I AM LEGEND is NOT a film you've never seen before. While watching it, I am reminded of 28 DAYS LATER and 28 WEEKS LATER, or the more recent 30 DAYS OF NIGHT, and a bit of CASTAWAY (Will Smith DID cite Tom Hanks' performance as an influence). After all, the film IS about the last man on Earth facing vampires who were actually humans infected by virus.
However, despite the fact that it seems familiar, the film IS executed really well. And during the first two thirds of the film, I was struck by how UNHOLLYWOOD the film felt. It's uncompromising and doesn't dumb itself down, film is filled with quiet moments and long takes. I almost couldn't believe that the film was directed by Francis Lawrence (a music video director who did the much noisier Keanu Reeves-starrer CONSTANTINE). Apparently, the director was inspired by silence as effective cinema when he watched THE PIANIST once in low volume (to not disturb his newborn son).
The empty New York City is very eerie with its empty cars, streets overgrown with weeds and collapsing infrastructure. It's realistic, and has a strange kind of beauty. Scenes are played out slowly, as we see how Dr Robert Neville (Will Smith) tries to preserve his own sanity by talking to his dog like a human being, entering empty shops and speaking to mannequins that he dressed up by himelf just because he needs to pretend that they are talking back to him.
In the afternoon, he sets a table at the seaport, hoping that there are other survivors in Earth. Amd then he returns home, eats from his canned food (he often tries to hunt for deers, but seemingly never succeeds), watch recorded episodes of TODAY'S SHOW reporting the virus that swept through the world, as if to remind him of his own failure to prevent civilization's downfall.
He also tries to find the elusive cure at the private laboratory in his house for the disease. Hoping to change one of those infected creatures into a human again, just so he won't be alone anymore. At night, he and his dog are padlocked within the apartment, because it is then that the creatures come out to hunt. Often, Robert has flashbacks of his last few hours with his family (after PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS, where Will Smith's son made his acting debut, he got his own younger daughter to appear this time), as he was sending them away from the city. And as the flashbacks slowly unfolded throughout, we gain an insight on the last dark hours of civilization.
Routine is the only way to keep his life going before he descends completely into madness.
I won't go more into that, but what I can say is that there are many moments of the film that are genuinely suspenseful, my fingers dug deep into the armrest as I clenched my teeth, anticipating what will happen next. Especially during this one scene when Robert Neville enters a completely dark building, searching for his dog.
However, like most people, I think the film kind of went downhill after a certain key event happened, and it became a full-blown action film. To me, the film surprised me by ending more abruptly than expected. Instead of overstaying its welcome like many Hollywood films did these days, it actually ended with me craving for MORE. It's a little disappointing, but the first two acts of the film are SO GOOD that I have to overlook this shortcoming.
This film's massive success in its opening weekend boxoffice in US ($77 million, biggest December opening of all time, breaking RETURN OF THE KING'S record) has cemented Will Smith's place as Hollywood's box-office king. And seriously, Will Smith's performance here is just as good as his Oscar-nominated work in PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS if not better. Development of this project had gone on since the 90s, I think I could still remember reports of Arnold Schwarzenegger signing on for the film, with Ridley Scott directing. Not sure what that version of the film would've looked like, but Will Smith is really good here. Hell, after his nice little streak of pretty enjoyable films beginning from HITCH (hey, I DO like it), PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS and now this, I am almost starting to forget about BAD BOYS 2 and WILD WILD WEST.
So yeah, overall, I think this is a pretty good film, just that it would've been great if it weren't for the disappointing third act.
Anyone else who had seen the film? Tell me watcha think.
I AM LEGEND trailer 1
I AM LEGEND trailer 2 (I like this trailer)