Scientists. Without them the world would be a much safer place. Granted, we wouldn’t have life saving advancements and all that. But do you know what else we wouldn’t have? Zombies. That’s right. Scientists causes zombies. It’s a well known fact, one that people seem to forget when a scientist starts talking about “mutating” things. What you should do is stop the scientist in their tracks. “Mutate?” you should interject, “Say, doesn’t that tend to produce hoards of zombies?” “Oh yeah,” the scientist will say. “I forgot.”
Just think of the millions of lives you’d save if you listened to me.
But alas, the folk in I Am Legend world didn’t pay any attention to me and now they’ve all buggered off, leaving a lone Will Smith with an empty New York and some scary mutated folk, who aren’t partial to sunlight but are pretty nippy and have sore tempers. Cue a tight zombie-esque film with spatterings of vampire inspired stay-in-the-sun-fun, sprinkled with your basic apocalypse survivor bleakness. And you don’t even need to know the back catalogue and full life history of the Fresh Prince in order to understand what’s going on. This is easily beating last week’s film already.
This isn’t a new concept, but its ace is the premise that Will Smith’s Robert Neville is the last man standing, left to face - and attempt to resolve - terrifying science mistakes. A tip of the hat to Big Willie, then, for managing to carry the film almost entirely on his own. When considering that his only real interaction is with an Alsatian or scary things that roar, it’s impressive that Will is entirely watchable throughout, never losing the audience’s attention or his own credibility, even when singing Bob Marley to a dog.
Legend also wins when it side-steps the clichés, shoving in some dark plot points and tackling our hero’s crumbling sanity (he likes mannequins… and Shrek). But in avoiding some clichés, it manages to blunder straight into others, and if you’ve seen one or more of the recent zombie efforts from the 28 Days/Weeks and Resident Evil franchise, to the likes of Romero and Shaun, then you’ll be able to guess many of the film’s next steps. Not all of them, mind. But most.
Still, considering this is from Francis Lawrence, the director of Constantine (the equivalent of excitable chatter from an imaginative but slightly stupid teenage boy) I Am Legend is a pretty good effort. Nicely paced, action gently handled instead of shaky quick-edit “excitement”, and some scenes that were scary enough to make the guy behind us actually shout out in fear. The enormous wimp. It’s also nice to see a film that can create tension, fear and shock without relying on buckets of gore, although it perhaps relied a little too heavily on average CGI (someone spent all their budget clearing New York, me thinks…)
A good solid Saturday night thriller, I am Legend racks up the recommended CF0, but to a zombie expert like myself it lacked enough originality to score any higher. Just watch out for those scientists, though. That’s all I can say.