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360 of 407 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon December 16, 2007
"I Am Legend" is not a film that sticks closely to it's source material. While that is it's biggest flaw, it is also where it shines. If you ha told me two years ago that I'd get misty-eyed watching Will Smith sing "Three Little Birds" in a big budget motion picture I'd have laughed myself silly, but this adaptation of Richard Mathson's untouchable novel that -while itself being a vampire story- inspired the entire zombie film genre as we know it takes the story we all know whether we've read the book or not and turns it into an exceptionally personal affair for all of us. One man. One dog. A familiar metropolis deserted by day, but crawling with death by nightfall. This is our setting and it's one that never gets old for me.

The plague that wipes out Robert Neville's world is never fully explained, simply inferred to be the result of some sort of failed cure for cancer. Gone from the novel and the original Vincent Price classic, The Last Man on Earth, is the long struggle of Neville to save his ill daughter, his wife's tranformation, and the shocking actions of the US government to contain the plague. What it left is simply one man, alone trying to maintain his sanity and hopelessly searching for a cure to a disease that has already wiped humanity off the face of the earth and left the "survivors" as rabid vampiric horrors. It's sad, it's pathetic, and it's perfectly human. Will Smith has a penchant for picking terrible, schmaltzy films to star in, but no one can deny his talent and charisma as a leading man. Naturally, this is a film he must carry single-handedly and he does an awesome job of it; he's dramatic, he's relateable, and at times, he is funny. The humor is that of the dark and inappropriate kind, but in a world like his, that is all there is left.

The vampires/zombies/infected in this are all CG and more than a bit reminiscent of Gollum from The Lord of the Rings. I'm not a fan of these kind of effects when practical would have been more effective and was acutely aware of the fact that I watching computer-generated monsters, but they worked nonetheless. The infected prove to be terrifying foes for Neville to face, combining suprising cunning, inhuman strength, and impossible agility (hence the CG). Their only weakness is that sunlight kills them almost instantly. Neville plays a game of cat-and-mouse with them, gathering supplies, researching cure, and searching for survivors by day while making sure to get back to his fortified apartment before nightfall when the creatures come out to hunt for his hiding place. More than a few shades of 28 Days Later are present in this film, which is funny considering the book and it's film offspring are largely what provided the elements of that film. So I guess the genre has officially come full circle now.

Ultimately, it's the personal touches that make "I Am Legend" such a treat. Bob Marley provides both the soundtrack to Robert Neville's day and the inspiration for his work, which is both ironic and uplifting at times. This may sound strange for a horror flick, but if you are a fan of Marley (himself a Legend) it makes all the sense in the world as you watch. Watching Neville attempt to interact with mannequins he's set up as he returns the movies he rents (in alphabetical order, one at a time) and seeing him snap when one of the figures is moved is both amusing and, at times, intensely disturbing. When relief finally comes, Neville finds he has lost the ability to interact with other humans at all and is relegated to performing lines from "Shrek", which is playing on his television at the time. The ending is a complete 180 from the book which is disappointing, but not as corny as it could have been. The novel I Am Legend has one of the most brilliant and darkly ironic endings ever put on paper, but director Francis Lawrence didn't ruin it by go for the happy ending either. The result is a compromise between the pitch blackness of the book and the cloying cheese that many Will Smith fans love. It turns out a bittersweet and hopeful conclsion that should satisfy both while not thrilling either. But I left the theater with "Redemption Song" still ringing in my ears and a satisfied feeling. If only every movie could do that for me.

"I Am Legend" fails to adapt the book of the same name to the big screen, but succeeds in so many other ways. I can't give it a perfect score, but I will give it a very hearty recommendation to fans of Will Smith, zombies, vampires, and Bob Marley. Enjoy.
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76 of 87 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon February 25, 2008
I Am Legend can't get a fair shake. This Will Smith-led production is the third attempt Hollywood has made to adapt the brilliant novel. None of the adaptions have truly done the novel justice (which is a shame), but this version has come the closest.

