Marathon Girl and I had a wonderful night out this weekend and weren’t going to miss the opportunity to see I Am Legend. And we’re both glad that we did. We both thought it was a movie that kept us our hearts pounding from the start to the closing credits.
Warning: Minor spoilers follow.
Will Smith stars at Robert Neville who is the last person on earth – or at least the last person in the New York City area. The rest of the population has been turned into monsters that are a mix between vampires and zombies thanks to a cancer vaccine gone awry. Neville spends his day, scavenging for food and other supplies, trying to find a cure for the virus, and, most importantly, trying to stay sane. At night he sleeps in a bathtub with his dog and tries to shut out the noise the monsters make as they roam the city looking for food.
Smith is perfect for this roll – one in which he get 90 percent of the screen time. Unlike Tom Hanks in Cast Away, Smith does an excellent job of portraying a man who hasn’t had any human contact in years. He actually makes us feel the loneliness he’s feeling and how day after day of just surviving is driving him crazy. And when he finally finds himself in another person’s presence…well, let’s just say he acts like just about anyone else would under those circumstances.
To help round out Neville’s character and make him someone we care about instead of some guy who’s slowly losing it, the movie includes Lost-type flashbacks where we learn more about Neville’s family and the events leading up the virus that turned most people into ravenous monsters. It makes him someone we care enough about that we understand why he starts taking out monsters by the dozen and are truly terrified for him when he finds himself caught in one of their traps. This movie easily could have turned into a monster/slasher/blood-fest type of film. But the writers wisely bring us in contact with the monsters only when necessary which adds tension to the film. (Are you striking writers paying attention? It’s not tons of blood and gore that make movies scary but the anticipation that something’s bad going to happen that truly scare people.) There are scenes – all in broad daylight – when Neville’s driving through New York, “renting” DVDs, or scavenging through empty apartment buildings but you’re still on the edge of your seat thinking that that monsters are going to jump out of a closet or from some dark tunnel any minute. And when we finally get out first glimpse of the monsters well in to the film, it pulse pounding, scary, and soooo fun to watch.
The best part about the film is that, unlike the book that was based on, it has very satisfying ending (more on this in my next post) and will leave with a feeling of hope instead of one where they feel cheated and let down. I Am Legend is a must see move for anyone who wants a 90-minute thrill ride.
Warning: Be careful about taking kids to this movie. Though it’s rated PG-13 it would easily terrify most kids younger than 12.
I Am Legend *** ½ out of 4 stars