Will Smith takes over the position once held by Harrison Ford and Tom Cruise as Hollywood’s new golden boy/thinking man’s action hero in I Am Legend.
The film begins with scientists creating a cure for cancer, only for the virus to cause a deadly plague which has wiped out the majority of the worlds population and turned the rest into vampiric creatures. The worlds seemingly only lone survivor is the immune, high ranking military scientist Robert Neville (Will Smith), who has been trying to find a cure for the disease whilst living a life of dread and isolation in New York City.
The main reason to watch this movie is Will Smith’s captivating and multi-layered performance, which elevates the film from the boggy depths of Francis Lawrence’s poor direction.
As a part of a small group of actors who inhabit both acting chops and credible action bravura (Tom Cruise, Matt Damon and Christian Bale complete the group), Smith is perfectly cast as the lone survivor who spends his days with his trusty German Shepherd rummaging the city for supplies, and night clamped down in his secure house as the infected bellow in the streets.
Additionally, the images of a deserted and battered New York City are mind boggling, Lawrence no doubt owing a debt of gratitude to Danny Boyle and his 2003 zombie film 28 Days Later… which set the tone for such sequences.
However, the films deviations from its source material (Richard Matheson’s classic novel of the same name) has ruined its ability to become one of the better sci-fi films in some time: a character driven, post-apocalyptic thriller that would have dealt with mankind’s self destructive nature and its struggle with life, death, science and faith. Also, a predictable ending undermines its interesting set up.
Furthermore, the film is hindered by some shocking visual effects, especially in regards to its creature creations which are way too animated to be taken seriously. If there was ever a film which needed some old school grit in regards to its visual and make up effects, than this would be it.
As stated before, I Am Legend could have been something special, yet Lawrence’s decisions in regards to the films tone and SFX brings down the quality of the movie. Luckily for him, he had a lead actor with the talent and name recognition to push the film through, albeit just barely.