Sunday, December 16, 2007

I Am Legend

Today I saw I Am Legend, starring Will Smith.

If I hadn't yet seen No Country For Old Men, I may have claimed this was the most nervewracking film of 2007, but even it can't match the Coen brothers gift for tension.

At the core of this science-laden story is heart. Will Smith, always great, plays Robert Neville—a successful scientist convinced he can reverse a terrible virus that has wiped out New York City (and apparently most of the United States as well). We learn the virus had initial good intentions as a cure for cancer (a cameo by Emma Thompson delivers this revelation), but went terribly wrong as it mutated.

As you can imagine, what ensues forces you to abandon all rational thought and play the suspension-of-disbelief game with a non-thinking head.

Instead of the infected just withering away (as one may expect, after an incurable virus attacks the immune system), these victims exhibit "rabies-like" behavior (who knew rabies enabled you to scale walls and pull apart houses with superhuman strength?) and terrorize all who cross their path. They're not vampires in the traditional sense of the word, but they do have an aversion to light and a tendency to chomp at flesh.

Amidst all of this silliness, Neville somehow manages to make us feel sorry for him and bask in his lonely existence (though if I were him, I wouldn't be 'borrowing' one DVD at a time from the now desolate video store—I'd borrow a whole shelf). His dog Samantha brings him a fair amount of companionship, as dogs generally do, and familiar sounds such as Bob Marley on the stereo and Ann Curry on an obviously taped vintage Today Show would undoubtedly help keep one's sanity in tact if they were the last human roaming the city (after all, deer, lions, etc. seem to have no trouble avoiding the virus).

In the visual sense, this movie is arguably great. When things jump out at the characters, you feel they're jumping into your lap; the sounds are just as unnerving.

But as a "I'm the last person left in the world, what am I going to do with myself?" sci-fi romp, I'm disappointed the character chooses to stay at "ground zero" to pursue his mission.

The movie, brief in length, does manage to keep the viewer engaged until the ultimate predictable ending commences. For that, all of the stolen ideas from 28 Days Later can be forgiven.

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