‘I Am Legend’: Just fine

Thu, 12/20/2007 - 5:54pm
By: Michael Boylan

Nothing says Christmas movie like “Man, surviving all alone in plague-stricken, zombie/vampire filled Manhattan.” Ahhh, you can almost smell the fresh pine and the eggnog.

Anyhoo, that’s what we have as the number one movie this week and Will Smith’s “I Am Legend” is a good, solid blockbuster. I just think it would have fit better as a summer movie than a ho-ho-holiday release. I mean, the creatures are roaring and screaming CGI albinos with stretchy mouths, big teeth and really bad tempers, which is gross. Who wants to see those things banishing the visions of sugar plums out of their heads?

Smith plays an Army scientist who stays at ground zero of a terrible outbreak and he is the only man to survive and not turn into a hideous mutant. He is trying desperately to survive and find a cure and, aside from his dog Sam, he is all alone. (The dog rocks, by the way.) During the day, Smith’s Neville hunts wildlife on the streets and takes DVDs from a nearby store. At night, he battens down the hatches of his townhome and hopes to remain hidden from the monsters. Smith does an excellent job as practically the only living thing in the film. His charisma propels the movie forward until a few major plot points occur (no spoilers here) and thrust the movie towards its finale.

“I Am Legend” is different from Richard Matheson’s book, but if you can separate yourself from the book, you can enjoy the movie. I enjoyed the book and wished the makers of this film kept it on the smaller scale of the novella (pre-gang Compton instead of Manhattan, ordinary guy instead of action hero, neighbor monsters that are still recognizable instead of armies of similar looking goons), but the decision to go bigger has certainly paid off for the studio. The monsters are decent looking and director Francis Lawrence is able to get a lot of suspense out of more than a few scenes.

Another thing that I think really helped the movie was an appearance from Emma Thompson early in the film as the doctor who unknowingly unleashes the virus. The virus comes from what appears to be a cure for cancer and Thompson gives the film some great heft and credibility right off the bat. It’s a short scene, but it grabs you.

You may be looking for a family film this Christmas - this isn’t it. “I Am Legend” is a good movie and at PG-13 there isn’t much to keep the older kiddies away, but if you’re looking for a feel-good charmer, you may want to head over to “Enchanted” instead.


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