guppy's film reviews

Saturday, December 15, 2007

I Am Legend

We're back after a long time in which there wasn't much worth seeing!

Director: Francis Lawrence
Notable Actors: Will Smith, Alice Braga
Score: A-
Summary: Very well-made post-apocalyptic survival story with top-notch acting.

When I first saw the trailers for I Am Legend, I didn't know what to think. There have been a lot of post-apocalyptic stories told before, but I was intrigued enough to go check it out, and I'm very glad I did.

While the opening scene is strong, Legend's basic setup is unremarkable for its type: following a huge viral catastrophe, we follow what may be the only survivor of the human race. It departs from that blueprint immediately, though, as the survivor is actually fairly well-equipped and well-trained, and rather than simply trying to survive, he is trying to rectify the original disaster. He's also not completely alone, as his dog Sam is with him. In most films of this type, the survivor is alone, has few supplies and is trying to survive each day in the face of isolation. In Legend, the protagonist has a solid enough base to survive day-to-day, but lives in fear of the night and the darkness.

I should mention that Legend is based on a 1954 science fiction novel by Richard Matheson. I am given to understand that it is a very solid take on the book, but some details are notably different. It is also the third attempt to adapt the book, following 1964's The Last Man On Earth and 1971's The Omega Man, but differs significantly from both.

The primary element worth addressing is Will Smith's performance as survivor Robert Neville, which is note-perfect and very nuanced. There's very little other acting to address, as he is the sole human on screen for most of the film, but Smith does a slam-dunk job -- you really get a feel for what his character has gone through in the three years or so after the disaster.

The strong script is well-paced and moving. It is, however, a pretty heavy film, whose primary theme is isolation -- don't go in expecting something lighthearted. The film clocks in at an agreeable 101 minutes; I was never bored and I did not wish it were longer.

It's been a few months since I've been to the theater for lack of anything I wanted to see. Legend was a superb choice for my return and I recommend it highly.


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