Last night was the early screening of I Am Legend and Sheila, along with the CTV/SPACE crew went to check it out. Legend adaptation comparisons aside, this movie was a riot to watch... at first.
We didn't know what to expect and neither did anyone who read the book. Everyone was so absorbed in the presentation that you could cut the tension in the theatre with a knife. The lack of dialogue gave us time to appreciate details such as the Superman-Batman poster on the side of a building. There also was subtle foreshadowing in many of the characters' facial expressions, like that of the doctor who announces that she cured cancer. Yet what truly drew us into the movie was the lingering fear that something terrible was about to happen. Every. Other. Second.
After a year filled with loud action-packed summertime movies, the stark contrasts between noise and silence in I Am Legend was a breath of fresh air. It also helped that Will Smith is at the top of his game. He nailed the part of Neville, a simple man who is struggling against the monotonous, yet frightening life presented before him.
Everyone in the theatre related to Neville's despair, pain and insanity. The moments of madness weren't laughable, either. Smith carried his role with an intensity that's freakin' it. When Neville is in a room filled with mannequins, the scene was shot in such a way to suggest that they might move at any moment. The uncertainty of whether they were real and alive had the audience hanging by a thread. The blend of anticipation and suspense then climaxed when one of Neville's traps is used against him, leaving him hanging from a rope.
Soon after that, Hollywood takes over and the movie degrades into a garden variety horror flick. Neville gets bumrushed, plot holes unravel, and next thing we know some woman stole his bacon. He was saving that bacon, dammit.
The movie quickly propelled itself into a definite ending - something unheard of in today's "trilogy or to be continued" book adaptation trend. But the movie was no longer about a last man on Earth at that point, it became an embarrassingly hamfisted message about faith. We continued to watch, hoping that somewhere in this anti-climactic mess, they were saving a good ending.
They weren't saving one, dammit.
I Am Legend will be released in both conventional and IMAX theaters on December 14, 2007.
I Am Legend