Saturday, October 27, 2012
I AM LEGEND
(December 2007, U.S.)
I AM LEGEND is, indeed, a rarely appreciated film for my tastes and collection because in most cases by the time any original story has gotten to it's THIRD film version, I'm likely to loose interest because most versions and remakes of stories never top the original film version. Not so in the case of Richard Matheson's original novel because in my opinion, the first film THE LAST MAN ON EARTH (1964) and the second THE OMEGA MAN (1971) were just no damn good at all. Three times is definitely a charm here because I AM LEGEND is one of the most terrifying post-apocalyptic science fiction horror films I've ever seen. Believe it or not, the terror for me comes not so much from the cannibalistic humanoid night seekers that military virologist Lieutenant Colonel Robert Neville (played by Will Smith) is fighting to survive against, but rather the the quiet and eerie dead atmosphere of what was once the great island of Manhattan, New York.
Let me begin with that one first - over the last two decades I've seen my fair share of computer generated amazement on the big screen and I swear to you right now, none of it compares to the hard impact of looking at New York City completely deserted of all human beings (except Will Smith). You look at it and you know very well computer effects were involved, but you would also swear that the film was shot on location in a dead, deserted city, if you didn't know any body. It's just that well done and it's also just that freaky. It's also, of course, very chilling to imagine just one person living in an entire city. You can feel it most in my opinion when we hear Neville's voiceover calling out to whomever may be listening on a daily basis...
"My name is Robert Neville. I am a survivor living in New York City. I am broadcasting on all AM frequencies. I will be at the South Street Seaport everyday at mid-day, when the sun is highest in the sky. If you are out there...if anyone is out there...I can provide food, I can provide shelter, I can provide security. If there's anybody out there...anybody...please. You are not alone."
They're just words, I know, but listen to them when you watch the film and really take them in and you just might know what I'm talking about.
The entire human race being wiped out by plague or biological warfare is not exactly new to the screen. In fact, one of the most effective films I'd seen prior to I AM LEGEND concerning this topic was the ABC-TV television mini-series of Stephen King's THE STAND back in 1994. It's also a fact that human beings falling victim to disease or the like and turning into some sort of horrifying monsters isn't the newest film sensation, either. As a matter of fact, were it not for Richard Matheson's original story, George A. Romero may never have been inspired to give us his NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968), and thus, the entire genre of "living dead" movies may never have existed. I AM LEGEND shows you not only what's become of humanity (what's left of it) but takes you back in time a bit to not only introduce you to a medical marvel that was thought to be the cure for cancer (before it turned into something else entirely), but also shows you the horror of the breakdown in the system of not only the disease itself, but the chaos that erupts when the island of Manhattan is quarantined from the rest of the world. It's one thing to watch herds of people in a panic to survive by attempted escape, and it's another matter entirely to watch our own military planes intentionally destroy a portion of the Brooklyn Bridge in order to prevent it. Indeed, the breakdown and destruction of humankind can be a terrifying thing to watch, sometimes more terrifying that the tradition and cliche of monsters. Though I must admit, I get more of the hee bee gee bees scared out of me watching the scenes when Neville's diseased RATS are going crazy trying to break out of their confinements in order to kill him than I do watching humanoid monsters trying to do the same thing. I hate, hate, HATE rats!!!
It impresses me that I AM LEGEND is portrayed at such an epic scale and yet the film is only one hundred minutes long. Proof positive that quality triumphs over quantity and less is, indeed, more. I have to also finally say that since INDEPENDENCE DAY (1996), I haven't gotten bored yet of watching Will Smith play the science fiction hero. The man has definitely got something in that department.
And hey, why is it that when the world is coming to an end on screen, New York City is always the first one to get it??
Favorite line or dialogue:
Robert Neville: "All right, let me tell you about your "God's plan". Seven billion people on Earth when the infection hit! KV had a ninety-percent kill rate, that's five point four billion people dead! Crashed and bled out! Dead! Less than one-percent immunity! That left twelve million healthy people, like you, me, and Ethan! The other five hundred and eighty-eight million turned into your dark seekers, and then they got hungry and they killed and fed on everybody! Everybody! Every single person that you or I has ever known is dead! Dead! There is no God!"
That's some scary shit!