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I Am Legend
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Another disappointing movie, although not entirely boring. I'd give it a 2/5. Other reviews have praised Will Smith's performance (which is good) and criticized the schlocky horror-film aspects and sub-par special effects (which are kinda lame, but aren't deal-breakers).

Since I've read the novella the movie was based on, I have some more direct points of comparison, and they made some changes that were definitely for the worse. The movie toned down the "vampire-ness" of the mutants. In the novella, they are not only affected by sunlight, but other vampire tropes like garlic. None of that in the movie, which is fine. But in the original, Neville knew some of the people who had changed personally. His next door neighbor would wander around in front of his house at night, thirsting to drink his blood, and that personal touch was creepy. None of that in the movie. The mutants are mostly impersonal, hyper-charged, screaming zombie freaks. They don't talk (at least in a language that's clear), and they wear tatters for clothes.

There is some development of the "dark-seekers" (as one character calls them), but to talk about it, compare it to the novella, and really talk about what went wrong with the movie, I have to use spoilers.


So at the end of the novella, the meaning of the title becomes clear, and it is an ironic twist. Neville does not find any other survivors, and he does not find a cure. He is truly the last human, and the dark-seekers have captured him with the intent of executing him. He sees the fear and loathing that his own strangeness brings about in them, and he realizes that he is a remnant of times past. They are the norm, and he is the aberration. The novella ends with the line "I am legend," meaning he is a relic, a thing of the past, as the new humanity takes over.

So, the movie doesn't do that. The movie plays almost like they meant to remain faithful to the novella with the ending, and switched it out at the last. For example, the dark-seekers progressively begin to show signs of organizing and increasing intelligence. At one point, Neville constructs a trap to capture a female dark-seeker to test out a potential cure. A male sticks his head out into the light, burning him, and he screams with rage. It seems as if this might be the female's "mate", and this male also seems to be a leader.

Later, a very complicated mechanical trap is set up to capture Neville. My first thought was that it was another human survivor, and I don't know what Neville actually thought. His reaction was very strange. But it turns out it was the dark-seekers. After escaping, Neville never seems to remark on the fact that the dark-seekers rigged up an elaborate snare mechanism using a taxi as leverage. Earlier he had concluded that they had become completely animalistic, purged of all their humanity, and he doesn't seem to think it's significant that they're building complex devices.

At one point, Neville finds another couple of survivors (although one is a kid who never talks and is never developed...he might as well have been a piece of furniture). The other one, Anna, basically acts as a plot device to get Neville 1) Believing in god again, and 2) To deliver his miracle cure to a small pocket of survivors in Vermont. Neville sacrifices himself to kill the leader of the dark-seekers and ensure that the cure finds its way to the rest of humanity.

The voice-over at the end is by Anna, who describes Neville as a "legend" because he found the cure and became a martyr. I guess the studios thought this ending would be more peppy than the dark-seekers building their own new society and humans becoming obsolete, but it just rang false, and not only because I had read the novella.

The movie would have been much more interesting if the dark-seekers were more than just howling kill-machines, if Neville had a personal connection with one or more of them, and if they had been developed as actual characters. That's the way they were in Omega Man, the 1971 Charlton Heston film, which I think also ended with Neville's blood as a cure, on an upbeat note.

The movie will probably do well, based on Smith's star power alone, but it felt a lot like I, Robot, a hatchet adaptation of a classic story.

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