Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

In the year 2009 Dr. Alice Krippen (Emma Thompson) and her staff have reversed engineered some virus or another and miraculously, have cured cancer. Ah but not so fast my friend as it looks like nature doesn’t take to kindly to uppity doctors meddling with their precious viruses and this ‘cure’ has to turned into something worse. Far worse. Instead of ‘The Krippin Cure’ Doctor Krippin has created ‘The Krippin Virus’ which as far as we can tell, three years hence, has killed almost every single person on the planet with the exception of Army colonel and noted virologist Doctor Robert Neville (Will Smith). We say almost because though the virus has killed most, there were a few who were immune to disease and unfortunately a few who the disease transformed into super humanoid flesh eating mindless violent zombies who ate the few who were immune.

Now Doctor Neville with his trusty dog Sam lives in a quaint brownstone in Manhattan, which is ground zero for the Krippin virus, and the erstwhile Dr. Neville has sworn to find a cure for it. By day, with Sam always by his side, Neville races through the remains of this once great city in a souped up Mustang hunting wild game as the island of Manhattan in now flush with wild deer and lions, which I must assume originated from the local zoo. Hunters always say if we don’t hunt the little Bambi’s this is exactly what will happen. He practices his golf swing off of grounded Air Force jets (note: Will Smith has a real nice golf swing), goes to the video store to get newest three year old releases and talks to mannequins. He also uses the daylight to replenish his supplies and traps the occasional super zombie for human trials of this ‘cure’ that he tirelessly works on.

By nightfall however it is a different story as the ‘Dark Seekers’ as they are called rule the landscape looking for something, anything to feed on, which sends Neville back to his fortified brownstone to work further on a cure, do sweaty pull ups so we can

observe how great he looks without his shirt off and pray for daylight. If you’re at all familiar with the ‘I am Legend’ last man on earth mythology then you are well aware there will be the appearance of a woman (Alice Braga) the hope of survivors and the far flung hope of a cure. When the Dark Seekers finally figure out where Dr. Neville is holed up, the race is on to see if he can cure them of their sickness before he becomes their late night snack.

‘I am Legend’ if the third instance of Novelist Richard Matheson’s book of the same name, fourth if you include The Asylum’s ‘I am Omega’ but we won’t do that. Will Smith fills the shoes first worn by Vincent Price in ‘The Last Man on Earth’ in 1964 and nine years later by Charlton Heston in ‘The Omega Man’ and dare I say that the shoes fit the Fresh Prince best. At its core ‘I am Legend’ is can’t miss entertainment. It is superbly directed by Francis Lawrence, photographed beautifully by cinematographer Andrew Lesnie, and has a real life big time movie star in Smith who has the added burden of carrying practically the entire movie all by his lonesome, meaning that the success or failure of this film, no matter how fancy the special effects, largely rests on he an he alone. It is the scenes where Smith’s Neville is simply dealing with himself that ‘I am Legend’ is at its best. Smith does a fine job of delivering Neville’s despair, loneliness, and single minded drive for what seems to a pointless resolution to his situation.

It is when ‘I am Legend’ becomes an ‘action movie’ that it becomes incongruent to Matheson’s writing and the overall presentation of the narrative up to this point. Understanding that we have a strapping hero who must do hero stuff, I guess there was no avoiding watching a lot of stuff blow up and introducing some big guns to shoot off but the film does suffer for it, turning it briefly into another ‘Resident Evil’. Mind you that all of the pyrotechnics and CGI zombies don’t sink the film but it did derail what was looking to be a great thrill ride into merely a very good one. Also the other two films delved into deeper issues in the subtext of the narrative, be it religion in the 1964 version or the perils of the Cold War in ‘The Omega Man’. However as far as my simple mind could tell there was nothing bubbling underneath this particular incarnation of the story. If I am mistaken I am curious to know what other watchers of this film may have uncovered by peeling back the layers of the story. I am also curious about the birth of this Krippin virus, such as how could the original inoculations could have made it to human trials when we see clearly through Neville’s own tests that the virus made rats go haywire in a matter of days, thus making human clinical trials something that would never have occurred. But then it’s just a movie.

And it’s a damn good movie at that. If your main goal when you plop down your nine bucks and grab some popcorn is to be entertained then I don’t think you will at all be disappointed in ‘I am Legend’ as it is one of the most entertaining movies of 2007. Perhaps it could have been more than it was, but what it ended up being was plenty fine for me.

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