I Am Legend
Paul Cook 08/01/2008
Having been close to an eighties blockbuster made by Ridley Scott, one was always going to compare I Am Legend to what might have been some 20 years ago and unfortunately it's possible, even probable Scott's version might have been a tad better. This is not to say that Francis Lawrence's I Am Legend isn't good. It's brilliant in places but by the end a certain feeling of un-fulfilment still lingers. There's a great story, great setting, fantastically talented actor and a budget big enough to have created an epic. Despite these though, more could have been achieved.
The eerie emptiness of New York City is only a setting, an CGI-enhanced, urban jungle, where it could have been a brooding character in its own right. I Am Legend's New York is far from the horrifyingly lifeless London in 28 Days Later and with infinite possibilities within the city only a sliver of it is shown in the film's relatively short running time of just under 2 hours. Will Smith is however perfectly cast for the character of Robert Neville, smart, strong and witty (which is a real achievement in a film in which you're the only human character for most of the film.) His quick-quipping, chats with his canine companion Sam' make a fairly downbeat, frankly apocalyptic film light-hearted without playing down the threat of human extinction whatsoever.
The film's style and structure is also a cleverly constructed one which ultimately makes what sounds like a very boring film (the first 60+ pages of the script feature just Smith and his dog) entirely enjoyable. Intertwined with Robert's day-to-day lonely plight fighting what lurks in the shadows is the story of how Robert came to be the soul survivor of a viral outbreak in New York City. This is well-placed throughout with the Robert's nightmares which give a darker picture of what skulks under the surface of Smith's calm and accepting character.
I Am Legend is pleasing to a degree, making it worth watching but does not fulfil the expectations of a film set in an environment and climate that promises action, drama and depth with a talented young actor in the lead role. Part of the ending is somewhat of an anti-climax and will likely disappoint a majority of its audience. Despite this, with a sensible running time, although not as densely packed with stunning visuals and action as one might hope, a strong performance from Smith and some pleasing blockbuster action, I Am Legend is a worthwhile first film of 2008 to see at the cinema, just don't expect a bigger, better, American-style 28 Days Later.