Film Review: I Am Legend

— by Caroline on Crack

Warning: Minor spoilers to follow (in italics)….

The credits were rolling when I turned to my friend dotsara and she said, “I don’t ever want to see that movie again.” This surprised me because 1) I thought I Am Legend was actually pretty good and 2) because when she got to the end of her sentence, her voice cracked. She was crying. But I understood why. This movie about being the last man on earth was very stressful and at the end of it you just wanted a release from the never-ending onslaught of cannibalistic night seekers, loneliness and even more loneliness. Ugh! Too much tension!

I didn’t cry at the end, at least not right at the end…. But I did cry a couple of times during…and almost after the movie during lunch, all because of that damn Will Smith. He is a pretty good actor! When it comes down to it, forget Men in Black, Independence Day or The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Underestimating him will just catch you unawares.

Here, he demonstrated the subtleties of character that a person in his position would display. And that really surprised me. Because how do you emote what it feels like to be the last person on earth when everyone you care about is gone and every night for three years you have to evade these creatures who just want to eat you? What sort of reference point do you pull from?

Anyway, the two parts that made me cry were when Will (playing virologist/soldier/last man on earth Robert Neville) had to pull an Old Yeller move on the only friend he had left in the world, his dog Sam, because she got infected, and then when he cracked under the weight of that ensuing loneliness and pleaded with a mannequin to please just say hello to him. Awww. I’m tearing up now just thinking about it. OK, you had to be there. But you could feel his deep-seated grief just by watching his face.

One of the great things about this movie is that it gave the audience credit for being able to figure things out for ourselves. Surprising for a blockbuster with explosions, CGI special effects and, I have to say it, Will Smith. Instead of spelling it out for us through some convenient flashbacks or some character dialog, though, a lot of it had to be culled from Will’s reactions, the post-apocalyptic scenery and the one flashback.

By doing so, you left the movie theater haunted by what you saw; still thinking about it and replaying certain parts in your head to figure it out. I love that! Make sure to see this movie with a friend so that you have someone to talk to about it after. And you will want to talk about it as therapy.

Another thing I liked about it was that the zombies were in fact CGI. Something that would normally bug me. But for some reason that made those guys bearable to watch as opposed to real actors portraying the dead as in 28 Days Later or Dawn of the Dead. Of course I’m just saying this because I’m wussing out and real actors would have been too scary for me to watch. These computer-generated zombies weren’t as chilling as Romero’s dead but they were still disturbing enough to behold.

That one scene when Will ran into a dark building looking for his dog and just ended up running into a hive of the night seekers was bone chilling. The darkness, the one light to show the way, his erratic breathing and then seeing a bunch of them just standing around facing each other… can anyone tell me what they were doing? They were just standing around and at this point I was plugging my ears and hiding behind my hair so I couldn’t really tell what was going on. I thought maybe they were eating the dog but turned out that wasn’t it.

While this may not be a classic for the ages or a textbook example of what is great cinema, this is a helluva an entertaining way to pass the time when you’re stuck at your childhood home during the holidays.

Fans of previous versions of the story may not be crazy about it but I, fan of zombie movies and nightmarer of post-apocalyptic worlds, just loved it. And although Dotsara may never watch it again, I think I’ll just have to make my bf see it with me next.

PS: Click here for NY Times’ fascinating Anatomy of a Scene about the opening sequence of the movie.