I AM LEGEND
Starring: Will Smith
Directed By: Francis Lawrence (making vast improvements on his technique since Constantine)
The Gist: Years after a plague kills most of humanity and transforms the rest into monsters, the sole survivor in New York City (Will Smith) struggles valiantly to find a cure. (IMDB.COM)
I wrestled with a few names for this entry..."Why CGI is killing movies" or "The Mummy 3 arrives at cinemas early" or "An essay on why Shaun of the Dead was a superior film to I Am Legend"...oh dear, think I was a tad disappointed?
I'll start by saying, I saw The Omega Man when I was pretty young. I thought the 'monsters' were comical yet Charlton Heston's performance was memorable...I have to say not much has changed since 1971. Based on the Novel by Richard Matheson, they two films have more in common than I really wanted to believe.
A great critic I found on Rottentomatoes.com, Bill Goodykoontz (I love his name, Don't you? Although, I think I'd call him Billy...) put it this way..."I Am Legend is carried for a long while on the strength of Smith's performance, but even he can carry it only so far". [click here for full article]
I was absolutely blown away by Will Smith's courage in this performance. He IS Robert Neville, the misguided scientist/army colonel who tries to save the world. I've never seen more realistic portrayals of absolute terror, devastating sadness and the slow decent into madness. You might think I'm crazy, but The Fresh Prince of Bel Air can now be crowned King of the Big Screen in my opinion.
That brings me to the rest of the film...where the first bits of Neville running around his New York City with lone friend, a dog name Sam, are captivating and Oscar worthy, the infected humans which are completely digital, drag the film down into 'video game adaptation' territory.
This also brings me back to Shaun of the Dead which I mentioned before. That movie was a comedy, yet the zombie creatures were terrifyingly realistic. In I am Legend, the infected people look like the animated bits that Stephen Sommers left on the cutting room floor after The Mummy.
I've been a fan of digital enhancements ever since Willow way back in 1988, so I'm not one of those people who hate it altogether. I marvelled at the T1000 just like everyone else. Hell, I even wrote a paper on it in High School for my CADD class! It went along with my very own animation, an art form I sadly left behind when the course was finished. I understand the desire to create advancements in this technology. What I don't understand is why they couldn't use humans...and probably save money in the process, for I am Legend. What's wrong with using a mix? I applauded the creators of Underworld for their use of puppetry and CGI mixed...it looked great! Why didn't dir. Francis Lawrence go in this direction, rather than spending millions of dollars creating creatures that were neither aesthetically pleasing or realistic in any way? They were vaguely shaped like humans, but when it comes down to one of us getting a killer mutated virus, look to something like Shaun of the Dead or 28 Days Later to get a better idea of a more realistic portrayal (if you can associate realism with zombies) .
Will Smith could carry it, but only so far. What could have been 4.5 Stars was dragged down by crappy and unnecessary CGI.
I am Legend gets 3/5 stars, almost entirely for Will Smith, yet partially for the look and feel of the film. Yeah, I was scared.