Review: I Am Legend - Journal of Omnifarious
Jan. 6th, 2008
11:12 am - Review: I Am Legend
Links here are to Wikipedia articles that may reveal more than you want to know if you've never seem or read the referenced movies and books.
I saw the movie "I Am Legend". This movie bears as much resemblance to "the book" as "Blade Runner" does to the book upon which it is based, "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?". Unlike Blade Runner, the book origins show through in a few plot holes in the movie.
Overall I thought the movie was well done. Will Smith does well in a serious role, not spectacularly well, but well. The movie does a good job of setting the scene and mood, and explaining the character both by depicting his daily life, and by use of flashbacks to show how he got there.
It is only half horror movie. But it is well dosed with scenes where you feel the main character's fear and a visceral sense of the danger he's in. Overall the movie conveys a sense of desperate hope and determination.
The movie has a few plot holes though, and I find them vexing. After reading the book description, I can understand them in terms of someone trying to translate the book to a movie that's actually very different (the movie seems superficially similar) and missing things, or not knowing how to handle certain things.
The main character is trying to find a cure for the disease which has infected most people. It has killed 90% of everybody outright. 9% have been transformed into aggressive monsters who cannot handle being exposed to UV radiation. And 1% are immune.
In the course of hunting for deer in downtown NYC he stumbles across the daytime hiding place of the creatures 9% have humanity has been transformed into. Using his blood as a lure he traps one in a piece of black cloth so when it's (it turns out to be a she) pulled into the light she won't be killed. Another of the monstrous humans appears shortly after her capture and braves going into the light for a second or three and growls at him.
It seems like this creature is braving the sunlight because he is angry and distressed over the capture of his companion. Robert (the main character) chalks it up to him being so hungry that he's willing to ignore basic survival instincts.
This becomes a consistent theme. Robert underestimates the intelligence of the creatures repeatedly. He considers them no more than vicious animals who were once human and who may be able to made human again if he can find the cure.
One also begins to wonder why, if these creatures are pure aggression, why they don't turn on each other. They also display a semblance of organization, at least in terms of working together to achieve a goal. The one who growled at him from the darkness sets a trap for him at one point. He also appears to lead the seemingly organized attacks on Robert.
You sort of begin to wonder about their psychology after awhile, but Robert never does. His only willingness to act as if they had any sort of ability to think at all is at the very end where he desperately pleads with them and tells them that he has a cure for their disease. And this has no effect at all on their behavior.
These plot holes and apparent incongruities reflect themes that definitely appear in the book (at least according to the Wikipedia Synopsis). They are left largely unexplored in the movie, which leaves the movie feeling like it's incomplete, or that there are plot elements that don't make sense.
If you think about the movie in terms of these themes, it feels like it ended in the middle and had a Hollywood happy ending tacked on.
The other movie I reference, "Blade Runner", explores the themes in the book it's based off of from a completely different angle. Yet it is a whole and complete movie by itself.
I think Hollywood's obsession with escapist entertainment and happy endings ruins a whole lot of movies. "Pan's Labyrinth" could never have been made in the US, despite it being an awesome movie. The happy ending issue is but one of the myriad of reasons. I can only hope that the rise of amateur movie-making makes big-budget movie producers more inclined to take risks.