Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I Am Legend

A while back (all the way back in May according to Netflix) I watched I Am Legend. This is a movie based off the ground breaking book I Am Legend by Richard Matheson which was key in developing the modern vampire /zombie genre genre as well as exploring the notion of worldwide apocalypse due to a disease. I say the book is groundbreaking because of the influence it had on pop culture and future storytelling, not because I've actually read it. This isn't the first time this book has been adapted to film. It's had a couple other incarnations as "The Last Man On Earth" and "Omega Man". This latest movie is probably the closest adaptation to the original (at least in concept in the initial stages), after a while it diverges onto it's own path that deviates greatly from that of the book.

In this movie Will Smith plays Robert Neville during a worldwide virus outbreak. A cure for cancer somehow mutates into a lethal airborne virus and starts infecting everyone, and the infected show signs of what we typically associated with vampirism (intolerance to light, attracted to blood, etc). The disease killed 90% of those it infected and 9.8% devolved into primal incarnations with heightened physical abilities and apparent diminished mental capacity. Neville happens to be one of the .2% that has a natural immunity and is the last uninfected person still alive in Manhattan (the uninfected have been hunted and killed by the infected humans or one would assume have possibly committed suicide). Neville is something of a scientist and has been researching the disease hoping to find a cure. His only companion is a dog. Dogs are apparently immune to the airborne virus, but can become infected when exposed to the virus through physical contact. The first part of the movie deals with Neville's daily routine, and examines what the pressures of extreme isolation would do to a person. For me this was some of the most interesting parts of the movie. Neville's backstory is told through a series of flashbacks as we learn how he ended up where he is.

Sadly I think most of this movie (excluding some of the end) is told through the previews for the film. Since the first part of the film simply follows him around and seems to be a study in isolation. And there are only so many shots you can pull to create a trailer, and most of the good ones are in the preview. The ending of the movie deviates greatly from that of the book wherein we learn the reason for Neville's Legend status. I've heard there's an alternate ending to the movie that's at least closer to the original book, but I haven't seen that since it wasn't on the disc I got through Netflix.

I didn't particularly like the visual representation of the infected humans since it seemed a bit too unreal to me (as did their heightened physical abilities). I also had to wonder how the infected survive, since they seem to be meat eaters and don't seem to be eating one another. Basically don't try to make too much sense of the story. So sit back and toss out all your rational logic reasoning while watching the movie and you should be able to enjoy it as action popcorn theater. If you're looking for an action film, it's okay (that's about the best endorsement for the film I can muster).


gaz said...

i preferred the 1st half better too.

dashrb said...

gretchen got up and left the theatre about halfway through when it got too gory and intense. But I mostly enjoyed it.