In general, I determine whether I like a movie based on if it accomplishes its goal (whatever that may be) and does it in the best way possible. In the case of “I Am Legend,” I believe the goal was to convey to the audience the crisis faced by the last man in New York–the loneliness, terror and sadness of living alone in a dark and dangerous world. I think this movie fully met that goal.
Dr. Robert Nevill (Will Smith), is the last man in New York and, as far as he knows, the world. Isolated with only his dog to keep him company, Nevill works diligently to find a cure to the virus that has either killed or mutated every human on the planet. As usual, Smith’s performance was believable and engaging. In what essentially boiled down to a zombie movie, Smith made the story seem plausible, and he brought a level of humanity to the character that I don’t think anyone else could pull off.
New York looked desolate and overgrown (this looked realistic and well-done). Wild animals populated the city now devoid of human civilization. Much of the back story was shared through flashbacks and dream sequences, and I thought these were well done too. There was an overall layer of sadness–of despair lurking around the corner–that haunted each scene. I felt my heart go out to Nevill over and over again. How lonely he must have been! Even the so-called lighter moments were tinged with sadness and displayed his desperation for normalcy. That, along with a scary edginess, made me feel tense through the entire movie. I noticed about 3/4 of the way in that my biceps hurt. Turned out I’d been squeezing my husband’s arm the entire time! Even when nothing was happening, that feeling was there.
I was also pleasantly surprised by the unexpected “God factor.” Nevill’s wife prayed for him before she and their daughter left, and despite the horror of the circumstances, that prayer was answered. When another character mentioned God had spoken to her, she faced Nevill’s angry skepticism with humility and hope. She said something I had been thinking early in the movie–that with no one else in the world, it was quiet enough to listen for God’s voice and hear it … if one wanted to. Another of my favorite lines was in response to a shocked, “Oh my God,” when the other character saw photos of Nevill’s failed human trials. Nevill’s reply: “God didn’t do this; we did.” That can be said about so many of the messes we find ourselves in–individually and as a people. As much as I felt this added to the story, I didn’t feel it was overbearing or out of place. Who wouldn’t contemplate God in such extreme circumstances?
Despite all the things that made this movie really good, I did leave with some unanswered questions. For example, early in the movie Nevill sprayed his steps with some unknown liquid. I thought maybe it was vinegar, but as far as I know they never explained what it was or why he used it. There was also the question of how the animals arrived on the island, since the bridges were out. For that matter, how did other characters arrive? In the nick of time, no less–and without getting killed? Where did these characters get the “tools” they needed to help him? How did they evade death in the process of finding and saving him?
I don’t want to say too much without giving it away …
At one point Nevill mentioned that the creatures no longer displayed any form of humanity–no instinct for self preservation, etc. But the creatures showed cunning and the ability to reason and think on more than one occasion. There were other things they did as well that defy reason–but I guess those things are inherent to zombie movies. I’ll blog on that separately!
And finally, the zombies looked a little too CG. They weren’t bad, but they weren’t great either. Good enough, I guess. Nowhere on par to Gollum in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Finally, I thought the ending was a little too abrupt. I don’t know what it needed, but it needed something.
Still, I am willing to overlook these small issues for the sake of the great acting and intriguing story.
Overall, I give this movie a 4 out of 5 stars.