Review: I Am Legend

Jon Baeckstrom (‘08)/ Eastside Entertainment Editor

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If anyone is looking for a little Holiday cheer this time of year, skip I Am Legend. The movie is dark, violent, and intense but highly entertaining and excellently done.

Will Smith stars as Colonel Robert Neville, a virologist living in disease-ravaged New York City. A virus initially created as a cure for cancer has mutated and killed off ninety percent of the world’s population, leaving less than one percent of the remaining immune and turning the rest into horrific, vampire-like creatures.

The vast majority of the movie takes place three years after the outbreak, as Neville frantically searches for a cure while trying to stay alive amid the swarms of creatures, called “dark-seekers” because of their aversion to light.

In the midst of this, Neville is also trying to keep sane, as the years of isolation with only his dog, Sam, for company begin to wear on his psyche.

Smith is the only speaking character throughout most of the film, similar to Tom Hanks’ role as the stranded survivor of a plane crash in the 2000 movie, Castaway. Like Hanks, Smith has both the personality and acting ability to carry these parts of the film on his own.

Smith deserves credit for managing to make conversations with inanimate or unresponsive objects interesting, arguably even more so than his dialogue with actual people. He delivers a fine performance and captures the damage done by his character’s unbearable losses and overwhelming loneliness.

The visual effects are interesting, but not the selling point of the movie. Apart from some flashback scenes and a few brief other moments, the special effects do not measure up to summer’s big blockbusters.

Like the 2002 British horror film 28 Days Later, this movie features some amazing views of what a major city looks like after civilization has vanished. However the huge budget of I Am Legend allows for a greater abundance of these scenes, which help to capture the film’s size and scope.

Some praise is deserved for the creature designs, as this is one of the rare situations in film in which the monsters become more frightening after they are revealed.

I Am Legend is not without its fair share of faults, among them, a number of plot holes which, although not entirely obvious, are important enough to merit mentioning.

More significantly is the lack of information about the period from the early days of the infection to the point at which the movie takes place. Some inclusion of the days after the quarantines and evacuations began but before Neville became totally isolated would have been welcome and could’ve helped to develop Neville’s character more as well as provided some explanations to many unanswered questions.

Also, it’s a bit short. One hour and forty minutes is simply not enough time to tell a tale of this magnitude and the ending comes rather abruptly, with not enough buildup.

In short, I Am Legend is a nerve-wracking film, but in a good way. It is exhausting to watch because of the constant intensity, in both the emotional developments and action sequences, yet it still leaves the viewer wanting just a little more.

Rating (out of 4 possible stars): 3 stars