I am Legend

Posted on March 18, 2008 at 8:00 am

i_am_legend_will_smith__1_.jpgWill Smith plays the last man on earth in this third movie based on Richard Matheson’s novella. Scientist Robert Neville was immune to the virus that wiped out everyone. He spends his days hunting for food in the deserted streets of Manhattan, now overgrown with brush and inhabited by deer, and working in the lab to find a cure for the virus. And he spends his nights barricaded to protect himself from the infected creatures who are hunting him. Once human, they are now mindlessly enraged vampire/zombie killers who can do nothing but devour.
Okay, they can do one other thing. They can learn. In their feral, furious way they can cooperate and plan. Neville can trap them for his experiments or throw them off his trail, but they keep getting smarter. He is not just their prey — he is their teacher, and he is teaching them how to get him.

The scenes of Smith roaming the streets are dazzling. In the longest sustained solo turn since Tom Hanks in “Cast Away,” he holds on to our interest and attention. We see him thinking through problems, keeping himself focused, establishing a routine. And we see him talking to his dog, Sam, his only companion. It is perhaps that interaction more than anything else that reminds Neville that he is human. Other reminders, a photograph, a song, memories of the evacuation of New York, are too painful. So, he is organized and always alert. He sends out a radio broadcast in search of other survivors but after three years, has given up. He puts aside a special treat for some occasion sometime that might be worth celebrating. And he keeps testing his own blood to see if he can isolate whatever it is that has kept him intact. The movie takes a turn in its final act that is likely to split the audience. While some may find it satisfying, it weakens the dramatic force of what has gone before.
The visuals here are stunning, with deer leaping across New York City streets and lush vegetation buckling the concrete. Glimpses of human occupation remain, with Times Square billboards, including one for the not-yet made “Batman vs. Superman” projected for 2009. Smith keeps getting better. He goes deeper here than he ever has on screen to show us the desperation and devastation that are attacking the infratructure of his rational mind like the grass is overtaking the city streets.
Parents should know that this movie focuses on disturbing themes including worldwide apocalyptic catastrophe with humanity almost completely wiped out. It features intense and graphic peril and violence, characters injured and killed, and scary zombies. A strength of the film is a character’s acknowledgement of faith in God.
Families who see this movie should compare the ending of the movie to the very different conclusion of the novella. Why do you think they changed it? Which ending do you like better? What do you think is realistic about this story and what do you think is not?
Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy the book by Richard Matheson and the two (very different) previous movie versions of the story, The Last Man on Earth with Vincent Price and The Omega Man with Charleton Heston. They will also enjoy Smith’s I, Robot. The World Without Us is a non-fiction book that explores what would happen if the human population were extinguished from the earth. As in this film, vegetation would quickly take over, but it would not be so tidy.

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25 Replies to “I am Legend”

    Not thrilled with I Am Legend.
    Loved the empty NYC stuff. Visually impressive.
    Loved Will and his dog, and his ordered life.
    Too many I-don’t-believe-its, though, and the reality of it all was not consistant.
    Are the zombies disolving into rabid idiots, or are they getting smarter? Smart enough to set an incredibly elaborate trap, that would require brains, dexterity, and a lot of organization, apparently.
    And, the use of language and some kind of social structure.
    How did they know Will Smith shopped at that video store, if he did it during the day?
    It’s a brain-wasting disease that creates super strength and agility.
    Are there zombie kids?
    Are there zombie cops or soldiers that know how to use weapons?
    If they followed Will Smith home – in a car! – (by the scent of his blood? c’mon) – why not attack him that night when he’s hurt?
    Will would never have won a fight against those dogs or those zombies. He’d have broken his neck falling down the stairs.
    Why not toss the grenade and go thru the coal chute doorway, too?
    Any of the “Legend” movies become less interesting once other humans appear.
    I would rather have seen REAL actors play the zombies. I’d like a sense that the ‘lead zombie’ was really there, and a real former person. I imagine we’ll see on the DVD how they imagined some back story for the zombie, or how he was really wearing firefighter pants, but we never noticed that on the screen.
    Those zombies screamed like the stone soldiers in The Mummy with Brendan Frasier.
    Wouldn’t there be zombies everywhere, not just across town in that neighborhood?
    Where are all the dead bodies in the streets, or packs of rabid zombie rats or feral dogs, etc?
    Will was too nonchalant at times wandering around town. There were lions loose, for Pete’s sake.
    I told my wife, he would have hit that video store once, taken whatever he could and hightailed it home. I know he wanted a semblence of real life, but …
    there’s lions loose.

  2. this movie is very good and most appropriate for a middle school boy i am very glad i saw this and so is MY middle schooler it made him think about what it would be like to be the last person on earth
    Age appropriate = middle schooler
    rating = PG-13
    my rating = A-

  3. I have seen the origional movie with Vincent Price many times. The movie in black and white makes it more surreal. It is a serious movie about a man trying to survive after he sees family and friends die of this mysterious virus. One minute he has a best friend , the next the best friend is trying to kill him. He watches as first his child gets sick and calls out for him as she dies and he he is horrified that the authorities have taken her body away to the huge fire pit while he was out. He frantically chases after the truck and tries to jump in after his daughter and is stopped by two men. Then his wife dies. He tries to stay sane at night by listening to music, reading, things like that. In this movie there are 2 kinds of people who are infected. the first are the mindless ones. The second are a new breed, people who appear normal, can go out during the day and have retained their momories. It is these people who are after Price because unknowingly he has been killing them too. They are the “new evolved human species” I liked this movie and If you havn’t seen it check it out. Especially the ending. While I havn’t gotten around to seeing Smith’s version I plan on doing so.

