Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Movie Review: I Am Legend

We revisit the genre of the last man on earth with Will Smith’s latest, I Am Legend (Francis Lawrence directing). It’s a genre that holds so much promise, and yet very rarely does it bear fruit. The latest attempt falls in line with the majority: entertaining premise, mundane execution.

A new virus is genetically engineered to cure cancer and meets with initial success. But the virus gets loose and wreaks havoc on the human race, turning the vast majority into mindless vampire-like creatures with no tolerance for sunlight. Will Smith, playing Colonel Robert Neville, is, as far as he knows, the last human being on the planet. A scientist as well as colonel, he spends his days maintaining his solitary existence and searching for a cure. His nights he spends bunkered down in his home with his faithful canine companion, praying the physically enhanced vampires do not discover where he lives.

There is nothing really wrong with I Am Legend, but there are so many minor flaws, missed opportunities and poor decisions that the premise, no matter how much one likes this sort of thing, has little hope of saving the enterprise.

Once again we are treated to, or rather made to endure, more CGI creatures. I find myself repeating the same thing over and over on the topic: CGI has its place, but a director has to know where that place is and must guard against overusing the technology. In a movie like I Am Legend, a serious endeavor with creatures that are meant to scare us, CGI is a poor choice to represent the monsters. A CGI vampire is not scary for the same reason the Smurfs aren’t scary: IT’S A FREAKING CARTOON! It might have been difficult, perhaps impossible, to get a human to move with the force and speed that the vampires in the movie have, but that would have been a small sacrifice in exchange for the gripping presence of a real looking vampire. Makeup and costumes still trump computer graphics, and it’s not even close. If you don’t believe me, watch portions of Alien 3, then go back and watch Alien.

Another poor choice is the lead character. Will Smith, reprising the same role he has played in every movie I’ve ever seen him in, plays a brilliant scientist, a dashing hunk, and a super athlete all at once (Yes, the specifics change, but the persona is the same). It might have been interesting to see, say, Paul Giamatti playing the role of intellectual scientist in search of a cure, a scientist with all the quirks and idiosyncrasies that great minds often have who must use his brain to compensate for his average or even frail physique, something that hampers him in his struggle against the vampires. Or, staying with Will Smith, it could have been just as interesting to watch an athletic man with an average mind using his brawn to survive, but always treading water, getting by until the sun rises again, lacking the cerebral capacity to grasp the bigger picture and discover a solution.

It would have been even more interesting to see these characters meet halfway through. But instead what we get is a character from an Ayn Rand novel: flawless both physically and mentally. It’s a perfection which snuffs out any sympathy we might have felt for the man as his sad back-story is revealed to us. I have a difficult time accepting movies where the female characters, no matter who they are supposed to be, look better suited for lovemaking than whatever it is they are doing. It is equally hard to accept Will Smith.

Implausibility is another affliction that curses this film. Sometimes the implausible thing is only a minor irritant, such as when the sets show New York City streets, only three years removed from the outbreak of the virus, already choked with weeds pushing through the cracks but the posters for the Broadway musicals are not even peeling at the corners. Other times, the implausibility is more damaging to the project’s integrity. Examples of this include the fact that Will Smith is still eating food from a jar that – unless he has found the time and know-how to master all the different jobs spread throughout the division of labor and therefore grow, harvest, process and jar his own food – must be at least three years old. Will Smith’s home has running water, water which he apparently believes to be pure enough to drink. It also has electricity. Either show us exactly how he is able to maintain this living standard – and still find time to hit golf balls off the wing of a fighter jet when he isn’t searching for a cure – or show us how life would really be without extensively divided labor like we now have.

Show him boiling his water after collecting it from buckets on his roof. Show him tending his garden, using his own feces to fertilize his crops. Show him mending his own clothes. Show him in agony as he must cut out his own decaying tooth. The movie does show him hunting – albeit in a sleek looking car as, incredibly, he cruises New York City looking for deer – but it doesn’t give us a reason for him to be hunting. Rather than all the jarred and canned food he has, show us a bare pantry, or a half-eaten cured leg of some beast hanging from a hook in the ceiling. And if you must show him driving cars, at least show him coping with gasoline which has degraded for the last three years. Does gas last that long? How well does it work after thirty-six months? It would have been interesting to find out.

There is a hint of something more interesting in the movie which is introduced but left undeveloped. The colonel hunts the vampires during the daytime to use as guinea pigs in his search for a cure. As he makes notes of his observations, he remarks that the social humanity of the vampires is almost entirely gone. However, it soon becomes apparent that he is wrong, and the vampires may even be hunting him. But instead of pursuing this potentially interesting cat and mouse game, the movie breaks down into fighting and screaming and explosions wherein even greater implausibilities await.

I will give the movie credit for taking its time. Despite the CGI and dubious actions of the lead character, and despite everything else that was missing, the movie does at least concern itself with setting things up. It certainly doesn't push headlong into something, anything, to get some action started. But when all is said and done it is still a tantalizing but ultimately unfulfilling trip down an avenue of unrealized possibilities and disappointing decisions.

Final Grade: C


Anonymous said...

Hello! I know this is somewhat off topic but I was wondering if you knew where I could
get a captcha plugin for my comment form? I'm using the same blog platform as yours and I'm having problems finding
one? Thanks a lot!

