Iâ€™m willing to cut movie fans a break if youâ€™ve seen â€œThe Omega Manâ€ the 1971 adaptation of the story starring Charlton Heston and (yum!) Rosalind Cash. Or if youâ€™re really into movies youâ€™ve seen 1964â€™s â€œThe Last Man On Earthâ€ starring Vincent Price which is the most faithful and most depressing of the â€œI Am Legendâ€ adaptations. Seriously, donâ€™t watch the 1964 version unless youâ€™re ready to drink Drano afterwards. Itâ€™s that depressing. There are people I know who claim it would be best if humanity was wiped out and the world could start all over again and I advise them to read the original â€œI Am Legendâ€ and watch â€œThe Last Man On Earthâ€ as well as â€œThe Omega Man.â€ And then come back to me and weâ€™ll have that argument. And now we have a new version of the story which is finally called by its original title and starring Will Smith: I AM LEGEND.
In the year Of Our Lord 2012, Colonel Robert Neville (Will Smith) is a military virologist who is the last human survivor left in New York and possibly the world. Three years ago a mutated strain of measles wiped out 90% of the worldâ€™s population. Some survive but are infected and for the most part they act like vampires: they burn up in sunlight, they sleep during the day in dark places, they only come out at night and they crave human blood. Neville systematically combs Manhattan along with his dog Sam (Abby) searching for Infected subjects he can try out new versions of his cure on. Neville is immune to the virus and he figures that his blood holds the cure to the disease. And heâ€™s been working to try and find a cure ever since the island of Manhattan was cut off three years previously. It also cut him off from his wife (Salli Richardson) and his daughter Marley (Willow Smith)
Since then itâ€™s been just Robert and Sam, surviving as best they can on a Manhattan island overrun by wild animals and at night Robert has to lock themselves up in his fortress of a house just off of Washington Square Park since The Infected roam the streets freely. Itâ€™s a hard existence and we get the sense that maybe Neville might be losing it a bit when he goes to a video store to pick up some movies and he holds actual conversations with dummies he apparently has set up to simulate staff and customers.
I AM LEGEND is going to disappoint those Will Smith fans who are looking for action or comedy because this isnâ€™t that kind of movie. For most of the movie Will Smith is either acting with a dog/by himself/or with CGI Infected zombies and he pulls it off. His maturity as an actor as arrived because he can carry a movie. Oh, we have a couple of flashback scenes with Nevilleâ€™s wife and daughter but actually, the movie belongs to Smith. His scenes with Abby, who plays Sam, are wonderful. And it was unnerving for me to realize that Will Smith is getting gray hair. Maybe because Iâ€™m still watching those â€œFresh Princeâ€ reruns and still I think of him as a kid. But look at some of those close up scenes. Thatâ€™s not makeup. Will Smith has matured into an amazing actor of range and power. Thereâ€™s age and experience in his face he uses for the role. He carries a lot of I AM LEGEND on his back and he carries that weight with no problem.
And when I say this isnâ€™t an action movie I mean it. This is a science fiction/horror movie with some action scenes. Thereâ€™s a couple of scenes is this movie that had me sliding down in my seat dreading what was going to happen and that ainâ€™t easy to do to me. But the expert direction by Francis Lawrence is wonderful. He knows how to wring the suspense out of a scene. But most of the scenes I liked were in the first hour when it was Neville and Sam hunting for Infected and tracking down deer. The SFX in this movie are astounding. I live in Brooklyn and 90% of the locations in I AM LEGEND Iâ€™ve been to personally and I have no idea how they shot those scenes because thereâ€™s always people in Manhattan and Brooklyn no matter what time of day or night. I AM LEGEND is a remarkable piece of SFX work. There are scenes in Manhattan and Brooklyn I would kill to know how they did because I donâ€™t think thereâ€™s anyway possible they could have done it. I AM LEGEND is a movie where the SPX truly work to create the reality of the world weâ€™re looking at and it convinced me.
So should you see I AM LEGEND? If you havenâ€™t already, then do so. Iâ€™m not gonna lie to you: itâ€™s not holiday movie fare if you want to leave the theater with a huge grin on your face. But if you want to see an amazing performance by Will Smith, astounding SPX and a solid story then by all means go see I AM LEGEND. Iâ€™ve seen all three adaptations of the Matheson novel and this is as good as â€œThe Last Man On Earthâ€ and better than â€œThe Omega Man.â€ But Iâ€™d recommend all three if youâ€™re in the mood for an End Of The World Weekend.