Movie Review: I Am Legend

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I love Will Smith. I mean that in a very non-homosexual way. Yes, he is a beautiful man in terrific shape, but that’s not why I love this man. I love this man because he is one of the best actors that exists today. Something has to be said about Smith’s acting abilities, because to ignore his versatility would be an insult to the craft. He can, and does, it all–pretty much at least. He’s done comedies, action movies, horror, science fiction, romance, drama, etc. And he does all of them well, mind you. While he certainly has certain “Smith tropes” that follow him in every film (namely his delivery of jokes), he is able to portray a wide range of emotions, some of which I have never seen before (Pursuit of Happiness has yet to be seen by me, so forgive me).
Now, to the movie.
I Am Legend is possibly one of the most enthralling movies I’ve seen this year. I had mild expectations for this film, meaning that I expected it to be decent, but nothing worthy of an award or significant recognition. After seeing it and letting it mull around in my head for a little while I have concluded that if Smith doesn’t get nominated for best actor it is a crime against the art form.
The movie follows the struggle of one man. ONE MAN. And a dog. That’s it. There are no other humans in all of New York City but this one man and his dog. Can you imagine waking up every morning, cooking breakfast, working out, reading, watching recorded television, etc. knowing you may very well be the last human being alive?
Neville, the main character, is a military scientist who has been working on trying to find a cure for a viral agent developed by another doctor to essentially cure cancer–the Krippin Virus. While the virus works, it slowly develops to produce violent results, turning infected people into cancer-free, vampiric monsters. When the virus goes airborne, all hell breaks loose. But not everyone can be infected. Some people are naturally immune. But when 95% of the world’s population can be infected, it doesn’t bode well for the poor folks that can’t be infected.
When the evacuation takes place Manhattan Island, Neville stays behind to find the cure…and that’s where he stays as everything around him falls into complete darkness.
This movie is amazing. I was driven into the story from the start. There are wonderful moments between Neville and his dog Sam in which Neville talks to the dog as if it were a person. They portrayed everything perfectly too. We see Neville living, trying to find survivors, renting movies from a movie place populated by mannequins, etc. It’s a richly developed movie and the story itself is simply enthralling. There are few times I can say I absolutely loved a movie to death, but this one had me from start to finish. Now for the ratings:

Direction: 4/5
I can’t say the direction was perfect, but neither can I say that it was bad. A 4 out of 5 is pretty darn good in my book, and a 5 would be saying that the director deserves an award. I think one reason I can’t give 5 is that the movie doesn’t require a whole lot of direction in comparison to other films. Most of the movie involves Smith and the dog, and nobody else other than some CGed evil guys. A 4, however, means that the director didn’t do anything that I noticed in one screening that I could called stupid.

Cast: 5/5
There isn’t much of a cast, so it’s not like I have to worry about crappy secondary actors. Will Smith is basically it. There’s a dog, and some very minor characters in the story who don’t really have much involvement in the bulk of the movie. But with Smith there, and with his uncanny ability to portray emotion so vividly gripping that you actually feel too, you can’t really give it anything less than 5. This might very well be one of his best roles ever. I nearly cried at certain points (I’m not saying when because it would ruin the story for you). There are few actors I think that can actually show you torment, pain, and suffering all in a facial expression and tears. Some actors look somewhat ridiculous, and while the scene is still sad, it’s not the same. Smith deserve a hug for this role.

Adaptation: N/A
I haven’t read the book so I can’t speak to the book-to-film adaptation. I hear there was a significant amount of things changed, however, but because I haven’t read the book I don’t feel right giving any sort of score here.

Writing: 4/5
The writing isn’t 100%, but I think what makes the writing a 4 is that Smith can take lines that would make all of us cringe and actually spin them to be interesting in some way. The writing is good, but it’s not academy award. Then again, we’re talking about a story where a man talks to a dog and some mannequins for the majority of things…

Visuals: 3/5
One of the biggest problems I have with Hollywood these days is this ridiculous reliance on computer animation. I love CG, I do, but there has to be a point where we go “enough is enough”. I understand that many of the scenes required CG. When the bridges are blown up by military weaponry, that had to be done with CG, and it looked good because the details don’t have to be the same to be believable as in humans. However, when you have creatures that are, or were at one point, human, I don’t see why you need to CG them. Why can’t humans play them? There was very little within the movie that would have needed CG use for the human rolls. You could have done things with stunt-men and it would have been fine. Basically my only problem with the film was that the CG was obviously CG. The bridged looked pretty real (you knew it was fake and CG, but you could at least pretend they were real). The monsters looked too CG though, and I think the movie makers would have been better off hiring a bunch of stunt-actors and extras to play the monsters.

Overall: 4/5
The movie is quite good, and I loved it to death. It has some very minor flaws (most of the film doesn’t involve the CGed monsters, so you can get by it for the most part), but I think this is an amazing film nonetheless. I’m glad it has done so well its opening weekend, grossing well over $76 million in ticket sales. That’s a record by the way for a December debut, and with the movie’s $180 production costs that is a good thing. It’s almost halfway there and it’s only opening weekend.

Great movie. Go see it!

About the Author:

Shaun Duke is an aspiring writer, a reviewer, and an academic. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Digital Rhetoric and Writing at Bemidji State University. He received his PhD in English from the University of Florida and studies science fiction, postcolonialism, digital fan cultures, and digital rhetoric.

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