Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Out today - I Am Legend. (********8/10)

If you are going to make a movie starring just one actor, you could do worse than Will Smith. I Am Legend is a movie concept that isn’t exactly new, it’s basically a remake of the old Charlton Heston post-apocalyptic film, The Omega Man. The film opens with a cameo from Emma Thompson, who plays a scientist on TV announcing a cure for cancer. I suppose we are to believe that whatever that cure was is the same thing that unleashed the virus that wiped out humanity. The next thing we know, it’s three years later and Will Smith is the only man left alive, and he tears around New York City in sports cars shooting at deer, who apparently now live right in the city with the humans. He is accompanied by his faithful dog, Sam, and he lives a fairly quiet life. He has set up mannequins in the local video store to appear as though there are people around, and he rents movies there every night. He has to make sure he is home by sundown, and then he sits there with his dog watching the films.

The reason, it becomes clear soon enough, that he has to be home by sundown each evening, is that not everyone has died. There are strange, mutated human beings living in the darkness. Like vampires, they die in the sunlight, and therefore the daylight hours are perfectly safe for Smith and the dog Sam. Like the volleyball in Castaway, Sam becomes a very human character in the film, like a child who can’t speak. He helps Smith with his work - which is, basically, finding a cure for the virus. Because he is immune to it himself, he uses his blood to try to cure the infected mutants, which he captures by means of snares and traps, the kind one might lay for rabbits as a third-grade boy scout. He then takes them back to his underground lab and injects them with...something...that might cure them. All very experimental, all very high-tech.

But of course, something has to go wrong. And I don’t want to divulge the end of the movie, so I won’t say exactly what it is that goes wrong. But I will say it involves mutants, since that seems obvious, and it involves Will Smith, since that too is obvious. He behaves, toward the end of the film, exactly the way I expect I would behave were I utterly alone save for a dog for three long years. There are some good action scenes, and the mutants are suitably scary. They do seem old-hat by now, however. We have seen many similar scary mutants in movies like Blade II, The Descent, 28 Days Later, and so forth. But they work, and they serve their purpose, so I really can’t complain.

There are some problems with the plot. How come his house still has electricity so many years after the world disappeared? How do his various cars seem to have an endless supply of gas? How come he has those massive steel doors protecting every possible entry into his house, yet the mutants can so easily break in at the appropriate moments? How do the mutants remember where he lives when the time comes? And how can he have the lights on in his house at night if he is afraid those mutants may discover where he lives? Furthermore, if his lab is in the basement of his house, how can daylight get down there to protect people from the mutants when the need arises? And most of those deer-in-the-city shots are very obviously (and therefore poorly) computer-generated.

All problematic, but in the end, irrelevant. As I said before, a movie with (basically) just one actor needs someone like Will Smith, who can make his way through scenes completely solo and still keep our attention. We enjoy this movie because we enjoy Will Smith, plain and simple. And despite the fact I have seen it many times before, despite the problems involved, I did indeed enjoy this movie.

No comments:

Post a Comment