Sunday, 13 January 2008

Review: I Am Legend

  • Year: 2008
  • Director: Francis Lawrence
  • Screenwriters: Mark Protosevich, Akiva Goldsman
  • Starring: Will Smith
Well this was my first visit to the cinema this year and it's safe to say I was not disappointed. I am Legend probably won't make it on to my top ten favorite films of the year. However Francis Lawrence's film is strong enough to hold a viewers attention. This is down to some well crafted art direction and a powerhouse performance by Will Smith.

Smith plays Neville, a lone survivor of a biological disease which has ravaged New York City. For the past three years as the lone survivor he spends his days with his pet dog Sam searching for a cure. However to quote the films tag line, the last man on earth is not alone. The disease has mutated those who didn't die, turning them into sub-human zombie-type creatures. Neville's life is divided into retaining his sanity during the day and staying alive during the night.

Remember the opening scenes of 28 Days Later? Well Lawrence wishes to take that isolation further. He almost makes it. For the most part, the film is an interesting exercise in isolation and loneliness. What helps is the utilization of silence which goes with the shots of human achievements. The film managed to freak me out a couple of times as we are shown shots of skyscrapers and monuments standing tall but standing for no one. Lawrence also manages some semi effective shock scares and creates some claustrophobic set pieces for two thirds of the film.

This leads me to the last third of the film, which isn't as terrible as so many has said but suffers from a soft climax and an almost abrupt ending. The films last third is jarring with what we've seen before and brings discomfort. Much has been said about the films CGI at the end of the film also. While not the greatest I've ever seen, it's a damn sight better than say....Charlies Angels 2: Full Throttle. It seems that the films problems (particularly at the end) hit hardest when the filmmakers make their most liberal alterations to the original novel.

With this said, plot wise the film is still engaging. I have yet to read Richard Matheson's original novel, but I'm sure there will be moments in the book I would have loved to see on the screen. What keeps the film so engaging however is the charm and screen presence of Will Smith. His role in the film is one of his strongest since Ali (yep seven years ago). Smith manages to take the role beyond that of a regular action hero and adds a small amount of pathos to the film. The supporting characters are nothing to yell about as all the characters apart from Neville are mostly cameos, save for the brilliant animal performance from Abby the dog who plays Sam.

I am Legend for the most part is an entertaining film which slowly begins to run out of stream before the climax. Which is a shame when you release that Smith's talent and star potential could have been used to greater effect in such a film.