Here we have a brilliant beginning; footage of a scientist (played beautifully by Emma Thompson) saying humbly that she's discovered a way to cure cancer. Fast forward a few years, and New York is utterly devoid of human life, save for Robert Neville (Will Smith). As the first half of the film progresses, we learn about his meager living, spending the day harvesting and trying to discover a cure, even now, while spending the night huddled in his protected home as creatures prowl.

His only companion, a wonderful dog named Sam, protects Neville as Neville protects him. They have a friendship based on loneliness and the human need for someone or something to hold onto. Sam is Neville's only connection to the past and the only way to represent what little humanity is left, either in the world or Neville himself. This period in the movie is pitch perfect, puncuated by one or two terrifying sequences that instill genuine horror.

Unfortunately, the last half of the film deteriorates into an action movie that completely changes the meaning of the words "I Am Legend." Don't get me wrong, it's mostly done really well. Constantine director Francis Lawrence has a good handle on the action and delivers some good scenes. But, it becomes muddled and veers off completely from the novel. My biggest complaint, though, is the use of CGI. Instead of using real flesh and blood actors, all of the creatures are created with CG and they look incredibly fake when lined up next to real people. In the beginning, it's not a problem but as you see more of them (and you will) it's glaringly obvious. And annoying.

All of this I was expecting going in, though. Considering that the film was co-written by Akiva Goldsman who also wrote I, Robot, I knew this version would stray from the source material just as I, Robot did. As a movie, it's genuinely thrilling and creates the perfect balance of tension and action through most of its entirety. And, surprisingly, Will Smith shows that he's a really good actor as he has to not only tackle many conflicting emotions during the two hour run time but he also has to do so without having much of anyone to react to. Spending a good hour or so without another single actor for Will Smith to work with was a gamble and it paid off.

Your enjoyment of the film is entirely based on what you bring to the table. If you're coming to this film expecting to see the book come to life you'll be sorely disappointed. However, if you're looking for a good action movie that actually has a good story and a human aspect, you'll be hard-pressed to find one as thrilling recently.
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145 of 189 people found the following review helpful
on January 15, 2008
This third incarnation of Richard Matheson's masterpiece is superior to its predecessors in every way, but in spite of that achievement the film is still lacking and comes across as a disappointment in too many ways.

I can't bear to rehash the plot as nearly everyone knows this story by now, and if you are one of the few unfamiliar with this story, then please read Amazon's well-written synopsis or Trashcanman's excellent review in the Spotlight review section. I just plan to hit what I enjoyed about this film and what was so disappointing.

The Hits:

(1) Another top-notch, winning performance by the ever reliable and likable Will Smith.
(2) Outstanding set designs combined with CGI effects of a desolate and abandoned New York City make this film seem more important than it is.
(3) Best adaptation of Matheson's highly influential novel (even if it isn't the most faithful to the story in a literal sense --it captures the spirit of his work extremely well).

The Misses:

(1) The most glaring problem with this film, in my view, is the CGI effects for the vampire-like survivors of the plague. They are too cartoonish for me and appear far too much like video game villains. A good example of this for me is the early scene where Smith's character enters a building to get his dog and finds some zombies hiding in a corner. They are real people, not CGI, and they are frightening; however, later, when he's attacked by CGI zombies, it is unintentionally humorous as they appear like Gollum from LOTR on acid. The CGI effects are either not believable or just too over-the-top, thus, the scenes with them lose their punch.

(2) Uneven pacing of the story is a problem here. The opening segments give the impression that we are going to see a masterpiece here, but the second half of the film never matches the first half and it feels very rushed. It has that "hey, guys, we just ran out of money, so we have to wrap up this film up this week" feel to it. In a film with a deliberate and nearly dignified opening to fall into a shoddy rushed finale severely hurts this film and leaves a bad taste in one's mouth.

