Saturday, January 12, 2008

Review: I Am Legend is Decent but Way Too Short

Will Smith in Warner Bros. Pictures' "I Am Legend"
Warner Bros. Pictures

You know, I figured I would hate this film. The trailers for I Am Legend have been nothing short of odd; the early word on the film was dismal; and there were rumors of the ending being re-shot less than a month ago. All in all I figured it would be a bit of a disaster. So perhaps those low expectations made this come off better than it would have otherwise. Whatever the case, this bad boy is fairly watchable and I won't even be bitter when it banks a large payday this weekend.

The story is based on the novel of the same name, though I'm told by those that have read the book that the stories are so dissimilar as to be considered different works. In this, the movie version, Will Smith is Robert Neville, the last man left on Earth. He's a scientist, and I believe an Army Lieutenant Colonel to boot. The movie jumps back and forth to explain what happened, why he's the only man left... and what Neville is trying to accomplish in the present day.

What really works here is the suspense level. It's difficult to ascertain what's going on, so every corner and dark shadow is filled with dread. Will Smith does well here too: he's a man beset by troubles, clearly coming unglued after years of solitary living in New York City. That's the other cool portion of the movie, imagining a giant city, and what would become of it without people. Evidently you'd get to hunt deer from a sports car! They should have cleared out Brooklyn years ago, eh?

What doesn't work is the depth and logic of the situation. With regards to the depth, there isn't any, this movie flies by at a brisk 92 minutes. It's no wonder they are adding the first six minutes of The Dark Knight on to the front of the film. Which leads to the problem of logic. There are many situations here where you think, "Hmm, I hope they explain/elaborate on this." But nope, whoooosh, it's on to the next setup. It works for keeping the tension up, but not so much for keeping you engaged.

With all that said I'm moderately recommending this film to you and yours. You could do worse on a holiday afternoon. You may roll your eyes a time or two but you probably won't yawn. The film moves well, and the only thing I'm truly appalled by here is the marketing. They've taken pains to hammer home that Will Smith is the last man in NYC, only the film really isn't about that. They should have said "It's just like Die Hard, only with less people!" It would have been more honest, and probably wouldn't have gotten this film so much bad press. As it stands I Am Legend is a decent flick - just not worthy of the book, and not worthy of much thought past the time you spend in the theater.


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