Thursday, December 27, 2007

I Am Legend [3]

***/***** (3/5)

I caught Francis Lawrence's big-screen rendition of Richard Matheson's highly-acclaimed 1997 novel I AM LEGEND and I have to say I was entertained. If you're fan of zombie movies and Will Smith like I am, this is definitely one to check out. It contains the requisite slow-quiet-but-suddenly-loud-fast moments which prompt the jumpy jolts from girlfriends or wives clutching for your arm. Will Smith plays Col. Robert Neville, the highest-ranking doctor in the army, and his performance conveyed a palpable mix of insanity, desperation and genius. It seemed like Will Smith bulked up for this one, I haven't seen him so ripped before. There's a couple other actors, but the zombie action/horror and Will Smith's character Neville take center stage. As much as I liked the movie for its jumpy-jerky moments, I can't say the movie proved any more entertaining than some other zombie movies I've seen in the past, namely 28 DAYS LATER. I AM LEGEND definitely featured a hodge-podge of scenes from weird and slow-developing to tense and thrilling. From the time the movie spent portraying Neville's humanity in the face death and chaos, it also appeared to followed Matheson's book fairly well (though I haven't read the book). Watching I AM LEGEND, I thought: Charlie Huston's slick vampire/zombie book ALREADY DEAD (***) deserves a Hollywood version!

The Premise.

In 2009, a virus originally created by mankind to completely cure cancer has mutated, going airborne and wiping out 588 million people worldwide. In 2012, the virus has reached epidemic proportions with a very small percentage of people completely resistant to the virus. Most of those totally resistant to the virus fall prey to those infected by the virus. Those infected by the virus exhibit preternaturally aggressive behavior with all of their body functions tremendously accelerated including their respiratory systems. These "zombies" have lost all humanity and feel the simple need to feed, feed, feed. They're susceptible, however, to ultraviolet radiation and consequently cannot abide sunlight. For the first half the movie, we see our protagonist Robert Neville cope with catastrophic and horrific conditions in a desolate New York City interspersed by flashbacks chronicling how he got there and what happened to his family. Neville, as far as we can tell, is the last man on Earth completely resistant to the virus. Both a military colonel and a doctor, Neville possesses the conditioning, knowledge and wisdom to combat both the virus and its infected hosts.

Neville operates a laboratory in the basement of his NYC apartment for research, desperately trying to find a cure. His only companion is his beloved dog Sam and we can sense what being alone has done to Robert Neville. He's on the brink of insanity: talking to mannequins, his dog Sam and to himself. Real meat is scarce as Sam-the-dog and Neville subsist on a high-protein diet. At night, he shutters his apartment with reinforced steel and tries to forget the noises and horrors that lie outside when the zombies come out to play. When an infected test rat (subject #9 or was it #6?) shows signs towards curing, Neville is ready to test on an infected human, or zombie. Things go terribly awry when a trap he sets to catch one of the zombies sets the same trap for him the next day.

The movie is intense, slow-and-jumpy, horrifying and thrilling. I enjoyed it.

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