Review of I Am Legend,
By Russ Drury
I Am Legend (3 stars out of 5)
A cure for cancer is something we’d all like to see, so long as it doesn’t bring about the trouble it does in I Am Legend. The ‘Legend’ in question is military scientist Robert Neville, played by Will Smith, who is alone in New York in 2012, after the ‘cure’, discovered three years earlier has created a killer air-borne virus, that has turned the few survivors into nocturnal savages, with only their appearance giving clue that they were once healthy human beings.
Despite only having his dog for company, Neville remains in Manhattan, committing himself to developing a vaccine in his basement laboratory. He has plenty of things to keep him occupied, for in addition to his research and defending himself from the monsters, he is hunting wild animals that now roam the streets, searching for survivors, and struggling to retain his sanity – his methods for which are a reminder of Tom Hanks in Cast Away and are both sad and humourous at the same time.
From Richard Matheson’s 1950s novel, director Francis Lawrence has created an action-packed, exciting and often terrifying horror flick, and Smith must take a lot of credit for this himself. Only the finest actors can do a decent job of appearing in the majority of a film without any supporting cast, and Smith’s likeable off-screen personality transfers to the role perfectly, to ensure the audience is behind him right from the beginning.
However, all the stunts and high drama come at the expense of a well thought-out plot. Lazy, or just plain poor storytelling insults the viewers’ intelligence, as large cracks in the story are papered over as the film unfolds. We are left to fill in many details for ourselves, and Neville overcomes some awkward situations rather too conveniently away from our eyes. There are also flashbacks to the initial panic at the outbreak of the virus and attempted evacuation of New York. These are too infrequent and lacking in detail to give a real understanding of how the virus gradually took hold. One other obvious mystery is how the sole-survivor still enjoys uncontaminated water and a supply of electricity.
This film will draw comparisons to some extent with Children of Men, but more likely with the similarly themed 28 Days Later. Like in the latter, we are given the chance to see what a major city would be like at a total standstill, in absence of movement, noise and life as we know it. It is brilliant scenes like this, which give the film such a haunting atmosphere. But as seems to be the norm with these films, the ending is abrupt and left wide-open with more questions than answers.
With so many shortcomings, perhaps it is fortunate that Francis Lawrence could rely on the CGI, stunts and crucially Will Smith, to earn its three stars. The idea behind the story is brilliant, so it is a shame it fell short of becoming the great film it could have been.