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PostPosted: Wed Apr 23, 2008 5:40 pm 

Joined: Tue Apr 24, 2007 10:57 pm
Posts: 90
Any film which holds nice Emma Thompson (here playing a 'Dr Crippen', English crime buffs please note) responsible for the death of 5 billion people can't be all bad, and I AM LEGEND, fourth version of the famous work by Richard Matheson, is almost all good. Despite those who harp on about the changes from the source novel and weaknesses in the CGI department LEGEND, like Smith's earlier I ROBOT, proves a pleasurable surprise.

Smith plays Robert Neville ostensibly the last man on earth, fighting the zombies of the dark while struggling to isolate an antidote to a virus which has destroyed humanity. Swopping THE OMEGA MAN's over talkative, white haired soul brother brethren which menace Charlton Heston for more fearsome, inarticulate brutes is a real improvement, while Smith's sensitive portrayal of Neville brings to the surface a humanity and sadness streets away from Heston's chess playing, machine-gunning white autocrat. In one scene Smith tearfully asks a shop mannequin to talk back to him. To his credit the actor walks away from this moment with his dramatic integrity intact, and introduces a pathos missing from the franchise before.

Whether or not one sees the enhanced Christian subtext as successful or not will be a matter or taste (I gave it the benefit of the doubt), but the film retains the central irony of an atheistic hero proving the salvation on mankind. In any case it is no more subtle - and arguably less blasphemous, should one care - than Heston's carefully staged 'crucifixion' death scene in OMEGA.

Interestingly the new script has Neville refer to his perilous existence as at 'ground zero' - a significant phrase in the context of mass death, and which aptly recalls the apocalyptic mood of 9/11. Like the contemporary American mood, Neville too thinks he can 'fix it' (ie put the status quo back together again) a view reinforced by the final image of LEGEND: a fortress community, a harmonious USA in miniature perhaps, and one presumably besieged by hostile attackers.

Criticism of LEGEND has largely been levelled at the last third which has been taken as inferior to the first two, an opinion no doubt started by the American market which saw a feel-good ending. For the UK DVD release this has been replaced by something more downbeat and is more powerful.

Having said this, the most memorable parts of the film remain those which evolve around a lonely Neville in a deserted city, which is convincingly realised. Smith's portrayal of a haunted hero, broken by the death of his dog, is a fine one, and lifts the film well above average. It's a sign of the changing cultural times that Neville's solitary trip and mouthing of the words from the anti-establishment WOODSTOCK in THE OMEGA MAN is here replaced by an equivalent moment before the family-friendly SHREK and amongst sympathetic company at that, an altogether less powerful moment. And if perhaps the closing 20 minutes do seem a little breathless, then this is a minor miscalculation in a genre piece which I think will bear revisiting.

"It's too short!
We need more monkeys! "

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 24, 2008 8:00 am 

Joined: Tue Jul 03, 2007 8:09 am
Posts: 55
I watched it last night. The bits that were meant to make me jump made me jump and the bits that were meant to make me sad made me sad. I won't say it's the finest film ever made but it was an entertaining 90-odd minutes and Will Smith getting old was very well done.

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