I Am Legend

Francis Lawrence

In Cast Away it was Tom Hanks and Wilson the volleyball; in I Am Legend, we have Will Smith and a dog named Samantha. Both films deal with a similar problem of an isolated man trying desperately to get out of their surroundings, find help and discover another human being but in I Am Legend, it’s far deadlier.

Unlike Hanks, he isn’t cast away on an island; instead Smith’s military scientist Dr. Robert Neville is most likely the sole human survivor from a catastrophic biochemical plague-like disease that ravaged mankind three years earlier in 2009. The biochemically engineered treatment which Natasha Richardson explains in a brief opening clip took a radical approach to curing cancer by re-engineering measles and after thousands of people found their cancer vanishing, it was deemed a miracle… that is, until the brutal side effects were revealed which found those infected far more aggressive, shedding their hair in a chilling metamorphosis from man to a zombie-like beast without a trace of humanity. Moreover, they began destroying one another at such a rapid rate that the government quarantined New York to try and secure citizens.

Neville, who lost his wife and daughter proved to be immune to the disease and after civilization was wiped out, we catch up with him in 2012 as he goes about his days with his trusty canine sidekick Samantha, scouring through the city of Manhattan, hitting golf balls off docked military planes, renting DVDs in alphabetical order from the local movie store, transmitting over AM radio signals to try and contact any other survivors and mostly, trying to resist the increasingly aggressive human zombies who are deemed the “dark seekers” since they’re unable to withstand the UV rays. In the mean time, he works on a medical cure in his basement converted lab, experimenting on heavily restrained, captured dark seekers to unsuccessfully reverse their condition.

Undeniably grim but highly compelling thanks to the charismatic and heartbreaking portrayal by Smith who’s able to embody a wide range of emotions in a single scene with little to no dialogue, I Am Legend is the latest adaptation of the 1954 science fiction novel of the same name by writer Richard Matheson. While there are some definite logical problems that challenge the audience’s ability to suspend their already stretched disbelief even further, there are also some horrifying moments that had me baffled when I learned that not only was it only PG-13 but also available to horror fans as an IMAX experience.

Still, the film is far better than one would think although it admittedly suffers thanks to a rushed, uninspired, and contrived conclusion that ultimately leaves viewers who have felt caught up in the events dissatisfied. It was reported online late in the fall of 2007 that Smith was called back for reshoots to provide an alternate ending and one can only hope that both versions will be available on the DVD.