Remember Tom Cruise sprinting down an empty Times Square in the opening shots of Vanilla Sky? Or the more impressive opening moments of 28 Days Later, when Cillian Murphy stumbled around a vacant London? Forget about it. I Am Legend grabs you right away with its breathtaking shots of an isolated New York City. Every detail is perfected. Buildings are damaged, bridges are broken, even bits of grass spurt up through slabs of sidewalk. The amount of skill and special effects it must have taken to create these images are worth the $9 to get in the theatre. Unfortunately, they’re also the best parts of the movie.
Don’t get me wrong, I Am Legend is great, popcorn summer fun stuffed in the heavy-handed Oscar season. But it’s a little too smart for its own good. Will Smith plays military scientist Robert Neville who is the last remaining person alive, after a deadly “cure” wiped out the entire population. Smith, along with his extremely loyal German Sheppard, takes to the streets during the day. Hunting deer, gathering supplies, renting DVDs, talking to mannequins, the usual. But at night, everything’s on lockdown.
Cue the not-so-creepy, night-walking, living dead. When the sun goes down, fast, loud, demonizing creatures storm the streets, looking for… what? People? Food? Who knows. It’s best not to trouble yourself with the how’s and why’s of the movie (in which there are plenty, including one that leaves Smith hanging upside down, which I still cannot figure out).
If you’ve seen 28 Days Later, or its sequel, or The Descent, then these monsters won’t scare you. The zombie/infected-people genre has recently been revamped with a series of highly entertaining (and scary) films. But it’s getting old.
This film, based on Richard Matheson’s book, has been tried twice before. First with The Last Man on Earth, with Vincent Price (campy, even when it came out in the 60s) and The Omega Man with Charlton Heston (just plain bad). Although I Am Legend suffers some flaws, including a dreadfully cliché third act that’s simply disappointing, its thrills and chills should keep you entertained.
If you’re as lucky as I am, the film may even spark some delight post-movie chats. But take it for what it’s worth. Try not to let the film be as serious as it wants to be and you’ll enjoy the ride. B