January 25, 2008

The Last Man On Earth Is Not Alone

Posted in Drama, Horror, Movies, Sci-Fi, Thriller at 10:50 pm by inflickted

I Am Legend Richard Matheson’s sci-fi novel about the last man left alive on earth has been adapted to film twice, both allegedly with disappointing results. Once again, Matheson’s story is brought to the big screen with the hopes that with a huge production budget and state of the art CGI effects, the post apocalyptic work of fiction shall be given justice.

This is the latest offering from the charismatic actor, Will Smith. What will you do if you were the last person on earth? If you ask me, I would fulfill my every material desire then just kill myself before I go crazy. Anyway, the film is… I AM LEGEND.

According to the handy dandy Wikipedia, the creation of this movie has gone through several ups and downs. Believe it or not, the development of this movie started in 1994, more than ten years ago! It also was supposed to have a different director. Some of the choices were Michael Bay and Guillermo del Toro. The privilege went to Francis Lawrence (director of Constantine) who was intrigued with the emotions the last man must have felt after experiencing so much loss. In the whole, Lawrence does a good job setting the atmosphere and creating spectacular scenes. He was also smart enough to let Will Smith be himself. However, he falters by relying on cheap thrills and using worn-out scene set ups.

It is because of Will Smith that this movie even worked. He single handedly carried the film through his gripping performance. This is a vehicle designed especially for him and draws on his talents. He is capable of making you believe he would survive. Most of what we know about his character, Neville, we learn from looking at him. Smith is comfortable with being looked at, and he is just good enough an actor that Neville’s inevitable descent into (deeper) madness feels believable. In addition, his charisma, attitude and range of emotions just ooze out the screen. As we become more familiar with his situation, the worse we feel for him. The supporting players (like Sam the dog, Zoe – Neville’s wife, and Anna – a survivor) only intensify further the performance of Will Smith.

We also get to witness a post-apocalyptic New York City rendered with all the loving detail that today’s CGI can muster. Here is a city overrun with weeds, herds of deer, and empty, disintegrating cars as far as the eye can see a horrifying sense of total devastation. The quarantined buildings, aging shredded plastic drifting in the breeze, look remarkably real, and when Smith interacts with famed facades you get a feeling of grandeur and scope. Director Francis Lawrence does a good job in these moments, making up for times when the script stifles his efforts. He completes Smith’s emotion with a vast city filled with hopelessness. I also chuckled when I saw the teaser poster in Times Square of Batman vs. Superman, opening on Memorial Day 2010.

The first part of the movie was truly exciting. The movie starts to falter when it tries to be about anything other than watching Will Smith be the last man alive. What starts off as a compelling drama descends into a vampire-zombie horror flick. It lacked a sense of intrigue since we missed three years in between the present events and the flashbacks. The conclusion is a big problem. It is unconvincingly optimistic and all too convenient.

Finally, we come to the main antagonist, “the dark seekers.” The infected look more like zombies in a resident evil game than vampires. Come to think of it, they act a lot like video game characters as well, basic uglies that howl incessantly and move with ungodly speed and agility. The mutants’ arrival onscreen ought to be the big payoff, but they are curiously unsatisfying. In contrast to the awesome, realistic post apocalyptic New York rendition, the baddies looked so fake! Bad villains bring any genre film down several notches.

SPOILER ALERT! Do not read the next sentence if you haven’t seen the movie. There are three genuinely brilliant and enthralling scenes: Neville looking for his dog, Neville killing his dog and Neville saying hello.

What could have been compelling, if done right, ends up looking great but feeling very, very hollow inside and leaves you wanting a better or different ending. It seems, CGI may support and a terrific actor can enhance a film, but sticking to the story in the book and writing an acceptable adaptation doesn’t hurt either.

It gets a not quite legendary 3.3 out of 5 or 66% infectious


1 Comment »

  1. Rhey said,

    oh mi god… i totally agree… this could have had a better ending…

    and his relationship with his dog was the most moving really…
    jigs, its me rhey, crawling back just as promised. 🙂

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