Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I saw "I Am Legend" today. Besides featuring Will Smith's best performance to date, it's a visual triumph: its depiction of an apocalyptic Manhattan is the most attentive and arresting of any film I can think of (with the possible exception of Terry Gilliam's "12 Monkeys"). Real effort was spent transforming New York into a weather-beaten carcass, and the result yields moments of genuine visual poetry. Factor in Smith's convincing alienation and the first half of the film is wrenchingly good.

But there are problems. For one, the CGI zombies are too obviously CGI. Computer-generated FX work best when cooking up insects and reptiles, as in "The Mist"; the scrambling cadavers that feast on screen-time in "I Am Legend" move with a biomechanical complexity that betrays their unreality and aggravates the viewer's suspension of disbelief.

But the defining problem with "I Am Legend" is the ending, which insults the intelligence of the rest of the film (and that of its audience) with a whorish appeal to superstition and the oh-so-flawed cinematic wisdom that Love Conquers All. Like "Children on Men," "I Am Legend" succumbs to one of the deadliest science fiction foes of all: undeserved optimism.

(To read author Peter Watts' review, click here.)


Paul Kimball said...

You saw a movie without me??? Say it isn't so! ;-)

mister ecks said...

I totally agree with your assessment of the film here. It starts off well, but the CGI zombie things really ruined the flick for me. They're so rubbery and un-menacing they took me out of the story before it could really begin. *Sigh* At least there's always the book!

However I disagree about the ending of "I Am Legend" being like the ending of "Children of Men". The latter film is primarily about hope, or the glimmer of hope, while "I Am Legend" is fundamentally about despair and isolation, which is why the ending of "Legend" rings so hollow and false. I think "Children of Men" had an appropriate ending, with the almost dreamlike arrival of the mist-covered ship symbolic of the (very cautious) optimism that the film embodies.

KLCtheBookWorm said...

Okay, this is the second review talking about zombies in I Am Legend. WHAT THE HELL! Richard Matheson's story is about vampires! As far as I know every other film version of this book including Charleton Heston's The Omega Man uses vampires. Just because 28 Days made so much money, you need to change a core facet of the book, that humanity has been turned into blood drinkers?

Yeah, I guess I can put that on my view on DVD much later list because I am too pissed to enjoy it a theater now.

Show the vampires some love, Hollywood.

Mac said...


Yeah, sorry about that. With you being in Canada and all, it just wouldn't have worked out! :-)


I can buy your take. I was able to swallow the glimmer of hope at the end of "Children of Men." I'm probably being too hard on it.


Yep -- zombies. Albeit nocturnal zombies with an appetite for human flesh ... which makes them, essentially, vampires.

Bsti said...

I've never seen Children On Men, and frankly, I don't think I want to.
I can hear the trailer now: In a world where there are children on men, love conquers all.

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