The Hollywood remake. Love ’em or hate ’em, they’re a steady part of our cinema diet. I Am Legend proves once again that Hollywood believes the easiest path to success is to either: make a sequel or take a movie from years past and dress it up with an updated storyline and fresh graphics. Sometimes it fails (see The Invasion) and sometimes, like in this case, it mostly works.
Let’s get the trivialities out of the way first. I Am Legend is a renewed version of The Omega Man, which itself may or may not be a dressed up version of The Last Man on Earth. It tells the tale of Robert Neville (Will Smith), a man who believes he is the last person on earth after a viral outbreak infected and transformed the populace into super zombie-like creatures. He whiles his days away searching through buildings to pass the time and to locate materials to aid in his survival. His nights are spent locked behind steel barricaded doors and windows – the infected roam the streets at night looking for sustenance.
And while you and I would do the sensible thing and try like hell to reach the rumored survivor outposts, Robert stays put even after learning he is in fact not the last of the race. What keeps him in New York City instead of seeking refuge? Pride. I Am Legend turns out to be a single mans obsession with clearing his demons. He feels compelled to find a cure for the virus – the burden he feels is his alone to carry. Perhaps I missed it but I’m not sure why he feels so adamantly about it (for 90% of the movie he thinks he is the last living human, who is the vaccine for?). What I do know is, from a casting perspective, big Willie would seem like the perfect fit. He’s got himself an ego that a super-carrier like the USS Nimitz would have trouble carrying. He does do an admirable job mixing in his style with the seriousness of the situation, but a Tom Hanks he is not (i.e., Cast Away).
At issue for me mostly was I expected much more action and less down-time. That may be my own fault since I based my expectations on the multitude of commercials I had been seeing for the past few months. Once again marketers sold me one product and delivered something altogether different. When the action did come into play, every attempt was made to heighten the moment – multiple camera angles, darkened settings and deafening silence – all unfortunately with little effect. I actually found it comical in a strange way.
The reason for that, I believe, is because the infected reminded me of some unknown, obscure Looney Tunes characters – they leapt and bounded like gazelles and bellowed like howler monkeys. They looked liked the robots from I, Robot only with flesh on their metallic structures. Realism was what was needed, not an exercise in computer generated imagery (CGI). Something akin to what was done in 28 Weeks Later would have sufficed nicely.
All of this doesn’t make a terribly bad movie though. The thought of existing without any interaction combined with thinking that I was literally the last human on earth is something I would hate to try and comprehend. It is very scary concept, and one we’re closer to experiencing everyday. Yes, I Am Legend could have been better, but beggars can’t be choosers – it is, without a doubt, the best movie in the theaters at this very moment.