooling around downtown LA in the 1970s, with no CGI to work with. Although, downtown LA is a ghost town on the weekend anyway. That really just could have been your average Sunday morning.

Diesel said...

I watched Robocop last night for the first time in like 15 years. It featured some pretty crummy stop-motion animation that made me appreciate today's CGI more. Still, I hate it when movies overdo the CGI just because they can. Still, I'm definitely going to see this one.

Merry Christmas!

Sheamus the... said...

OH MAN! I love robocops stop motion...HA.

Yeah Francis Lawrence always leans a little too heavily on CGI. Oh well...

The zompires in the book are quite different. I can't stress how good that book is. NOT THE GRAPHIC NOVEL that was written by Steve Niles(30 days of night) but the Richard Matheson 1950s book. It is legend.