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  Publicity Stills of "I Am Legend"
(Courtesy from GV)

Genre: Action/Thriller
Director: Francis Lawrence
Cast: Will Smith, Alice Braga, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Willow Smith, Charlie Tahan
RunTime: 1 hr 51 mins
Released By: GV
Rating: PG
Official Website: http://iamlegend.warnerbros.com/

Opening Day: 25 December 2007


Robert Neville (Will Smith) is a brilliant scientist, but even he could not contain the terrible virus that was unstoppable, incurable... and manmade. Somehow immune, Neville is now the last human survivor in what is left of New York City... and maybe the world. But he is not alone. He is surrounded by "the Infected"—victims of the plague who have mutated into carnivorous beings who can only exist in the dark and who will devour or infect anyone or anything in their path. For three years, Neville has spent his days scavenging for food and supplies and faithfully sending out radio messages, desperate to find any other survivors who might be out there. All the while, the Infected lurk in the shadows, watching Neville's every move, waiting for him to make a fatal mistake. Perhaps mankind's last, best hope, Neville is driven by only one remaining mission: to find a way to reverse the effects of the virus using his own immune blood. But his blood is also what The Infected hunt, and Neville knows he is outnumbered and quickly running out of time.

Movie Review:

At the gala premiere of I Am Legend in Singapore, the audience was solemnly informed that the movie took USD76m in its opening weekend. the biggest December opening ever at the US box office. Now, if that isn’t enough to make you rush out on Christmas Day and join the throngs of people clamouring to give them your $9.50, I don’t know what is.

Seriously though, the obvious comparison here is with the excellent 28 Days Later, though I Am Legend was actually developed long before the latter was filmed (The empty streets of London in 28 Days were achieved at a fraction of the cost for IAL, by the way). Also, at least the people in 28 Days weren’t alone. Here, Dr Robert Neville (Will Smith) truly is the last man on earth, still nobly labouring to find a cure for the virus that has ravaged the world. And how does he do it? Why, he hunts reindeer on the abandoned streets of New York, of course.

The opening scenes feel like something out of the Discovery Channel, with Neville stalking the reindeer in a high speed car chase. After watching him strut around with a rifle with a sniper scope though, it’s just a little bit hard to buy him in a lab coat as a brilliant scientist. Nevertheless, Smith carries the film well, as he spends almost the entire first half of the movie alone. He is admirably (mostly) restrained for once, aware that the eerie atmosphere around him does not call for OTT theatrics. It’s a strange world to be in, after all, when your survival is determined by the beeping of a watch (courtesy of his MARVELLOUS Hamilton watch).

I Am Legend has already been stuck with the obvious tag of “vampire movie”. But it’s really a psychological study: what do you do when you are the last person left in the world? What happens when there really is no one left to love, care for, despise, ignore, or even just talk to? All Neville can really do is dream about the life he once had with his wife and child. The only people he has left to communicate with are, quite literally, the dummies he fills a Blockbuster video store with. Though it’s interesting to note that the last man on earth is still accompanied by man’s best friend (A sly comment about how only dogs will never let you down?)

There are real moments of pathos where Neville slowly begins to crack under the strain. The scene where he cradles his mortally wounded dog and sings to it as it slowly dies is heartbreaking. And the moment where he utters five simple words, “Please say hello to me”, is guaranteed to silence the cinema. There’s also an excellent scene where Neville uses Shrek, of all things, to explain his state of mind. Now, you may be wondering why he needs to justify himself to anyone, given that there is no one else around. I won’t spoil it for you, but suffice to say that the last man on earth may not be alone (Wait till you see who he gets for company).

And so we come to the so-called vampires: the laughably CGI-rendered dark seekers. Director Francis Lawrence reportedly decided to go with CGI because the actors in prosthetics did not look convincing enough. This decision has not only increased his budget, but it’s also made the creatures, well, unconvincing. Thankfully, the dark seekers are largely kept out of sight, more heard than seen, until the final (inevitable) showdown. How much this really has to do with Lawrence understanding the true nature of horror (what is suggested is more frightening than what is actually seen) is debatable, given that the creatures look more like something out of The Mummy. Nevertheless, there are very scary moments, which actually had your reviewer jumping in his seat. But for all the good work that goes before, the ending is disappointingly flat.

Movie Rating:

(I Am Legend misses its shot at becoming a true sci-fi classic. It’s leading man does a great job, but for all its efforts, 28 Days Later remains the superior movie)

Review by Nicholas Yong


. 30 Days of Night (2007)

. Children of Men DVD (2006)

. I, Robot (2004)

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