As the latest attempt at a blockbuster from Will Smith, I Am Legend may just live up to that label.
With a non-stop stream of suspense, it’s surprisingly easy to follow the movie. The plot is a little reminiscent of 28 Days Later, with a virus wiping out nearly everyone in the planet, but Hollywood can be forgiven for its inability to come up with new ideas just this once. Originally thought to cure cancer, the virus caused everyone who had been exposed to it to morph into a flesh-eating, primal creature that can only come out at night.
Dr. Robert Neville, portrayed by Will Smith, is left alone as the only human in New York City, alive because his blood is immune to the virus. Neville spends his time working to find a cure to the disease, using lab rats then capturing and testing the monsters to solve the mystery of their affliction, and making casual conversation with video store manikins.
This movie is a virtual one-man show, but where some actors might royally destroy that kind of role, Smith did just the opposite, finding a way to convey a sense of humanity through visible character development from beginning to end. This was partially made possible because of Neville’s pet German Shepherd, Sam, which allowed him to conveniently explain his emotions, plans, and whatever else was important to the plot by talking to his remarkably faithful and intelligent dog.
Every event that caused the virus to be spread from the discovery of the “miracle” cure for cancer to the attempt by the government to save some lives is recalled by Neville through his nightly dreams, which one of the more creative aspects of the writing in the movie. Generally, the script is nothing genius, practically interchangeable with every other zombie/end of the world/everyone is going to die movie ever made. However, as Smith’s acting overcomes that little fault, the overall effect of the movie is very pleasing.
While this could have easily been a ridiculous gore-fest, director Francis Lawrence was able to keep the movie at a PG-13 rating while keeping a couple of disturbing images, making the film fairly accessible. The monsters are really the only “frightening” aspect of the movie with their hairless, morphed bodies they look something like giant newborn babies with a hankering for some flesh.
This movie is never boring, and as it is always pulling you in and grabbing your attention, I Am Legend does not cease to entertain.
I Am Legend – 3.5 stars
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