Here’s Looking at Film, Kid

I Am Legend brings Matheson’s novella to the big screen … finally by Matt
December 21, 2007, 3:06 am
Filed under: Film Reviews

Film Review
I Am Legend
Directed by Francis Lawrence
Starring Will Smith
Rated R, 101 mins

**** / *****

There has yet to be a perfectly faithful adaption of Richard Metheson’s I Am Legend, a novella I rank without hesitation in my top five books of all time. It is a brilliant character study of one man alone in a world gone mad — where creatures hunt the night and loneliness haunts the days. And even if it isn’t completely loyal to the source material, director Francis Lawrence’s I Am Legend is about as close as we’re going to get. And it’s a pretty damn good movie to boot.

Will Smith plays Robert Neville, a military scientist and the last man on Earth (or so he thinks). In 2009, a virus intended to cure cancer goes airborne and mutates a percentile population into ravenous creatures known as Dark Seekers. Neville, one of the few humans immune to the virus, spends his days alone, gathering food, hunting and holding conversations with mannequins he’s staged in a video rental store. At night, Neville barricades himself in his home and tries to sleep through the inhuman howls of the Dark Seekers roaming the streets outside. Neville is mankind’s last hope — and he only preservers to find a cure.

Smith commands the role of Neville with a subtle honesty — this is certainly one of his strongest performances to date. Crafting such a vivid and entertaining film out of what is, essentially, an hour of Smith and a German Shepard roaming about a desolate New York City, is a challenge. But Smith and Lawrence are more than up for the challenge, and the result is a fantastic film, part action flick, part quiet character study.

The creatures in this film — the Dark Seekers who, for lack of a better word, are basically vampires — are truly frightening. The first glimpses we catch of these things, illuminated at the fading end of a flashlight, are some tense moments. The creature design is just excellent. These aren’t the mutants of The Omega Man. These are the vampires that Matheson envisioned for his novella — swift, cunning and ruthless.

Yes, the film takes a few hefty liberties (the ending, for starters, is drastically different). But the central story and themes are present. We feel Neville’s loneliness and desperation as he strives for what may seem like a futile goal. As I said … we have yet to see a truly perfect adaptation of the novella. But Lawrence and Smith have given it everything they’ve got, and the end product is great.


2 Comments so far
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This just came out in Rennes, but I won’t go see it because it’s dubbed, and dubbing is, you know, kind of the dumbest thing ever. I’ll have to check it out when I get back.

Comment by phoqueoff

Two words (one hypened) – conveniently-placed grenade. If I ever have an underground emergency room with lab mice and vampires, I’m putting grenades everywhere. They’re vital and feng shui.

Comment by Thayer

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