One of the most awful scenarios I could ever picture myself in, other than being trapped in an automobile that is quickly being submerged by water, is being the last person alive in an abandoned, urban ghost town during the day and then at night, having to hide myself from intelligent predators who will surely find me. I would never feel safe.
Will Smith explores one of my greatest fears in his new motion picture blockbuster I Am Legend. Based on the 1954 science fiction novel by Richard Matheson, Robert Neville (Will Smith) is the last man living in New York City. In 2008, the measles was re-engineered into the Krippen Virus to work as a cure for cancer; however, it quickly mutated killing 90% of the people on the planet. 1% of the population was completely immune, but the rest became the Infected, people who exhibit primal, vampire-like qualities (sensitivity to UV light; attraction to blood)and blind rage. It was the Infected who killed the rest of the population, leaving Robert Neville, a military virologist, a lone survivor. Haunted by the memory of his family, Robert Neville obsessively searches for the cure; desperately hoping that his family’s death won’t be in vain.
This movie had so much potential. It set the perfect back story. It possessed perfect plot inertial. It perfectly developed the characters. It startled you in just the right places, and utilized silence in a strong way. Will Smith’s performance was excellent, especially considering his lack of costars. His fondness for his dog is precious and simultaneously heart-breaking, and his comedic talent helps alleviate the stark loneliness and semi-realistic terror. The CG made everything feel real (it must have cost a fortune to edit out all the people in New York City). Everything felt legitimate, and it was kind of disturbing. But when the curtain for the last act went up, the perfectly orchestrated film crumbled.
I can pinpoint it to one moment; the introduction of the Ana and Ethan. They were presented very late into the film, creating no time for the audience to bond with them or trust them, and the whole fate/God bit was really out of place. It was inappropriate for these new characters to play such a large part in the ending, especially without any foreshadowing of their existence. Their role in the anti-climatic climax was weird — did Ethan even have a speaking part? I can’t remember… They had such a huge plot responsibility but they were such flat and unimportant characters. They were unsuitable for the entire film, and I blame the film’s downfall on their lack of character.
This movie could have been so good, and although I Am Legend and Will Smith may become box office legends, they unfortunately won’t make it to AFI’s top 100.
The Upside: The first hour of the film.
The Downside: The last 20 minutes of the film.
On the Side: Hearing Will Smith call his dog by its full name almost made me die.