REVIEW: I Am Legend — PG-13

December 21, 2007

 The story The year: 2012. The place: New York City. In 2009, a plague wiped out 95 percent of the world’s population. Most survivors mutated into ravenous nocturnal zombies who feed on the few remaining humans. In New York, only Dr. Robert Neville (Will Smith) survives. A military virologist, he works in his lab to find a cure. “New York is Ground Zero for the plague,” he says, “That’s why I stay.” Sam — a German shepherd — is his only companion. They roam the city by day, hunting wild deer and gathering canned goods. At night, Neville barricades his townhouse. He and Sam sleep in the bathtub with an AK47. Outside the zombies scream.Will Neville discover a cure for the plague? Is anyone out there to answer his radio distress call? Will isolation and loneliness push him over the edge? Will the zombies get him? For answers, see this science fiction/horror film.Actors“I Am Legend” is a one-man show. Like John Cusack in “1408” — the year’s best horror flick — Will Smith as Robert Neville carries this movie. He’s in virtually every scene. He fills his lonely days with routine — meticulous lab work, setting zombie traps, exuberant hunting, golfing from the tail of a jet on an aircraft carrier (“I’m getting better,” he tells Sam), borrowing (and returning) DVDs (“Shrek” is a favorite), and talking to department store mannequins. A gourmet cook, he wears a white apron and feeds Sam from the best china. “Eat your vegetables, Sam,” he says. At night, the two hide from rabid zombies.In flashbacks, we see Neville’s wife Zoe (Salli Richardson) and daughter Marley (Willow Smith). Other characters include Anna (Alice Braga) and son Ethan (Charlie Tahan). Zombies are computer generated or motion-capture animation. Watch for Emma Thompson in an uncredited cameo.Other comments“I Am Legend” is a not bad science fiction/action/horror film. Francis Lawrence directed, from a script by Mark Protosevich and Akira Goldsman. Richard Matheson wrote the 1954 novel. Most of this film’s version of the novel (at least twice filmed before) is about isolation and guilt — Neville’s work somehow contributed to the plague. Here the CGI shots of depopulated New York are evocative and haunting, and Smith’s performance as the “last man on earth” is compelling. Two-thirds through the film, however, “I Am Legend” morphs into a standard zombie flick. Lots of action and noise. Things blow up. Like the CGI wild deer, lions and slavering dogs, the zombies are cheesy. Identical, hairless and unattractive, they move fast and shriek, but they’re not very convincing.For a better zombie movie, rent “28 Days Later” (or its sequel). 101 minutes, rated PG-13 for intense sci-fi action and violence, the movie’s not for little kids or your elderly aunt.Final words“I Am Legend”In the city alone,Sci-fi horror —No zombie-free zone.