Local opening date: December 14, 2007
Reviewed by Diane Carson
For good reasons
and for centuries, we've considered with hope and caution what science
achieves. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein warns
about scientific arrogance and unpredictable results; 1950s science fiction
films had a field day with nuclear disasters. In that period, 1954, novelist
Richard Matheson's I Am Legend found
terror in a virus, a fear that certainly resonates today.
In the third movie
inspired by Matheson's writing, I Am
Legend is relocated to New York
and one known, healthy survivor of a virus that has decimated the world
population. Scientist Richard Neville is inexplicably immune. Hoping to find a
cure for the savage dark seekers who survive in underground locations, Neville
uses his own blood in experiments with ferocious rats and periodically captured
subjects, hoping to find a cure. But the outstanding feature of an uneven film
is Will Smith's phenomenal performance.
For the majority
of the film, Will Smith, who plays Richard Neville, holds the screen alone,
save for his German Shepherd companion Samantha. Smith proves again what a
charismatic actor he is with an impressive range of emotions. He's the husband
and father who must say good-bye to his wife and daughter as they're evacuated
from New York;
he's the determined scientist evaluating lab animals' responses; he's the
hunter tracing food and the defender of his and his dog's life; he's the
hoping-against-hope isolated man. And he segues through the film's uneven
shifts from horror film to science fiction warning to melodrama with a totally
deus-ex-machina woman who credits God for chances of survival against all
evidence in the story. It's ironic and offensive that while The Golden Compass has been unfairly
attacked for attacks on religion, where there are none, that it is so
arbitrarily tacked on here without comment.
Director Francis Lawrence and
cinematographer Andrew Lesnie crank up the action with loud, quickly edited
attacks. But the best scenes are the ones of silence and calm when the tension builds
much more dramatically without the pummeling with sound effects. I Am Legend is an uneven mixture of
horror and science fiction, action and suspense. It is an acting tour-de-force
by Will Smith, but it is not for children, though rated PG-13. At area cinemas.
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