Review: I Am Legend

When a book has been made into two different movies (The Omega Man and The Last Man on Earth), and neither of them have been considered groundbreaking (or even good for that matter), you have to wonder if the third one would be worth making. So you’d have to wonder if the newest incarnation of adapting the book would be any better, and would Will Smith really help it if it wasn’t better. My thoughts? It was interesting. But first, the review of IMAX trailer for The Dark Knight. Spoilers are ahead (obviously), so read on if you don’t mind. There’s also a lot of recap from the book, so if you’ve already read it I’m sorry to bore you with the details, but there kind of important in comparing the two works. The Dark Knight. Holy crap. The opening sequence really did a fantastic job characterizing the Joker as completely maniacal and insane. The bank heist was designed to show that the Joker only cares about getting the money he wants, as he told everyone to kill the other person once they completed their job within the job. After dealing with an unruly bank manager (and killing all other accomplices), he puts a grenade in the guy’s mouth with one end of a string tied to the pin, and the other end to the Joker. When the bus drives off, the string pulls out the pin, and the grenade goes off, but its only smoke. But you first think its going to be so much more, which really drives the point home that Heath Ledger’s Joker is beyond f’ed up.

After the Joker made his grand escape in a school bus (which may seem obvious to spot until you see he merges into a caravan of other school buses), the trailer cuts to scenes of Batman riding his bike through the streets, and Gordon reluctantly smashing the Bat Signal. I cannot, CANNOT wait for this movie. Now, on to I Am Legend. First off, this movie is loosely based on the book, which isn’t the end of the world, but it does have an impact. The virus that spreads throughout the world is a side effect of a cure for cancer, and it kills 90% of the world’s population. 1% are immune, and the others are eaten by the Dark Seekers (those infected that survived). In the movie, Dr. Robert Neville (Will Smith) is the man that is struggling to find a cure for the Killer Virus (KV), and is a decorated Lt. Colonel in the Air Force (at least he was). He spends his days broadcasting to others out there that he’s safe and has food and shelter for other survivors. He attempts to trap some of the Dark Seekers so he can study the effects of the virus and his blood (which is immune).

He starts off with his dog, Sam, who is really his only companion for the bulk of the movie, but he loses Sam when it becomes a vampire dog after being bitten by a vampire dog. He attempts conversation with dummies that have been arranged (most likely by him) throughout the town, just to maintain his humanity. The vampires are also relatively smart, as they set a similar trap to the one they saw him set to catch on them for clinical trials. Two other survivors find him from his radio transmissions, and the movie ends with them carrying a cure to a colony of survivors in Vermont, as Neville dies to buy the time by throwing a grenade to take out the swarms that infiltrated his home. The ending was kind of cool, as the lead vampire (presumably Ben Cortman) kept ramming the plexiglass, and right as Neville realized he was going to detonate the grenade, he rammed at Cortman as well, and set of the grenade.

The book was much more about society and humans in general. Matheson did a masterful job of characterizing Neville as a somewhat broken man. He labored over every decision he made in the book (whether he should drink, what to eat, if it was ok to masturbate). And Cortman constantly called him out and taunted him, as he knew where Neville lived. Neville moved from being passive about his situation (just getting drunk as the vampires screamed outside his window), to investigating what killed them, and what made them tick. After that, he decided to investigate the actual cause of the mutation, and taught himself biology and the mechanics of the mutation, and even found a cure.

In the book, Neville’s pain was so much more pronounced, as it seemed that things really only went from bad to worse for him. He finds the dog which gives him some companionship, but the dog does die, leaving him lonely again. He didn’t burn his wife as was protocol with the infected, but buried her, and later had to kill her since she reawoke as a vampire. He finds another survivor, a woman who he thinks needs saving, and it kills Neville because he has strong sexual urges for her, but wonders if sleeping her would violate his relationship with his wife (even though she’s dead). She turns out to be a spy for the vampires that lets them all in, and they capture him and throw him in a cell, deciding what to do with him. The book ends with him in the cell, overlooking the swarms of vampires who view him as a legend, as he has killed so many of their kind.

Lawrence tried to work some of the aspects of the book into the movie. Bob Marley and his “teachings” were an important part of the movie, as it was through those that the ideas of unity and help were channeled. To me, it seemed those were just kind of tacked on to appease readers of the book, and to show that it wasn’t just another science fiction story about vampires. The movie was a Hollywood adaptation of a book that probably wouldn’t have made as financially successful a movie as the one that made it into theaters. It seems that the movie really only used the title just to associate it with the book, as it’s really only loosely based on the book of the same name.

I thought the movie was good (not stellar or anything), but it’s a different feeling than the book, and the book in my opinion is a much better presentation of what Richard Matheson was trying to say about society and humans in general. I’m not saying anything bad about Smith, because I think he played an isolated, broken man excellently. It was just a different Robert Neville than what was portrayed in the book, and I just feel that Matheson did a better job characterizing and humanizing Neville than Francis Lawrence. If you’ve read the book, you’ll probably be slightly disappointed by the rather larger disparities in the film when compared to the book. But overall, I’d recommend it. At the very least, you get some action from The Dark Knight out of it.

Overall Score: 75 out of 100