Monday, January 07, 2008

I Am Legend

Okay, so I finally saw I Am Legend. To its credit, it has great production design- I heard some NYU kids were bitching about the area around their school being shut down, but I mean, seriously, suck it up. Having a street closed down for filming is irritating, but NYC offers major incentives to film in the city, so there's no use in complaining. The city, weed-choked, streets filled with abandoned cars, bombed out bridges, is impressive and visually seamless. And it has some seriously spooky moments-- the mannequins really got to me. And, to his credit, Will Smith is able to keep things moving as the only guy on screen. And like Cast Away, the sense of isolation, this time in the immense emptiness of a dead Manhattan, is overwhelming and mutes all the other emotions coming from the screen, making it otherworldly even without the zombies (I dunno what they were). I feel like that's the point, though. And there's a dog instead of a volleyball and I like the dog better.

Now the bad. The Bob Marley stuff felt a little awkward. I consider myself moderately a fan of the guy, and considering that the majority of us are probably moderate to not really a fan (like my dad, who got dragged to see the film with us), I wonder how that part carried off, especially with people who have never really listened to him. It was nice, though, to hear "Redemption Songs" during the credit, my favorite of his songs. And let's face it. It could have been worse. It coulda been Eric Clapton singing "I Shot the Sheriff." But the symbolic weight of the Bob Marley songs, as well as the butterfly and the idea of coincidence being indicative of greater plans felt glossed over, not incorporated in enough nor with enough investment. And here's where I begin the other movie comparisons. Signs does an excellent job with this idea, dealing with it throughout the film rather than just at the end and in a manner that is not as self-aware, through the characters and the filmmaking, as I Am Legend ended up.

And then, the ending, the infamous ending. Not so much the religious themes that came in (again, see Signs, no heavy-handedness or awkwardness), but rather the peppy-uppy-ness of it. Without giving anything away, both 28 Days Later (those army guys at the mansion) and the new Dawn of the Dead (haven't seen the old one, shame on me) deal with the idea better. I do hesitate to make those comparisons because the nature of each "safe zone" in each film has a lot to do with the unique plot, but I think it would have been interesting to not have to justify the "character development" (and by that I mean the you-know-what of Neville's character), and to have just chopped off the entire ending in Vermont. But then that would leave loose ends and would be no fun, I guess.

My disappointment comes with the altered nature of the Legend. The legend of Matheson's novella refers to Neville's status as a legend amongst the new vampires. In the film, it's pretty much the opposite, and has lost the chilling revelation that the book provides.

That said, there are some great scenes (running down the baddies in the car, the entire warehouse scene, the super creepy mannequins) and Will Smith, as always, puts his entire self into the job, especially interacting with the dog and everything else that isn't actually alive. I think it had more potential especially considering the source, particularly the ending, but as a movie on its own, it's fine.

Ooh, and while I did not see the film at the IMAX, I did see the Dark Knight preview and it looks rockin' but I'm still not so sure about Heath Ledger. I do trust the people making the movie, however, so we'll see.


ken said...

Hey b!
I think your review is spot on - it's a good movie, but maybe a not-so-good translation of the original story. I think the film would have been better served if it had been marketed as "inspired by..." instead of a direct tie-in to Matheson. I hadn't caught the connection with Signs, but you're right - if you want to address moral-social-religious issues, that's great - just don't try to shoe-horn them in at the end.
The surprise movie of the holiday's for me was Sweeney Tod - I knew I'd have to go see it just because it's Tim Burton, but I didn't expect to really like it as a film...Surprise - I thought it was very good! Burton addresses the themes of love and hate and personal responsibility that are inherent in the play, while never losing his vision for the story and the characters (in spite of the fact that Johnny Dep sings real, real loud). Have you seen it, yet (or do you plan to)?
Thanks for the Rancid, Avenues... is very nice!

Jim said...

John Constantine meets The Clash!

Nazz Nomad said...

I didn't get while they didn't develop the leader of the "zombies" more. It seemed a bit far fetched that he could mobilize the other zombies into setting the intricate trap almost captured Will Smith. And how did a woman and a boy actually fend off the zombies to rescue Will Smith anyway?

I saw it in IMAX and the qucik jump cuts made the IMAX experience less than the sum of it's parts.

But the Dark Knight trailer kicked ass in IMAX, especially the opening airborne shots.

Droid Sektor said...

I just wanna say something about this movie: just like any other "28 weeks later\28days later" or any recent zombie movie, the zombies there are not credible. Just why, oh why do these Zombies crave for "normal people", as since they lost their human racionality they should be feeding off each others, not waiting for the only lone "normal" men in New York and then go apeshit, lets kill. Its just ridiculous. Now, if the zombies cannibalized themselves I would find it more realistic, but no, they are a mindless bunch stalking the "normals", aimlessly crashing their heads into walls, trying to infect the last normal person. And for "irrationals" its weird they have a leader! The premise of the movie was good (last man on earth), but the execution (aside great visuals) was lame (and lame ending, after all not last man on earth). And the helicopter sequence, it was so obvious from the start something would happen to his family.And what ridiculous heli-accident. Hollywood needs new screenwritters.Tired of lame Comics-gone-Movie-films and half-assed screenplays. Let me watch some indie-cinema. Cheers folks!


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