The film is still solid entertainment in spite of its obvious and significant flaws. It is probably one I will even buy when it becomes available on DVD later, but it is rather disappointing for a film that seemed to have so much going for it. Its box office receipts may reinforce that perception as it set opening weekend records with a take of about $77 million, but by its third weekend it only grossed about $15 million and that is a severe drop off. For a film that reportedly cost $150 to make it has grossed a disappointing $228 after a month at the box-office. That doesn't even qualify it has a hit with a mere $78 million dollar profit at this point. I do think it will be a hit after it's been released world-wide.

BTW: Some may ask, "What is a hit by today's standards?" That's a good question with really no one set answer, however, Hollywood traditionally likes to see a film generate double what it cost to make in order to classify a film as a hit. This film with a cost of $150 million to make is expected to earn $300 million to be considered a hit, but certain stars, like Will Smith, are expected to bring in better than double the cost of the film (hence, why this may end up being considered a "disappointment" at the box-office even if it hits the magic $300M mark).
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Will Smith survives a mutant virus that has him running for his life from most of the other "survivors." So begins "I Am Legend."

The "I Am Legend" film is different from all previous versions of this story. Many of the new plot and story elements will appeal more to today's audience. Some of the esoteric and philosophical messages of the original story are lost, but this film stands on it's own.

First of all, the burning questions: Is this film worth seeing in the theatre, or should I wait for the DVD to release?

Answer: GO SEE THIS IN THE THEATRE!!! Also, films like this will make their HD DVD counterparts more attractive as well. But I digress.

The visual elements of this movie are worth the price of admission alone. Everything is done well together - special effects, lighting, sound, aspect. The in-movie songs used could have been more diverse, but the score more than makes up for it. Bottom line, I would pay to see this in the theatre again, and I can't wait to see what it looks like in HD with 7.1 surround sound at home.

Now, how about the acting? Will Smith is really great in this movie. Women will no doubt drool at the work-out scene that was put in every trailer. He gives a very real portrayal that's more than just eye candy.

Now, some of the story elements go backwards in the second half of the movie. But I think that was done intentionally, agree or disagree. They really wanted to show him fighting to keep it together, and breaking down at times, and the plot suffers as a result.

As for the plot, there's no need to re-hash that or give spoiler details. We all know the basics from the trailer. See the movie and be surprised.

One thing I am very interested in the future DVD is potential alternate endings. Since this story deviated from the original, I wonder if there was any waffling on that. We'll all have to wait and see.

Overall, this is a very good movie for SCI-FI fans and special effects lovers. The story stands on it's own and is a very good production despite some minor technical blips.

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20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on March 24, 2008
Richard Matheson's book has a 'hook' that has never been exploited in any adaptaptation (although the Vincent Price version is the closest) and that is the variation on the 'One-Eyed Man in the country of the blind...'
The Vampires have taken over - there is no cure
Accept it - they have
And that's the point. When you are the only odd one in a world that has been turned topsy turvey - night is day and day is night - then you are the monster and the monsters are normal. Civilization continues in the hours of darkness, and mankind somehow adapts. It is perfectly logical that they would try to destroy the creature that's killing them while they sleep, and that they would fear him. Neville's final words in the book "I am anaethema - I am legend." sums it all up. When mutation is normality - the normal man is a monster to be feared and destroyed.
Someday, some screewriter and director will figure this out and tell Matheson's story.
This isn't it.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on March 24, 2008
Heads up! The Amazon description says that the digital copy is "for PCs and ipods." In a word... no. The packaging says no iPods. In fact, it also says no Mac, no Zune, no anything but Windows Media Player 10.

In fairness, I suppose that since it's on the box it's my fault for buying it. I just didn't realize I needed to get out a magnifying glass at the store and read the fine print.

To make it even more laughable, the insert that tells you how to "activate" the digital copy says that the "offer expires 3/18/09."

Just when you think the MPAA may finally be getting a clue...
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon January 3, 2008
I was really looking forward to seeing "I Am Legend", from the moment I found out earlier this year. In preparation to seeing the movie, I watched Vincent Price in "The Last Man on Earth" and Charlton Heston in "The Omega Man". Even though the main ideas of the two prior versions were the same (last man, virus, night creatures, etc.), the delivery varied for their particular time. So I was intrigued to see how the storyline would be adapted to our time.

