‘I Am Legend’ movie review: Will Smith sci-fi thriller packs a punch


For two-thirds of its running time, Francis Lawrence´s I Am Legend packs one hell of a punch: just Will Smith and his dog walking around deserted, post-apocalyptic New York City streets by day while hiding from the grotesque vampire/zombies (all that remains from the world´s population after a viral outbreak) that come out at night.

As with 1971´s The Omega Man and 1964´s Last Man on Earth (all based on the same Richard Matheson novel), the deserted city landscapes make for absolutely stunning visuals; they´re far more impressive than the computer-generated creature effects here, which often distract with their too-fluid, almost cartoonish motions (though I´m sure some amount of cgi was used in creating a deserted NYC, I´m assured most of it was accomplished without).

Robert Neville (Smith) was a scientist before the outbreak, and he now devotes his time attempting to cure the disease, experimenting on mice and even some creatures he manages to capture.

He explores the empty New York streets with his German Shepherd Sam, hunting deer that now roam Central Park or raiding abandoned houses and stores, carrying on discussions with mannequins while attempting to avoid going (completely) crazy.

Smith is good in a change of pace from his usual work – he´s tasked with the job of carrying most of the film by himself, and accomplishes it quite well. But, not unlike Wilson in Cast Away, his dog Sam (played by ‘Abby´) is a major character here, and one of the best animal performers I´ve ever seen: she lends the film a true emotional resonance, and not just through the manipulations of the screenplay.

The first hour of I Am Legend is classic stuff – and thenand then Neville tosses himself into certain death, only to have the film interject a preposterous Deus Ex Machina. But OK – the rest of the film is good enough, I can forgive this.

Then comes the jarring introduction of overtly Christian themes, and I´m sorry Mr. Lawrence, you have sunk your film in the eyes of the intelligent viewer (not that I have anything against Christian themes, but they clearly don´t belong in this movie and are forcefully fed to us).

Even with the total miscalculations during the final reels, this is at least an equal to the previous adaptations of Richard Matheson´s novel – perhaps very slightly better than both – all of which lure us in with the terrific premise before managing to underwhelm by the end. Still recommended for the indiscriminating viewer.

I Am Legend


Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at expats.cz and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at MaArtial.com.

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