Review: ‘I Am Legend’

This is Will Smith’s Cast Away.

In the near future, scientists finally cure a disease that has been plaguing man for centuries. Unfortunately, the process of doing so creates a new threat, systematically killing off most of the earth’s population. One man who is immune to the disease is Robert Neville (Will Smith), and for three years he has worked endlessly to engineer from his own blood a cure for the photosensitive, blood-seeking creatures that a few survivors have mutated into. Alone in New York City with only his dog Sam for companionship, the toll of his situation becomes something he must survive each day while those he is trying to cure is something he must survive each night.

Once again, the ever-likable Will Smith must save all of humanity (and the season’s box office) from the latest global catastrophe. It can be argued that, of late, every Will Smith film is a tragedy in progress that must be overcome by the actor until we reach a conclusion by the credits. Include a scene of Fresh Prince silliness, another with Will kicking ass, and finally a requisite crying moment, and you, too, can have your very own box-office-smashing Will Smith movie. But you have to admit he’s awfully good at looking like he knows what he’s doing whether it’s rogue robots or alien invaders, and this time he practically has to carry the entire film by himself.

While the trailers spoiled too much of Cast Away, the transformation made by Tom Hanks to simulate years of being trapped on a deserted island was method acting at its finest. By comparison, Smith has all the amenities of New York City to tide him over but must worry about being hunted himself during the night. Both stories follow familiar tracks about surviving, finding companionship where you can, and ultimately dealing with the question of whether the suffering is worth living with or not. Both stories additionally work in an adventure element, with Hanks trying to escape the island and Smith trying to survive mutant attacks. Finally, both films also start to fall apart at the end, because there are only so many ways to end these kinds of situations.

While being trapped on a deserted island away from everything you love certainly includes a degree of hope that the rest of the world is still out there somewhere, the realization that 99% of the population no longer exists with the rest trying to kill you feels both more threatening yet less likely. Pick your poison, but seeing a deserted New York City feels very lonely indeed, and even the possibility of being killed just for the chance to engage your enemy eventually sounds better than waiting to die. Sure, their have been earlier films based upon I Am Legend, but it’s hard to argue that this isn’t one of the better ones. In Smith we trust!

(a three skull recommendation out of four)

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