| The Red Right Hand
I AM LEGEND
Richard Matheson's popular 1954 vampire novel has been optioned by Warner Bros. time and again; once for Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ridley Scott, even Michael Bay. Although this feature barely resembles the original text, similar to Constantine or I, Robot, it is still a praiseworthy piece and if you look hard enough the similarities are there: Matheson's book was written with the intention of analysing a scientific explanation for vampires and their varied weakness; granted, the film shies away from the vampire aspect but the scientific/survivalist elements are still paramount. Visually speaking, the film is a wonder; on location filming in New York provides an extremely impressive backdrop to the horrific story, mostly due to aesthetic touches but I much prefer this to the book’s original setting of bloody-Los-bloody-Angeles. However, most disappointingly, the creatures or 'dark-seekers' were absolutely appalling. I had little issue with them lying still or close-ups but for mass-shots or simple motion they looked so stupid and fake!
But I'm getting ahead of myself; first off, the plot. During an opening TV interview we learn that in the not-too-distant future a British scientist perfects a way to reprogram viruses, so that they cure and heal instead of corrupt. The claim being that she has cured cancer. Inoculations spread thick and fast but sure enough, problems develop; the vast majority of patients die but those that don't shed all hair and develop rabid animalistic traits. Once the virus is airborne, mass hysteria and panic sets in. Soon everyone is either dead or one of the creatures. Lt. Col Robert Neville, a military scientist who is immune to the virus, survives and spends the next three years traversing a hollow New York City, collecting crops, staying fit and searching for a cure.
The following may could be considered spoilers as I am forced to address the third act, so skip to the last line if necessary. Excluding flashbacks (and the dog), Will Smith gave the only commendable performance. The kid was stupid; nods were added to the fact that Anna [Alice Braga] and himself are survivors, reaching for weapons at the sign of possible tension but the kid squeals whilst hiding, if he had survived 3 years hiding from these things, I doubt he would have slipped up so easily. Another point of irritation was the presented theory that Neville is not the last man on Earth (as described in the book) but a member of 1% of the global populous that are immune. The GodNod felt a little strange and unnecessary; if they were going to go down that route the script should have pushed at it, for without sufficient moorings it just feels half-arsed and slap-dashed. There are two theories to the infamous trapping scene. The first, and least likely, is that the creature imitated Neville's method and laid a trap for him. It's my firm belief that to suggest that would too far-fetched. On the other hand, as Neville is showing signs of paranoia and creeping insanity, it was one of his old traps that he simply forgot about. In summation, the third act was far too neat and convenient and the film could have easily benefited from an additional 45 minutes.
If you're wondering why I scored this film so highly, after meticulously pounding the third act, it's because I've seen more destructive end pieces and I Am Legend's was far from terrible. If you want a good example, watch Spielberg's War Of The Worlds; such a promising film that ended so bloody stupidly!
26th December 2007
The Scene To Look Out For:
Following a deer chase, Neville's dog runs into a covered building acting as a hive for the creatures. Nervously, Neville enters and looks for his dog. It's a very simple scene, filmed exceptionally well, utilising interesting lighting, camera work and a stunning performance from Smith.
As previously stated, the only real on-screen performance comes from Will Smith and his dog; as a man breaking down after three strenuous years, Smith offers a terrific performance.
"What the hell are you doing out here, Fred? Fred, if you're real, you better tell me right now! Fred!"
In A Few Words:
"Intense opening, carried well by Smith but the neatness of the ending felt a little disappointing"