HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Saturday, December 15, 2007


I AM LEGEND is a brave movie for about an hour and ten minutes. For a big holiday blockbuster movie, the film actually tries to draw suspense from the atmosphere rather than noisy crashes and explosions. With the barest of scores, the cicadas and birds and simple, repetitive sounds of Will Smith's Robert Neville going about his daily chores create an eerie sense of peacefulness amidst the decaying ruins of New York City. The sound designers deserve an Oscar for their work here. Much of the tension comes from their work, which manages to strike a balance and not be boring and listless (e.g. D-WARS). The camerawork is excellent as well, using lots of wide shots (and even a fisheye lens at one point) to show the isolation, loneliness, and vulnerability. As another reviewer pointed out, there's a true sense of agoraphobia.

Even more impressive and unexpected, the writers manage to drop some moral ambiguity in the story. The "Dark Seekers" of the movie are described as mindless, cannibalistic killing machines, but when Neville captures one for experimentation purposes, you can see a look of bitter hatred on the face of another Seeker who cannot chase after the catpured Seeker because of their vulnerability to sunlight. And it's that Seeker's quest for vengeance that drives the last half of the plot. The Seeker learns from the trap Neville uses and exploits his knowledge of Neville's habits to trap the hero. There are clear signs of intelligence. And then there are the signs that Neville, slowly losing his grip on sanity, has become irrationally hateful of the Seekers. He performs cruel, life-threatening experiments on dozens of them in search for a cure. Much like John Wayne's character in THE SEARCHERS and Comanches, Neville feels that living as a Seeker ain't livin' at all and you're better off dead. He hesitates to shoot deer and lions to get fresh meat for survival, but he won't hesitate to brutally murder Seekers. What makes this more interesting is that Neville's love for Bob Marley's music is a major part of his character, as Bob Marley tried to stomp out hatred and racism with peace and love via reggae. "Bring light to the darkness." How ironic would it be if the darkness was his hatred rather than their existence and the light was understanding and acceptance? That's what the original novel was about (though without the Bob Marley analogies), and it's an interesting theme that is well told through subtle hints.

The last act sadly becomes conventional. It gets all explodey and turns into a SIGNS-esque evaluation of religious faith. The thematic disconnect is jarring, and the ending gets a little too happy. This doesn't ruin the rest of the movie, but it was disappointing after the great first two thirds. Still, two thirds of a great movie was far more than I expected, and as much of a badass as Charlton Heston is, I have to put this movie above OMEGA MAN. I just wish the movie stuck to its guns like the original PLANET OF THE APES.

Also, of note:
Can we all agree now that CGI is not inherently better than practical effects and that mediocre effects do not make a movie bad?

Two factual errors I noticed:
In the cable news interview that kicks off the movie, there's an item on the crawl saying the Patriots beat the Giants for the second time in the 2009 season 23-7. Interconference scheduling in the NFL is on a 4-year rotation (each division in one conference plays all the teams in a division of the other conference each year). The AFC East (Patriots) plays the NFC East (Giants) this year, 2007. Therefore, the next such season that the Patriots would play the Giants during the regular season is 2011. And that's only one game. The second game would have to be the Super Bowl, the only other time when interconference matchups take place. That they do not mention the Super Bowl would indicate that the game played was not the championship game. In other words, that news item no es posible.

The Jamaican government did not send an assassination squad after Bob Marley, or at least not the ruling party. Jamaica was very violent in the '70s (the reputation continues today). There were gangs associted with the two political parties, the Jamaican Labor Party and the People's National Party, that caused much of this violence. The Prime Minister of the time, Michael Manley (PNP), put together a concert with Marley headlining to help quell the violence. Supposedly, gang members tied with the JLP tried to assassinate Marley, believing the acceptance to play at the concert to be a sign of backing the PNP. Marley, however, was more concerned about making peace, as stated by Smith's character, than politics. That said, I'll take any excuse to throw a bit of Jamaican culture into a movie.

No comments: