Film Review: I am Legend

Film: I am Legend

Director: Francis Lawrence

Producer: Warner Bros

Cast: Will Smith, Alice Braga, Dash Mihok, Charlie Tahan, Salli Richardson

Rating: 4/10

Few visual sparks, few chills and some thrills. Else I am Legend is forgettable.

If there is a ‘formula’ for Hollywood films it is apocalypse films. From C to B to A+, all grades of movies rely on this tried and tested formula for the regular chills and thrills. I am Legend is no different.

I am Legend, is the story of a lone survivor in a post-apocalypse world. Robert Neville (Will Smith), a military scientist lives in a deserted world destroyed by a plague. Among stirring pangs of loneliness he has a single mission – to find an antidote to stop the plague that dehumanizes humans into vampirish creatures and which has wiped out the earth’s population. Robert’s lone struggle and steely determination against all odds is coloured with a sense of personal revenge, a sense of responsibility to science and a passionate commitment to fellow humans. All these aspects come forth through a simple magazine cover saying ‘Soldier, Scientist, Saviour ending in a surreptitious question mark.

Smart, one reacts. A taut and smart screenplay is one of the reasons I am Legend works. The average movie with a sub-average plot is tightly held together by a tense screenplay that unfolds speedy and sure. With crisp flashbacks inter-cut into the present day scenario, the movie tells the complete story of the plague, its victims and its survivors.

The trouble is that the plot is unimaginative. Based on 1954 science fiction novel by Richard Matheson, I Am Legend is a story about the last man alive on the planet Earth. This is the fourth time the book has been adapted and unfortunately this time not with a lot of success. Francis Lawrence’s movie loses its element as it deviates from the original question of – ‘what is the norm’ to the preachy ‘Light up the darkness’. The inherent symbols of the plague virus festering in the dark and allergic to UV rays is an indirect reference to Christianity and its symbolism of light vs darkness vis-à-vis good vs evil. This indirect reference becomes a full-fledged one with the entrance of Anna (Alice Braga), someone who believes and ultimately finds what she believes in. 

The movie aims at giving itself another dimension by uplifting the theme into one fighting injustice. Paralleling the struggle and fight of Robert Neville against that of Bob Marley, the master musician who championed world peace through love and music discredits the film and Robert’s fight to an extent. It brings into sharp contrast the futility of one and the immensity of the other. 

The movie walks a safe ground and suffers because of it. Neither is it a survivor film, nor is it a man-on-a-mission film nor is it a lonely man’s journey fighting against his odds. It is neither Independence Day, Mission Impossible nor Castaway. Not that it has to be. But the film fails to rise above these by-now-benchmarks and therein lies the waste of potentially challenging film.

Technically, the film stupefies in a couple of smart sequences like the dark storehouse scene, the explosion of the Brooklyn Bridge and the vista of abandoned New York. The sight of a deserted overgrown New York lying still in a moment, with wild animals and waist-high shrubs is powerfully evocative. The ambience of intrigue and deadly secret it imbues in the film is fascinating. Some slick editing and intelligent sound design makes the film watchable. The DI-created humanoids are not impressive nor scary nor believable. The inability of the devils to inspire fear in the audience brings it down one more notch.

Will Smith impresses with a competent performance measuring drama, emotion and action. Despite faltering here and there in high voltage emotional scenes, he manages to hold his own throughout. Alice as the fighting, protective mother is good in the small role that she appears in.

Lack of a wider, deeper vision makes the film scaleable. And forgettable. The raciness of the film and the pace of calculated revelation alone can keep one hooked to one’s seat till the end. Else, there have been lots of other films deeper, wider, scarier and more memorable than I Am Legend.