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"I Am Legend"

Directed by Francis Lawrence.
Written by Mark Protosevich and Akiva Goldsmith.  Based on a novel by Richard Matheson.
Starring Will Smith.
Release Year:  2007
Review Date:  12/15/07


"I Am Legend" is based on a novel that has been made into two other movies before, "The Last Man on Earth" (1964) and "The Omega Man" (1971).  Strangely, the book, by writer Richard Matheson, is called "I Am Legend" but the two previous movies didn't use the book's title; go figure.  I have not seen the other two films, but anything based on an idea of the present suddenly turning into the apocalypse is commonplace these the last five years, just the "28 Days Later"/"28 Weeks Later" movies and "Children of Men" alone preach similar fates for mankind.

This time, it's 2012, and soldier-scientist Robert Neville (Will Smith) is the only man alive in New York City.  NYC was ground zero when, in 2009, an outbreak of some kind eliminated 90% of the city's population and the remaining 10% mainly turned into zombies, save for a few lucky souls that were immune to the turn-into-a-zombie scenario (this is really never explained).  Periodically, Neville goes out during the daytime to hunt, track down supplies, and trap a few zombies and household pets to run tests in his home lab, because even though he knows it may be hopeless, he's still trying to find a cure for those unlucky zombies (which only come out at night).

The premise never really interested me; again, this is fairly rehashed material.  What interested me greatly was the idea that New York City could ever look this deserted, and the main strength of "I Am Legend" is any time Neville and his dog are running around the empty streets of New York.  I'm sure this was a mix of the real and the computer enhanced, but the look onscreen is completely seamless and I loved it.  Can you imagine being able to drive Broadway or Fifth Avenue from end to end with no traffic or traffic signals???  How about chillin' on top of an aircraft carrier, using the main deck as a driving range?  The look of "I Am Legend" is far and away its best asset.

The rest of the scenario, while admittedly tense at times, is for lack of a better word rote; at times, it's actually a little boring to go through Neville's routine once we have seen it the first time.  And, with no one to talk to for the film's first 70-80 minutes, "Cast Away" comes to mind immediately as the kind of movie this one becomes...luckily, Smith is generally engaging and at times very believable as a guy who is on edge after spending almost 1,000 days by himself in a world decimated by tragedy.  The sparse action sequences are well done as Neville has to fight off a random zombie attack here and there; at least these zombies move faster than most zombies do, but as a bad guy choice, I'm starting to get a little tired of zombies.  What ever happened to the Mafia, or Russian terrorists, or the Yakuza?

Ehhh...not bad.  I'm sure it will make a shitload of money, which was always the point anyway.

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09