Science fiction and fantasy                                            

I Am Legend

directed by Francis Lawrence

I Am Legend poster  
Will Smith plays Dr Robert Neville, a lone man surviving in New York in the aftermath of a plague. It's a post-apocalyptic scenario where herds of deer roam the city and trees and grasses are growing through the asphalt. Nature is making a comeback, and beginning to erase the signs of the reign of mankind.

We are shown how disaster struck in flashbacks: a vaccine was developed that promised a cure for all cancer. Thousands of people were inoculated, before it became apparent that the treatment had some unfortunate side-effects. So before you know it a zombie plague has ravaged humanity, killing most people and leaving the infected survivors violent, senseless and uncontrollable.

Fortunately for Dr Neville, the infected cannot bear sunlight. This allows him a brief respite during the day when he can hunt for food with the help of his dog, or try to make contact with other survivors. So far none have shown up, but Neville isn't about to give up hope. As the last uninfected man in New York, and for all he knows the last in the whole of the civilised world, he feels very lonely. With only his dog for company, the strain of living alone without much prospect of human contact is starting to show.

Yet the doctor is very disciplined and resourceful, and he could be mankind's best hope for survival.

I Am Legend owes something to other zombie films such as 28 Days Later and to a lesser extent even Resident Evil, and only a little to Richard Matheson's vampire novel, the book that this film is supposedly based on. The horror aspect is played up, with hordes of zombies that rampage in the hours of darkness, creatures who are too far gone to show compassion but still intelligent enough to be a threat.

There are some scary moments, and the special effects are convincing, although those zombies may seem familiar. Modern CGI monsters tend to have a certain look about them, and that also applies to the creatures in this film.

The plot of I Am Legend is pretty tense and well-paced, and since this is not a faithful adaptation of the book it's not too derivative. For one thing, the film doesn't start out with enough characters for this to become another who-will-die-next guessing game. However, the tone of this short movie is largely visceral. It aims to shock rather than to provoke thought, and this is where it goes astray. Will Smith puts in a solid performance as Dr Neville, but the film just doesn't have the same balance of brains and brawn as his character does.

Film Details

Year: 2007

Categories: Films

  Science fiction

Classification: 15

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3 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson
More about Francis Lawrence