REVIEW: I AM LEGEND

Watching this film earlier tonight, in fact I just got back from it, I decided that it is now necessary to come up with a term (for myself, in any case, I don’t know if there’s another one for it) for movies such as this.

I AM LEGEND is about the best example you will ever get of a “Two-Thirder,”and by this I mean a film that is essentially that- two thirds are brilliantly done, and then the ruin it all in the final third of the picture. For this movie, it’s easy to divide up- it was a 101 minute film, and somewhere around the last 35 minutes everything decided to take a back-seat to “good film making.”

I AM LEGEND
is the story of Will Smith saving existence once again (sorry, my family is ironically enough watching Independence Day upstairs), from some form of world-apocalypse. This time however, he isn’t Will Smith, he’s Robert Neville, a military scientist who believes he knows the cure for infection. Why he’s the one with the key to this, what his background in science is, and why he is in particular immune to this virus are all unknown to the viewer, thus diminishing greatly the chance for this film to be good science fiction. I’m not saying they have to explain every little thing. That would be treating the audience like idiots. Oh…wait. It appears that they decided to do that with the first five minutes of the film in the worst way imaginable- a News Report talk show extravaganza that takes place outside of the continuity of the actual events of the film.

Effortlessly explaining that the cure for cancer was on the rise, the film does make a smart decision to cut to “Three Years Later” and show off Will Smith as The Last Man On Earth. The whole movie is about contrasting images, with the city of New York overrun with grass and wild animals. One of the more amusing scenes is when Neville drives his SUV down the street and music is heard coming from it. Not a speaker system, mind you, just from the car. It has no over powered bass, it is just on at a low volume and can be heard for a great distance in the once noisy City that Never Sleeps.

If you’ve read any other review, you already know that yes, the first forty-five minutes are incredibly interesting, with a “day in the life” story of the omega, going through his amusing paces and doing his best to stay sane talking to mannequins and the like. If you’ve seen Tom Hank’s isolationist portrayal in Cast Away you’ve already seen the best display of man-on-inanimate-object action, but there are moments when this film tops even the great scenes of Wilson the Volleyball and his Oscar Worthy performance. Smith does in fact own the screen the entire picture, even towards the end when it falls apart. So does the dog he works with. The beautiful pooch deserves muchos applause, and her chemistry with Smith was gold. In fact, it’s pretty easy to see where the film falls apart.

When the dog becomes a less prominent character and two humans are introduced, completely out of nowhere, and ruin the story. There are some embarrassingly bad scenes following the addition of the non-infected, and the action slows, grows, and then completely dies in a ball of stupid and meaninglessness. The story is yet again plagued by the idiotic notion that a science fiction story needs to, at some point, compete with God. This humble reviewer is not an atheist, mind you, I am just of the opinion that bringing God into a movie over the course of two lines of dialog is incredibly moot. Furthering this bad mistake was the idea that “everything happens for a reason,” which worked great for the movie Signs because that entire film was an allegory for a man’s loss of faith. This movie was telling a different story and they decided to leave it at the end for something far more dumb and done.

The action was consistently good, with a handicam author that finally knew how to keep things in focus enough that it was more of a tool than a distraction. The scares were exciting, and while they were still resorting to cat scares, they were much more primal and ferocious than the silly things horror movies in general try to pull. You did not see the scares coming. That makes it effective. The direction of Francis Lawrence was generally powerful, sometimes heart breaking, and the editing between the scenes of “flashbacks” and modern time, getting inside Neville’s head, were very potently placed. Any time when the monsters were attacking created a feeling of dread and excitement, and the direction of the creatures was well maintained throughout the scenes of action. Their movements were animalistic, but with a primal edge of stalking prey that allowed the audience to feel fear right along side of Smith. The special effects were even far more decent than a lot of reviews will admit, and worked for the film, not nearly as against it as some trailers will make it seem.

Over all though, not enough of the action was between Neville and the Mutants. Too much of it focused on his day-to-day life. It painted a great character portrait that had no real development by the end, and anything that could be considered growth felt too written in to really count. Tacking on something that easy just makes the film out to be exactly what I’ve coined it: A Two Thirder.

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  • Good review. Still sounds like its worth seeing though. Even though the ending is bad it sounds like it does so many other things not just well but exceptionally, that you almost hate the movie more because it could be so great.