The first thing that struck me was the set. Growing up in New York City, it really hit me hard to see the devastation and isolation of the city that "Never Sleeps". The streets, the abandoned cars, the bridges, the U.N.,etc. It really hit home. Then we see a much slender, leaner Will Smith trying to cope with the fact that he was alone. His portrayal of Robert Neville is great. Very moving. I find the origin of the virus quite interesting as it comes as a side effect for a cure for cancer. The prior two movies used a plague (The Last Man on Earth) and germ warfare (The Omega Man) to explain the virus. The use of a cure that transforms into a virus gives it an ironic twist.

The film opens well, and continues that way until the introduction of the other two human characters, but that's about an hour or more of Smith, alone in Manhattan after a genetically-altered version of the measles has either killed or mutated the rest of humanity into super-violent creatures who prey on those unaffected, but only at night. They're killed almost instantly when exposed to sunlight. Smith, playing Robert Neville, was an Army Lieutenant before the virus was unleashed three years prior, and he spends his lonely days walking and stalking on the grown-in streets of Manhattan with his dog, Sam. At night, he locks himself in his apartment and attempts to find a cure. It's interesting seeing Smith carry the movie with only himself, Sam, some various wild animal species, and some mannequins. He does an excellent job, and I'm sure that's not an easy task for an actor. This is easily the most likable character he's ever played, and he brings a lot of great stuff to it, including humor and a scene that had me on the verge of tears.

Will Smith and the strength of the story outweigh the two mot glaringly bad things about this film. However, the creature effects are WAY too over-reliant on CGI, but then again, so are most horror films these days, so you might be used to it. Animatronics and foam rubber latex effects pioneered well over thirty years ago look a lot more believable than this cartoonish junk. And the other thing is the ending. It's not terrible, and it won't make you dislike the rest of the film, but the original story's ending is very sad and ironic, and this, like the other two adaptations, just can't seem to cope with the magnitude of the situation, so they always leave you with something WAY to hopeful for what we've seen throughout the rest of the film, and also, it seems that they're afraid to teach you the incredible lesson the original Matheson story had to offer. This is a good adaptation of Richard Matheson's 'I Am Legend.' So far, none of the three have nailed it, due to the inability to just use the story's ending, but this one comes close and is certainly one of the best of the three (the other two are good flicks so I recommend them all).
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon December 27, 2007
Not a seasonal pick-me-upper. Despite that it ends on a reasonably upbeat note, this film is distressing and difficult to watch. Another in a string of apocalyptic fear-based family films, the cure for cancer has had an undesired side effect and wiped out the human population. One man and his dog remain to combat this grave twist of events. As if the setup of dwindling life isn't bleak enough, the solitary life of Smith's character and the daily effort to survive while seeking a cure creates some heart stopping moments and really creepy psychological provocations. I went into this film assuming Smith would hold his usual action hero poise, and he does to some degree. While he is a wonderful action hero in his career, Smith is at core a gifted dramatic actor and that talent comes through in this role. The usual running scenes, blazing fires and such abound, but they are rooted in an emotional backstory that helps viewers to understand the main character's motivations. In that light the story is very well-rounded. Viewers receive the action-packed thriller laced with some fairly intense emotional scenes. Then begins the second half.

The scariest part of this film is the deserted streets of NYC. All in all the film is well done, acting, direction... but something about it was really off for me, which I can only assume was the writing. Smith spends a lot of screen time alone and despite the challenge of having to hold the momentum of the story solo, he pulls it off. I can't in any way fault him for my feeling that the film was incomplete. It moves very slowly, adrenaline its only initiator of plot movement in some cases. I do like that the writing showed the main character's struggle to remain sane under such circumstances. Most often our end of days films focus more on the hero's feats than his assured flaws. Still, there were such leaps in the plot that I was unconvinced of the direction it took. The finale, though realistically suited to the story, felt rushed, thus lacking.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon December 21, 2008
Richard Matheson's novel "I Am Legend" has been made into at least three motion pictures -- "The Last Man on Earth" (Vincent Price), "The Omega Man" (Charlton Heston), and "I Am Legend" (Will Smith) -- and has served as inspiration for dozens of others. The story combines science fiction and horror in a bleak, pessimistic view of the future of mankind.