  4. I cannot seem to find your final verdict on this movie. In the end, for what ages is this movie appropriate?

  5. Sorry — there seems to be a formatting problem and the age quidelines are not displaying. It will be fixed shortly. In the meantime, I recommended it for high schoolers and up. Thanks for letting me know.

  6. Even though the rating is PG-13, this movie is not for kids (even middle and young high schoolers). I would advise that parents view this movie alone or at least do a little more research before taking children of any age to this movie. Will Smith did a fantastic job and the movie was well done. However, my 13 year old middle schooler was quite disturbed by the suspense of what might be lurking in the darkness. After the first zombie sighting (and the intensly screaching audio that accompanied), my wife took her out of the theater. My 15 year old son and I followed about twenty minutes later (about half way through the movie) as he also had seen enough. As fans of fantasy/adventure movies, we thought this one looked fine as we all loved Will Smith’s previous films and both kids enjoyed the Lord Of The Rings trilogy at a much younger age and had no issues with the violence and battle sequences in those films. Unfortunately, the advertising for this film did not give us the impression that this is a film full of canibalistic zombies. Unless you kids enjoy the Haloween style creepy suspence thrillers, do yourselves a favor and leave them at home.

  7. DO NOT take kids under, like, 14 to see this movie. It’s the type of movie where monsters and zombies op out every 35 seconds. It will scar kids. I’m not saying it’s not a good movie,because it is. It just isn’t for kids, that’s all. If you’re over 14 and love horror movies, I highly recomend this one. The acting is awesome, and the props and scenery were selected well. You will love it. Kids, if you disobey your parents and sneak out, I swear to you right now, you will be sorry you did.

  8. Thanks for your comments, Rob and Brianna. This is just the kind of feedback that I was hoping for to help me make this site useful and meaningful for those who are evaluating a film’s appropriateness for their families.

  9. I have found most comments on this movie to be very generous.
    I would NOT recommend this movie for anyone under 16 due to the disturbing human/zombie graphics.
    I found the movie to be rambling, unsure of its direction. One minute, Will Smith is a serious scientist, the next he’s doing his “Fresh Prince” character. The special effects were very good, but thats about it. I found myself looking at the time about 45 minutes into the show and I was quite relieved when it finally did end. If you just have to see this movie, wait until the DVD comes out and rent it. That way you can keep your cost to a minimum. It certainly doesn’t deserve the cost of a movie ticket.

  10. To the other parents who posted, thank you. I was thinking of taking my 13 year old, but will not. I’ve had other adults tell me that it is a good movie. However, the previews do nothing to tell a parent how disturbing parts of it can be. Thanks for your input

  11. I certainly wouldn’t be taking anyone under 15 to this movie, not only because of the disturbing scenes, but also for the encouragement of superstition, with the heroically portrayed woman hearing voices of god telling her information – a pernicious, dangerous idea for kids. Creepy.

  12. I agree with those who think that middle schoolers are too young for this movie. As you can see from my review, I recommend it for high schoolers and older, and only those who aren’t too upset by the themes and images of a story about the apparent death of all humans but one and the presence of zombie/vampires.
    I think the movie was ambiguous about whether what the woman heard was the voice of God, leaving it to the viewer to decide whether she was in denial (as Neville told her she was) or not. My opinion differs from yours, Robert, about whether that is a pernicious or dangerous or creepy idea, especially compared to much that appears in today’s media marketed to kids and teens.

  13. I havn’t seen your reviews on Yahoo for a long time, it took me awhile to find your site. Glad I did as I enjoy your reviews and usually won’t go to a movie unless I read your review first. Keep up the good work.

  14. Thanks so much for tracking me down, Kent! I hope you will visit often and let me know by comments or email what you think about the movies you see. All best, Nell

  15. Hi, moviemom, I was just wondering, I found this one to be one of the most intense things I’ve seen in a long time. I find most of M Night Shyamalan’s work to be extremely suspensful, well except Lady in the Water whcih was a massive let down, by the way. But I found this far more intense than any of Shyamalan’s work, in a completely different way, this one was more in your face but something like he Sixth Sense was almost more in your mind. So, what I’m getting at is, did you find this to be as intense as I found it to be? And also, they just played The Others on tv last night, so I taped and a planning to watch it this afternoon, but my brother informs me that it has that affect that it frightens you over virtually nothing. So your opinion on that would be nice too, thank you.

  16. M. Night Shyamalan is one of the most creative people out there. His camera angles are great for the effect that he is trying to convey. Anything that he does is greatly artistic. I suggest that people look at the artistic technical side of his work along with the story and you will see how talented this man is.

  17. They say it’s Scary, Intense and all that stuff but it isn’t it was not scary or violent it was like house a medical Drama

  18. I enjoy reading your reviews. My 11 year old son likes sci-fi but I am always wondering how far I can go at this age and your reviews help very much.

  19. I believe that the content of this movie should not be recommended for teens but perhaps for those who can handle the violence and disease stricken people.

    The first hour or so is good, but the last half is rubbish! I can’t undertsand why the director went all digital onus, when he could have used real people for over half of the zombie shots.
    However, it has the best doggy performance and saddest animal death I have scene in a very long time!

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