I Am Legend is a 2007 Horror, Thriller, Drama starring Will Smith and his dog. After a virus has wiped out mankind, turning them into creatures of the night, Robert Neville (Smith) is the last man alive, trying to find a cure while all alone in New York.
I Am Legend is based on an amazing book by Richard Matheson, who also wrote some classic scares such as The Night Stalker, Trilogy Of Terror, Steven Spielberg's Duel and some excellent episodes of The Twilight Zone including Nightmare at 20,000 feet and Button Button (which was recently turned into the film, The Box). He also wrote one of the scariest haunted house movies ever made called The Legend Of Hell House. I Am Legend is a book that is so cinematic, it is perfect for a really good film version as long as you stay reasonably faithful to the original story.
So, in the immortal words of William Hurt in A History Of Violence, How do you fuck that up?
Well, the first thing you do is hire Oscar winning screenwriter hack Akiva Goldsman to completely ignore everything that made the book great and write something far less interesting instead. How the hell this man ever won an Oscar is beyond me. He's the guy who wrote some of the worst Hollywood blockbusters of the past 15 years, including Lost In Space and the famously bad franchise killer, Batman And Robin. The film he managed to beat The Lord Of The Rings into winning an Oscar for was A Beautiful Mind, where he ignored any attempts to tell the true story of John Nash, and instead gave us an ill-conceived thriller that mistakenly confuses schizophrenia with multiple personality disorder where most of the films characters don't even exist.
The main aspect of the I Am Legend book they have completely ignored is that of the creatures the infected humans turn into. In the book, they are most definitely vampires. The book goes into great depth explaining the scientific reasons behind every aspect of vampirism and Neville sees it as his duty to hunt down and kill them. In the film, the creatures are poorly CGI'd creatures named Dark Seekers that all look identical but are still allergic to sunlight. This does beg a few questions. Namely, how can a virus effect your physical appearance in such a way that you are the same height and build as everyone else, wear the same clothes, and can open your mouth so jaw droppingly wide? The CGI is so bad that every time one of these creatures moves, you just wish the film makers used proper make up and actors. They aren't Vampires in the film, probably because they made it before Vampires became cool again. There's no motivation or explanation for the creatures, they just are, and making them all appear identical may have saved a few bucks in the budget but causes us to distance ourselves from them emotionally. One is given more screentime than the others, but we are never sure if he's the one we are looking at.
It isn't all bad though. Will Smith gives a great performance as someone close to insanity, and there are some decent scares and a touching scene with his dog, but any good moments are soon forgotten by an horrendous ending.
The ending is the part of the film where they really fuck it up. Originally, the film makers shot this ending but the test audiences didn't like it much, so they filmed a new ending that was even worse. It's difficult to explain without going into any spoilers, but Robert Neville may have found a cure but makes a decision so ridiculously self-sacrificing that Cracked.com wrote this article ripping it to shreds. If you've seen the film, go to that link and read it. It explains all that's wrong with the ending far better than I ever can.
The end of the book explains the title I Am Legend so perfectly that it makes you want to review what you have just read from a different perspective. The film on the other hand, suddenly realises that the title makes no sense with their re-written ending that they had to include a sudden voice-over to cover themselves.
Now, my review seems to be bashing the film mainly because it isn't the same as the book, but when I saw the film for the first time, I hadn't read the book, but I still hated the film. There are just so many bad film-making decisions and moments of bad writing that you just can't get past. One I just noticed after watching again was that he's got 2 running machines upstairs in his house, one for him, one for his dog. Have you ever tried lifting a running machine? They are pretty heavy. Seeing as he's the last man alive, how the hell did he manage to get it in his house, never mind dragging them up those stairs?
After 2 failed attempts to turn I Am Legend into a good film in the 60's and 70's, we waited over 35 years for Hollywood to have another go, and they still failed. Hopefully, in their next attempt in 20 years time, we might have more luck.
IMDB currently gives I Am Legend a rather generous 7.1 but I'd have to give it a far lower score of 5. There's some good stuff in there and some of the visuals are impressive, but as a film in it's own right it's only OK. As an adaptation of a classic book, it's a disaster.