In the latest version, "I Am Legend," Smith stars as Robert Neville, a scientist who was unable to halt the spread of an incurable, man-made virus. Immune to the fatal virus, Neville is the sole human survivor in what remains of New York City and possibly the world. His only companion is his dog, Samantha. But mutant plague victims -- the Infected -- lurk in the darkness, watching Neville's every move and waiting for him to make a fatal mistake. Day to day, Neville is driven by a single mission: to find a way to reverse the effects of the virus. To do so, he must use his own immune blood.

"I Am Legend" is by far the most ambitious of the three screen adaptations of Matheson's novel. The opening scenes, showing a deserted Times Square overgrown with vegetation, are spectacular, and Smith manages to keep the story flowing in the early scenes even though he's the only person we see. Flashbacks illustrate the stages leading up to the present near-obliteration of humanity and are elaborately staged by director Francis Lawrence. The film's third act resorts to a fairly routine formula of the hero versus the monsters but, overall, "I Am Legend" is an impressive effort.

The "I Am Legend Ultimate Collector's Edition" is just the thing for sci-fi and Will Smith fans. The three-disc box set contains two versions of the movie, one with a controversial ending; a digital copy of the film; four animated comics; 12 never-before-seen deleted scenes along with filmmaker's commentary; a 44-page concept sketch book; a lucite commemorative piece featuring images from the movie; and hours of featurettes covering filming on the aircraft carrier Intrepid, canine training, making New York City look deserted, assistance provided by the U.S. Military, and the integration of CGI images with live action footage.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
I love Will Smith and have always enjoyed his films. So, when I heard he was doing this remake of the book, "I Am Legend", Richard Matheson's masterpiece of horror, I could not wait to see the film. Having already seen the two prior adaptations, "The Omega Man", starring Charlton Heston, and "The Last Man on Earth", starring Vincent Price, I looked forward to seeing what this remake would bring to the table.

This is an interesting adaptation of the book in many ways, capturing the essence of despair, loneliness, and hope that runs through the book and transferring it successfully to film. Here, Will Smith is cast as Robert Neville, a military scientist who finds that he is immune to the virus that has run amok and globally killed off most of the population or turned them into vampire-like killers who dwell in the dark, coming out only at night where they prowl the earth seeking other living creatures to nosh on.

Robert Neville seems to be the only human being left in New York City. Coming out by day with his beloved dog, Sam, which is his only companion, Neville hunts for food and necessities, taking care to get home before night fall. He lives in solitary splendor in his town house in Washington Square Park, where he struggles to find a cure for the virus in hopes of restoring humanity to those rabid creatures that were once human and now prowl the earth at night.

The bleak landscape of a New York City that is ravaged by the changes is compelling, and Smith, as Neville, does exude that pathos of a man who has nearly lost all hope. His attempts at communicating with other human beings that have not been transformed by the virus are touching, especially so when we see how he longs for interaction with others like himself.

Unfortunately, the film becomes undone by too much reliance on computer generated monsters, failing to realize that less is sometimes more. Instead, the special effects render the second half of the film to something that one would see in a video game. Consequently, I found myself hoping that the end of the film would soon arrive.

While I did enjoy the film overall, it was, ultimately, disappointing, as my expectations were so high. It is unfortunate that the powers that be were so enamored of the special effects that they were unable to show some restraint. What was potentially a filmmaking masterpiece turned into a film that was simply a contender, despite Will Smith's excellent performance. In the end, it was a performance that was overshadowed by the filmmaker's excess.
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