Friday, December 28, 2007

I Am Legend Review


Not bad, not bad at all. Flicks in the theatre have been pretty weak as of late, and while I Am Legend isn't the most amazing post-apocalyptic film I've ever seen, I certainly found it entertaining and even disturbing at points.

The film centres around Robert Neville (Will Smith), who may very well be the last man on Earth. Set in 2012, a virus spread throughout the globe killing the majority of the population and mutating the rest into nocturnal, savage cannibals. Living in a deserted New York City, Neville spends his days seeking a cure for the plague, staving off the boredom of isolation, and looking after his dog Sam, his only companion of the last 3 years. Just thinking about what it would be like to be completely alone for 3 whole years... well, I couldn't do it, I'd go insane, and its obvious that this major stress alone has certainly gotten to Neville.

By night, however, Neville and Sam need to simply survive, as the Infected emerge from their "hives" to hunt for food. Neville has barricaded his home and sleeps pistol in hand, hoping the Infected won't find him.

What really carries the picture is Smith's performance, as so much of the film is simply him, going about his life, in deserted New York. And while its great to see a completely empty city, without Smith's uniquely energized performance to immerse you and help you believe in the world that's been created, the backdrops alone would have been meaningless, lacking context.

The Infected themselves are an interesting bunch. I Am Legend relies upon the classic horror element of creatures-in-the-dark-that-pop-out-and-go-"Boo", and this works very well (and at least Neville can use a flashlight and a weapon at the same time, unlike the Doom 3 marine), relying on a nice sound mix to enhance the tension. The noises the Infected make are down right creepy, inhuman, and I loved every second of that. Unfortunately, hearing the Infected is a lot scarier than seeing them.

Later on in the film, you start seeing the Infected much more clearly, and sound aside, they're really not that scary at all. In fact, they sort of remind me of more human like Orcs from The Lord of the Rings; the height of a man, with fangs, and pasty skin. They're entirely CG, and the effects are passable, but nothing ground breaking. In fact, they remind me a lot of pre-Gollum CG characters, good, but not up to the new bar. Despite this there are still moments that'll make you jump, but unfortunately, I Am Legend falls prey to a problem that plagues so many other films, shows, and games, a solid set up with a weak payoff.

It is too bad that the Infected themselves weren't explored more, that the social element they seemed to be building, hinted at so strongly, never really sees the light of day. The final act of the film, while not awful, is certainly a slide from the rest of the film, and becomes more of a traditional survival flick with an M Night Shyamalan intervention to end things off. Still, for the most part, I Am Legend is a more detailed take on horror survival, with a meatier script, and in my opinion it worked better than 28 Days Later of which the film reminded me of so much.

In brief, I Am Legend is entertaining and certainly worth a watch, if only to see Smith's captivating performance. Even as the film comes apart towards the end, you still feel for Neville, for the responsibility he's taken on himself, and for the life he now leads. I Am Legend has its flaws, but it's certainly one of the better films released to theatres in the last 6 months.

1 comment:

sookie said...

can't wait to see it - especially "the backdrops".