I Am Legend Review
Will Smith entertained many viewers as the loud-mouthed, funny, and hip “fresh prince” on the popular nineties sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. However, few could have foreseen that the wacky cousin from Philly would develop into such a talented and muscular A-list star. Mr. Smith’s talent as an actor is evident in his monetary success at the box office, as well as his growing critical praise and two Oscar nominations. Mr. Smith’s skills are again put under great scrutiny in his latest film, I am Legend.
The film takes place in the near future where a virus based on measles that was designed to cure cancer has turned 99% of the earth’s population into flesh eating monsters, who look like zombies, love blood, and are allergic to sunlight. The trailers insinuate that the film is going to be about Will Smith fighting zombies and saying tough things as he kills zombie after zombie. However, that is not the case. The monsters are key characters because they are responsible for several crucial plot points, but they are used very sparingly through out the film. A large part of the film is devoted to watching Robert Neville’s (Smith) daily routine and his struggle with loneliness and increasingly hopeless situation.
A Horror film’s success rarely fringes on the performances of its actors, however I am Legend is not an outright horror film. Character studies are usually defined by the performance of its lead and since I am Legend has opted for the latter, the film’s effectiveness and entertainment, for the most part, rest on the shoulders of its star, the former “fresh prince of Bel Air”. The “prince” doesn’t fail us as he gives a deep and sincere performance as man who would have already given up all hope; except for the fact that he believes he is humanity’s last hope. Mr. Smith’s captivating performance keeps the audience’s sincere attention as Robert Neville continues to suffer set backs and heartache.
The few monsters attacks that do appear in the film are sufficiently frightening. The first filmed interaction between Robert and the monsters is especially intense, compromised mostly of Will Smith’s heavy breathing and encompassing darkness. The suspense builds and builds as the audience, like Robert, keeps looking despite being terrified that something might be found.
The film’s pace might appear slow to some. However, that is more a result of people expecting a fast paced zombie film, rather than a surprisingly thoughtful examination of man dealing with being the last person alive in the world. I am Legend does suffer from poor CGI. Given the cost of CGI and how rarely the monsters are actually seen you can’t but help think human actors would have been a smarter choice. However, the less than stellar CGI doesn’t stop the film from having frightening moments and being an overall success.
I am Legend is not as advertised. The film is not one hundred minutes of virus-infected freaks biting into flesh and chasing Will Smith through the streets of New York. Despite being promoted by misleading trailers I am Legend does achieve success, as an entertaining character study of the “last man on earth."