Check out my weblog: refinishing hardwood floors

Anonymous said...

I tend not to comment, however after looking at through a few of
the remarks on this page "Movie Review: I Am Legend".
I do have a couple of questions for you if you
do not mind. Is it only me or does it appear like a few of the responses look
as if they are left by brain dead visitors? :-P And,
if you are writing at additional social sites, I'd like to keep up with you. Could you post a list of every one of your social networking pages like your Facebook page, twitter feed, or linkedin profile?

My blog: Psn Code Generator

Anonymous said...

Excellent post. Keep writing such kind of information on your site.

Im really impressed by it.
Hi there, You've performed an excellent job. I will definitely digg it and individually suggest to my friends. I'm sure they will be benefited from this website.

my website: World Of Tanks Hack

Anonymous said...

Awesome blog! Do you have any recommendations for aspiring writers?
I'm planning to start my own blog soon but I'm a little lost on everything.
Would you suggest starting with a free platform like Wordpress or go
for a paid option? There are so many choices out there that I'm completely confused .. Any recommendations? Appreciate it!

Also visit my web page ... Psn Code Generator

Anonymous said...

Hey there just wanted to give you a brief heads up and let
you know a few of the images aren't loading properly. I'm not sure why but I
think its a linking issue. I've tried it in two different internet browsers and both show the same results.

Feel free to surf to my weblog - Microsoft Office Gratuit

Anonymous said...

You've made some really good points there. I checked on the web for more info about the issue and found most individuals will go along with your views on this web site.

Here is my page; diamondlinks review

Anonymous said...

Appreciate this post. Let me try it out.

Here is my weblog ... PS3 Jailbreak 4.41

Anonymous said...

Very good post! We will be linking to this particularly great
post on our site. Keep up the great writing.

Also visit my blog post; candy crush saga hack

Anonymous said...

I'm truly enjoying the design and layout of your website. It's a very easy on the eyes which makes it much more enjoyable for me
to come here and visit more often. Did you hire out a developer to create
your theme? Superb work!

Here is my blog; Http://

Anonymous said...

Thanks a bunch for sharing this with all of us you really
recognize what you are speaking approximately! Bookmarked.
Kindly also seek advice from my site =). We may have a hyperlink exchange agreement among us

Review my weblog; Psn Code Generator

Anonymous said...

Its like you read my mind! You appear to know so much about this, like
you wrote the book in it or something. I think
that you can do with some pics to drive the message home a little bit,
but instead of that, this is magnificent blog. A fantastic
read. I'll certainly be back.

my weblog ... Psn Code Generator

Anonymous said...

You've made some really good points there. I checked on the internet for additional information about the issue and found most people will go along with your views on this site.

Visit my web site :: Dragon City Cheat Engine

Anonymous said...

If you desire to grow your familiarity simply keep visiting this web
page and be updated with the latest gossip posted

Stop by my website - my explanation

Anonymous said...

I'm gone to convey my little brother, that he should also pay a quick visit this weblog on regular basis to get updated from most up-to-date information.

Check out my weblog; tufts help desk

Anonymous said...

Hey! Someone in my Facebook group shared this site with us so I came to give it a
look. I'm definitely loving the information. I'm
book-marking and will be tweeting this to my followers!
Wonderful blog and wonderful style and design.

My web-site :: Dragon City Cheat Engine

Anonymous said...

Fabulous, what a blog it is! This blog provides valuable facts to us, keep it

my web-site - Code Psn Gratuit

Anonymous said...

I don't even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was good. I don't know
who you are but definitely you're going to a famous blogger if you are not already ;) Cheers!

Visit my web-site; Psn Code Generator

Anonymous said...

Hi there friends, its fantastic piece of writing on the topic
of tutoringand fully explained, keep it up all the time.

my blog post :: laser cut wood

Anonymous said...

Its like you learn my mind! You seem to grasp a lot about this,
such as you wrote the book in it or something. I
believe that you could do with a few percent to force the message house a little bit, however other than that, this is
excellent blog. A fantastic read. I will definitely be back.

Feel free to visit my weblog ... Minecraft Gift Code Generator ()

Anonymous said...

Excellent article. I am experiencing many of these issues as well.

my website: Minecraft Gift Code Generator

Anonymous said...

Hi there, i read your blog occasionally and i own a similar one and i was just wondering if you get a lot of spam responses?
If so how do you prevent it, any plugin or anything you can suggest?
I get so much lately it's driving me insane so any assistance is very much appreciated.

my blog: Minecraft Gift Code Generator

Anonymous said...

I'm truly enjoying the design and layout of your website. It's a very easy on the eyes which makes
it much more pleasant for me to come here and visit more often.
Did you hire out a developer to create your theme? Excellent

Look at my web blog - Free Psn Codes (Http://Www.Youtube.Com/Watch?V=N32_FFyV3O0)

Anonymous said...

If some one neeԁs tо be uрԁated with latеst technologіеs afterwaгd hе must be pay a quick ѵisit thiѕ ωeb page and bе up to datе all the time.

Lοok into my blog post ... resistor resistance

Anonymous said...

electronic cigarettes, electronic cigarette starter kit, electronic cigarettes, e cig reviews, e cigarette, electronic cigarette brands