The last man on Earth is not alone.
2009. The world rejoices as a viral cure for cancer is finally discovered. 2012. Humanity as we know it has collapsed, thanks to the unstoppable spread of the mutated …miracle’ virus that turns human beings into unstoppable night walkers, extremely vulnerable to UV rays but who in turn possess extraordinary strength and mobility. These dumb, brute creatures, once human, exhibit the symptoms of full on rabies, but instead suffer from a far worse affliction – the desire for fresh blood.
In just three years Earth’s human population has seemingly been wiped out completely, leaving only crumbling cities behind as evidence of having ever existed in the first place.
Virologist Robert Neville (Will Smith) is the sole human survivor living in New York City. Immune to the virus and its effects, he now lives a solitary existence in which he forages by day and hides out at night. Intent on finding a cure to somehow save humanity, Robert and his dog Sam live in constant fear of the night. Loneliness is rapidly claiming the sanity of the last man on Earth – it is just unfortunate that this may not be what kills him first’
I Am Legend is a 2007 post-apocalyptic science fiction horror film directed by Francis Lawrence, a man better known for his music videos than for his full length feature movies (in fact, he has only done 2005’s Constantine before). Will Smith plays the titular star of Robert Neville and the rest of the cast is pretty much made up by small time actors. The movie itself is loosely based on Richard Matheson’s 1954 novel …I Am Legend’, which has in fact been adapted twice for the big screen, the first adaptation being 1964’s …The Last Man on Earth’ and 1971’s …The Omega Man’.
As outlined above, the story pretty much revolves around lone surviving virologist Robert Neville’s daily struggle to live – foraging and working on his cure by day, and hiding out by night. Eventually the story expands as some new revelations come to light, leading up to an action-packed finale in the final quarter of the movie. The story focuses very much on the loneliness of his existence, driving home the feeling of being utterly alone and isolated in the big world, and particularly the effect this has on Robert’s psyche. The tension for this otherwise rather slow movie comes from Robert’s interaction with the night walkers, and the continuing battle between these two groups. Of course, Robert isn’t entirely alone either, he does have his faithful dog Sam with him, an important plot point simply because it gives us someone for Robert to talk to. Without Sam, we may very well have been left with a movie featuring no dialogue whatsoever!
Will Smith pulls off this movie with such tremendous ease and in such a natural way that it becomes very easy to see just why he is one of the highest paid actors of our time. He commands the screen and makes it his own, in turn providing a thoroughly enjoyable spectacle to keep us glued to the screen for the duration of the movie, even if the first three quarters of the movie seem devoid of any action whatsoever. He conveys the various emotions and thought processes that Robert goes through with great conviction and clarity, making it a very easy and natural performance to watch. Of course, Will is pretty comfortable in the Sci-Fi genre anyway, having previously given us big roles in I, Robot, Independence Day and of course Men In Black.
During shooting, Lawrence emphasized and insisted on shooting in real locations over using CGI for backgrounds because he wanted to catch as much of a realistic feeling to the movie as possible. So a lot of digital erasing of people from shots later, we are left with a very realistic New York City, displaying all the post-apocalyptic signs of a world gone wrong. Because we are talking about a film filmed entirely on location, the sets are absolutely huge in scale and the movie crew has done a wonderful job in creating this post-apocalyptic New York landscape.
Visually, Lawrence does a great job in emphasizing the vast world that the very alone Robert finds himself in, but at the same time manages to capture the gritty encounter scenes with a great sense of tension and fear. As the film progresses and more and more CGI gets added into the mix, the movie loses a bit of its authenticity, particularly when it comes to the hordes of dark seekers attacking the house scene. Nevertheless, this is a big budget movie and the visuals are exciting, clear and exactly what you expect from this kind of epic blockbuster.
With regards to sound, clever use of silence is instrumental in conveying many of the tones throughout the movie, particularly when used to stress the lonesomeness and isolation of our lead character in his big playground. However, when things heat up we get treated to some great music crafted by James Newton Howard, a prolific composer that has put his name to quite a few of the big releases over the years. Oh, and we get Bob Marley. Lots of Bob Marley.
A lot of people complain about the ending seeming hurried, but I felt that the pacing was just right. The movie doesn’t feel long, though it starts off very slowly as we are introduced to this post-apocalyptic world, sets the stage for the story’s escalation and the picks up speed as we are taken to an explosive conclusion. It starts and ends a story, and to be honest had me firmly glued to my seat for the entire trip.
A thoroughly engrossing and interesting movie that despite its big blockbuster heritage, is not all about massive explosions. It makes you think, examines psyches and interactions between people and in general is just a good piece of filmmaking.
If you are looking for an epic Sci-Fi inspired film that will make you think and entertain you all at once, I Am Legend certainly does not disappoint!
Just a note: Please look out for the shape formed on the breaking plexiglass right at the end of the movie. This is an important bit of imagery which determines Robert’s actions, and I’ve come across quite a number of people who simply looked right past it, thus missing a big part of the ending’s meaning and motivation!
Related link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0480249/