In our present day, a cure for cancer has been found. By taking the measles virus and genetically altering it, it has been turned into a cure for cancer and as our story starts, it’s 100% reliable. Three years later, the vast majority of the world’s population has been wiped out with the virus transmuting further and infecting humans to the point of making them all as though they were rabid beasts, if it hasn’t infected them then humans have been killed by them after they’ve been infected, either way, this cure for cancer has had an end result of a decimation of the population. But one man is immune, his name is Robert Neville and he’s both a scientist and a colonel in the army and something in his blood has kept him from being infected. Now, Neville lives a solitary existence trying to survive, trying to see if there’s anyone else like him, and trying to find a cure for the transmuted virus.
And that’s the premise of I Am Legend, the third cinematic version of Richard Matheson’s novel of the same name (the other versions are The Last Man on Earth with Vincent Price and The Omega Man with Charlton Heston) and while I thought it would be real tough for one to be better than The Omega Man, I Am Legend does it, and does it admirably well. Director Francis Laurence (who previously helmed Constantine) takes this story and makes the most fearsome version of it yet. It’s genuinely thrilling and gut-wrenching to watch at times and yet it’s all so skillfully made and just beautiful to watch play out.
Right from it’s opening scenes, involving Neville hunting deer in the streets of New York City driving a Shelby Mustang, you already get a sense that you’re going to be in for one hell of a ride. And pay close attention to the end of that scene for a real geekgasm moment as you see one of the theatre billboards.
Laurence gives us the most terrifying version of the infected yet seen, showing them off early on in some genuinely creepy moments, before going full blown with them later in the film. They’re a mix of live action and CGI with a greater emphasis on the CGI (at least it seems to me- very much like how the robots were handled in I, Robot– in that film, actor Alan Tudyk was the model for the main robot and in this film, actor Dash Mihok serves the same purpose) and while they’re very much a visual effect, I do think they’re quite effective.
But the biggest plus to this film is it’s lead actor, Will Smith. And I genuinely think Will Smith has given his best performance to date in this film. He runs the gamut of emotions here and one particular scene with his dog will literally just tear you up. Smith still invest some of his trademark humor here and there in the film, but it’s not overpowering to the movie in the slightest. He’s fun to watch in the part and you can tell that he just threw himself into this in a big way. Out of all the movies I’ve seen this year, I truly believe that Will Smith has given ne of the very best performances from a lead actor that I’ve seen yet.
This is just absolutely entertaining and moving as can be, and certainly another film that I’ve got to consider for my best of 2007 list. It’s skillfully made, genuinely thrilling and it’s lead actor gives, in my opinion, his best performance yet. Do not miss I Am Legend.
(And if that wasn’t enough, the trailer for The Dark Knight, the next Batman film, also runs with this, and it just looks incredible- this whole package is a genre film fan’s dream)