I Am Legend was the number one movie this past weekend and had the best December opening ever. Is it worth you going to see? I say yes. Like most Will Smith action movies ( I never saw Wild Wild West), I Am Legend is pretty entertaining and Smith’s character, Robert Neville, is quite likable and endearing. This film is based on Richard Matheson’s 1954 book of the same name and this is actually the third cinematic incarnation of the sci-fi/horror classic. The first film, entitled Last Man on Earth starred Vincent Price and was released in 1964. The second film, Omega Man, starring Charlton Heston (with African American actress Rosalind Cash as his love interest) came out in 1971.
This version of the film revolves around Neville (Will Smith) surviving in what is essentially a post-apocalypse New York City. About 99% of the world’s population has either become man eating vampires or has been eaten by said vampires because of a cancer vaccine that has gone horribly wrong. The special effects in the first hour are excellent. Just imagine wheat, corn and tall grass taking over Times Square, a pride of lions stalking jittery deer and NYC’s diverse population of over 8 million down to just one lonely soul and his trusty German shepherd.
Peering into how Neville has adapted to this new life as he struggles to find a vaccine to cure the vampires is quite interesting and there is one scene of him half naked with rippling muscles doing pull-ups. I’m pretty sure Smith has some kind of clause in his contract to do unnecessary half-naked scenes in every movie. I recall a similar scene in I, Robot. No complaints from the females in the audience for that little clause though.
The special effects for the New York scenes are great, but the vampires are a little hokey at times. It kind of looks like you’re watching a video game instead of a movie. Additionally, the second half of the movie is not so hot. It’s not terrible, but not great either. I’ve never read Matheson’s book, but I think the trouble spots in the second half may have something to do with unsuccessfully trying to adapt/condense some of Matheson’s rich storytelling onto the screen. Without giving anything away, there are hints of a much deeper story in the second half. Had those hints been explored a little more, it could have made for a better movie.
All that said, it’s still worth the ticket price. I like that Smith makes entertaining movies that, for the most part, you can bring your whole family to. Oh and his daughter is in this movie. I love that he employs his children. When is his oldest son gonna get a piece of the Smith family biz?