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I Am Legend

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I Am Legend - written by a committee who never met each other?!?

Aug 11, 2008
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Builds atmosphere well for a while, good SFX, strong performance by Smith...

Cons:... Alice Braga is terrible, story falls apart, disappointing ending...

The Bottom Line: Unless you MUST see every Will Smith film, leave this one alone.


When a cure for cancer turns people into zombies, things get bad.

End of plot synopsis.

Well actually it’s not quite that bad – there are a few decent plot elements – but it is basically all you need to know. Will Smith plays Robert Neville, an army man and scientist who is possibly the only survivor, is in a struggle to survive, and hopefully find a cure (since his house is equipped with a fully working laboratory in the basement – no doubt standard issue for army scientists). After an unconvincing opening sequence in which he tries to hunt some obviously CGI deer, he and his dog retire home. The zombies (well they’re meant to be mutants I suppose, but they generally look, sound and act much like you’d expect zombies to) only come out at night. Barricade the doors, grab that shotgun, and keep your head down...

I was a little surprised to find that after that opening scene, the film kept getting better. With a series of flashbacks showing how events had got to the stage they were in now, we also see Robert’s efforts to find a cure. He does this by experimenting on lab rats infected with the zombie virus (or something like a virus, at least). The way he systematically logs the results of his experiments is quite authentically scientist-like, and helps to give an air of believability to things.

As time goes on he discovers that the zombies seem to have a leader and the ability to learn – which he astonishingly writes of as “completely devolved intelligence”. Er... Rob mate... they just copied your idea of a trap, improved on it, and very nearly caught you as a result. Wasn’t that evidence of intelligence? At around that point I Am Legend seems to be trying to go from a standard horror-type flick to an examination of one man’s slow descent into insanity (or what it would be like to be the last man on earth), but can’t quite break free of the cheap shock tactics that were used earlier on. Up to about half-way through the movie it does successfully manage to build an air of slowly increasing dread and menace, but ends up getting a little too silly to be truly atmospheric.

Unfortunately it all falls apart when a woman called Anna (and her son whose name I can’t be bothered to remember) come into the film. From this point the plot becomes very silly, the writers seem incapable of having a character who believes in God but isn’t a complete nutter (albeit she turns out to be right!), and Alice Braga, who I don’t remember seeing in anything before, is incapable of wiping a smirk off her face even when she’s supposed to be unbelievably sad / scared. I suppose the woman and child were supposed to add something to the movie, but it ends up destroying the last third of it.

Will Smith tries hard to carry the film but it just doesn’t maintain the necessary tension or mystery the whole way through. It actually comes across like a film with several different writers, all pursuing their own version of the film and not communicating with each other enough. There were some good aspects of the film – particularly the special effects, which were quite impressive – but in the end a promising build-up leads to an extremely disappointing ending (when there were several interesting possibilities that were ignored, particularly in terms of the motivation of the zombie dudes). There is just enough good in it for a 3-star rating, but not enough for me to recommend it.

Also I think that without reading about it, just from watching the film you would have no idea why the film was titled as it was. I don’t think it’s just me because even people I’ve talked to who liked the film agreed on that point!

Movie Details for I Am Legend

Director: Francis Lawrence
Script: Mark Protesevich & Arkiva Goldsman (based on a novel by Richard Matheson)
Runtime: 101 minutes
Rating: Rated 12A (UK) PG-13 (USA) for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence. Younger / sensitive children might well be scared by some scenes.


Other Will Smith Movies

I, Robot
Hitch
The Pursuit of Happyness
Hancock


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