9 January 2008

I am Legend Review

If the words 'Will Smith blockbuster' immediately associate themselves with with 'bullshit' amid the grey squidgy stuff that occupies the hollow spot in your skull, then you're probably going to vaguely disagree with this review. In fact, it's more or less guaranteed, particularly if you've seen it already; so go...I don't know, shoot a fox, or something. If you're aren't of that particular mindset, and just so happen - as I do - to enjoy the odd Will Smith film, then read on.

I am Legend tells the story of Robert Neville, a scientist and soldier who is the lone survivor of a global pandemic that has killed 90% of the world's population. The remaining 10% are divided into two groups; those immune to the virus - a scant 1% - and those who have been turned into horrendous, blood-sucking monsters who roam the night. It's a vaguely interesting concept - but of course it is - and it's executed rather well.

As most of you may or may not know, Will Smith is a funny guy. He does funny, and actually, I find him consistently amusing. So when I heard that he was instructed to 'dial it back' for a film in its entirety, I wasn't exactly what you might call enthused. But magically enough, despite the Fresh Prince's total absence, Smith's charisma shines through - and that's something of a bonus, considering that for a good portion of the movie it's just him and a dog onscreen. There are plenty of amusing moments - both dark and rather light - and some that are even touchingly so. Smith also portrays Neville's degradation as a human being rather well. This isn't of a man discovering an abandoned world; this is a man who has lived with it for three years - the only emotional contact he has is with his dog, and this shows in his eyes, his body language, the way he talks. It's a great, albeit hardly Oscar-worthy performance from the man.

Complementing Smith's performance is the wonderfully haunting cinematography; with DoP Andrew Lesnie masterfully creating a real sense of isolation and loneliness with his steady shots of an abandoned New York, over-grown grass waving gently in the wind. There's some really quite striking imagery here - one that particularly stuck in mind being Neville weaving his way through a stationary traffic jam in pursuit of a deer. It perhaps takes more than its fair share of cues from Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later, but then again, that film took cues from the source novel of this one, so it's only fair really.

There are, however, two rather crippling problems, that also happened to be rather inexorably entwined together. This is supposed to be a horror film; and yet there aren't any truly scary pieces of imagery. The infected, for one, are entirely computer generated, and whilst the effects are solid, they simply fail to be scary. Perhaps it's meta-film thinking working its evil - if something isn't real, then it ain't scary - but there have been plenty of CG effects that have been truly terrifying. Perhaps it's the fact that they simply don't look real enough - their skin is too smooth, their movements simply not human, despite the fact that they're meant to be ex-humans. Something along the lines of the creepers in The Descent would've been more than adequate, but unfortunately it's not to be, and it sucks a lot of the tension that director Francis Lawrence has masterfully created beforehand. To add insult to injury, it turns out that Lawrence made this decision himself, and that makes it all the more disappointing.

There's another slightly less annoying problem, is the ending, which seems awfully tacked on and really does pander to the 'give us a happy ending, dammit' demographic that is stupidly microscopic and yet somehow seems to dictate how every Hollywood movie ends, ever. And unless you just so happen to sit rather prettily in that partition of the population, you'll see the exact moment where I think the thing should've ended.

In the end, this is an entertaining movie. It's an action film with a few psychological horror moments, some ropey CGI and a great central performance from Will Smith. You heard me.

Ross' Rating: 7/10


GamerGirl said...

Hey there,

Good review, Like will smith and it's good to see you give him some credit. Was hopping for more from this considering I loved the "hellblazer" flick. Apart from the fact Keanu isn't English!!

P.S. whats happening with the girl, just some online melodrama. Plus keep up the reviews, love real peoples opinions.

CresceNet said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ross said...

I don't really appreciate slightly fraudulent comments advertising what appears to be a Spanish scam site - although I could be wrong, my spanish isn't exactly my strong point. Anyways...

The girl is...well, I've spent the last few days with her. Make of that what you will =P =D

gamergirl said...

Hey there,

good, good, man keep it up. I always had a soft spot for the nice guy and you seem nice. I take it she is single, weren't sure before. keep us updated on the girl, she will be yours, I know it!!!

P.S. don't fall into the friend zone, tell her how you feel sooner rather than later.

gamergirl said...

Wait a sec... If i didn't know better I would say that you are hinting that the relationship between you has moved to the"highest level"????

Ross said...

*cocks eyebrow*

Little inappropriate, don't you think? Suffice to say, I'm *certainly* not that kind of guy, regardless of what kind of girl she might be...

gamergirl said...


Forget myself online sometimes. So easy to ask stupid questions whist in this persona.

I'll leave you to your potentially rosy future.

Good luck and take care.