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I Am Copy

Movie title: I Am Legend (2007)
Grade: D+ (1 ½ star)
Rated: PG-13
Summation: Dr. Robert Neville searches for a cure in a world destroyed by disease.
Spoilers ahead: Yes


I Am Legend is a slow and unspectacular rehashing of zombie apocalypse science fiction. Totally lacking in credibility or appeal, it adds nothing new to the now massive (and still growing) video library of zombie apocalypse films and books. This one is based on Richard Matheson’s “I Am Legend.” It is the third movie based on the book.

With the help of good camera work, fancy (but still insufficient) special effects, and a big budget, it feels expensive, which is to say, this was not a flippant project. A lot of thought and production power went into it. But that didn't keep the writers from making some big mistakes.

Incredibly huge, whopping mistake #1) Poisoned humans acquire great strength: We are suspending the laws of reality a bit in the premise of I Am Legend, where a virus not only turns living, healthy individuals into fresh-craving, mindless zombies, but it gives them super strength. Yes, super strength.

What was the vision for I Am Legend, I wonder? It's as though someone was thinking: “If people like zombie movies, then they will really like this one because this zombie movie has not just zombies, but SUPER zombies!” The very idea is dumb.

Now I know what some of you are saying: “This is science fiction. We can’t be too hard on it. Can't we just as easily say that grotesquely transformed humans have super strength with their transformations?” In other words, if we're going to have zombies in the first place, then why not have super ones? The short answer is, because it's cheesy to do so.

In order to understand why, you have to go back to the original zombie movie, the one that, directly or indirectly, every recent one is trying in vain to emulate, The Night of the Living Dead (1968). What made it so incredible was that the resurrected zombies were a threat because of their numbers. They were a dangerous, relentless force because they could do nothing else but swarm the living. It sometimes took some doing even to break a window, but any five men can turn over a car, and so it is stated in the film. The danger was in the numbers. The survivors had the chance to beat them. You could “kill” them again. That gave hope, but sometimes the hope was false. That's what made the film so good.

The notion of super-zombies, with senses heightened to superhuman levels, takes away a realistic dynamic and needlessly exaggerates the story, causing it to lack a basic sense of realism. Nature degenerates. That means we can rightly hypothesize that a germ or radiation could corrupt a living organism and make it into a zombie, but corruption doesn't enhance strength anymore than it does give an increased sense of smell as I Am Legend ridiculously has it. So this mistake alone renders I Am Legend shit-can material.

Big, massive, catastrophic mistake #2) Sunlight harms vampires, and also zombies: As though it needed to be stated, it’s the vampires who are mortally wounded by sunlight, not zombies. It sounded cool to have in the story that you could move around in the day. What good is a daytime zombie movie? Maybe they don't have to gravitate towards the light. Maybe they can still go for an evening meal of sinews and a still-beating heart, no? So it seemed good to have an excuse to keep the action in the night. This superhuman, vampiri-stic zombie angle missed the mark altogether. But it should be said that the script of I Am Legend intended to portray neither vampires, nor zombies. The intent was to show that the diseased saw Neville as a threat, as though they were fighting the chance to be cured. But you’d never know that without knowing the film’s source material.

Will Smith is Dr. Robert Neville, one of the last survivors of a vaccine gone wrong. The vaccine was the responsible agent for turning the whole world into a zombie hell. Everyday of his lonely life, he searches for a cure with his only companion, a healthy German Shepherd, as he watches old recorded news clips from a time when television signals were being sent and the beginning of the outbreak was still news. Everyone else is dead, killed off by the zombie-making drug that was initially introduced as a radical way to cure cancer. It did more than cure cancer. It cured normalcy, and an astonishingly small one percent of one percent of the population survived by having immunity.

In a slow, semi-compelling fashion, Neville's isolated daily routine of research is shown. Bordering on boring, the story moves along until fate puts him in touch with another human being, an attractive (and equally immune) Anna (Alice Braga). It is then, after killing a few of these inexplicably superhuman zombies – and pissing off one very smart and extra strong zombie – that God comes into the picture. Yes, God!

95% of the world's population has been destroyed, decimated by an airborne virus to which only animals are immune, as Neville points out. But he is given hope and told to listen to his inner-voice because that voice is the voice of God! It's the typical Noah's ark scenario—the whole world is destroyed and only a select few will repopulate it. Such is the beneficence of the Almighty—religious people do believe crap like that. The great doctor finally finds the cure, but sacrifices himself to take out that badass zombie he pissed off earlier, thereby ensuring Anna’s way of escape. He is legend, don't you see?!

Lots of action and close calls don't make the movie any more appealing, and the special effects and these hyped-up zombies never quite seem or look believable. None of it stands out as far as apocalypse movies go. It's a copy of a copy of a zombie movie, and not a very good one.



Director: Francis Lawrence
Starring: Will Smith “Robert Neville,” Alice Braga “Anna,” Charlie Tahan “Ethan,” Salli Richardson-Whitfield “Zoe (as Salli Richardson)” Willow Smith “Marley,” Darrell Foster “Mike - Military Escort,” April Grace “TV Personality,” Dash Mihok “Alpha Male,” Joanna Numata “Alpha Female”
Genre: Thriller / Horror / Sci-fi / Drama


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