I Am Legend (2007)

DECEMBER 14, 2007


It’s sort of a lie to say I saw I Am Legend in IMAX, as it was pretty much a fake IMAX. The screen was about the right size, but the theater setup and sound system were identical to any stadium seated theater. The whole point of IMAX is to be engulfed in the film with a curved screen that you are close to and sound that comes at you from all sides. This was not the case. So if you are in the Hooksett, NH area, and are considering going to their IMAX screen for the experience, don’t. Make the extra drive down to Reading, MA.

It was sort of fitting for the film though. It had the right intent, but it was missing key ingredients. Like the book itself and Last Man On Earth, the first half hour or so is the best part. Watching Neville go about his regular routine in a sort of half survival, half fantasy scenario is always the highlight of this particular story. In this version, Neville is in New York, and the scenes of him navigating the empty city are truly effective (though the effect is a bit dulled after Devil’s Advocate and Vanilla Sky did the same thing to a degree). There are some great “future” sight gags in these scenes as well, and the idea of a guy literally watching every movie ever made (in alphabetical order no less) has obvious appeal to me.

But, like always, the 2nd half flounders. Why can’t anyone, even Richard Matheson himself, ever come up with a good way to wrap up this story? Deviating from the book (even moreso than Last Man) is fine, but only if they improve on things, which isn’t the case here. Surprisingly, the film contains far less action than you’d expect from the trailers and pedigree (Michael Bay himself was once attached to this film, and the first scene with Smith is probably leftover from his involvement), though that isn’t really the problem. And considering how awful the CG vampires look, the less of them we see, the better. No, the problem here is that the movie fails to give Neville a real antagonist like his neighbor Cortman in the book. Here, the “big bad” is simply a slightly better rendered CG zombie-vampire thing (“played” by Dash Mihok, who is a recognizable character actor I usually enjoy), and he is given very little to do. There is very little sense that the vampires fear him (making this film’s use of the book’s title, the first adaptation to do so, all the more puzzling), rendering (no pun intended!) them largely inconsequential. Neville’s own crumbling sanity seems a bigger threat than the vampires ever do, with the exception of one (terrific) sequence set in a pitch black building.

They also include some truly idiotic “spiritual” nonsense (spoiler alert!). Early on in the film, during one of the flashbacks (the movie scores a few points by splitting these flashbacks up, Lost-style, but loses a few of those points for focusing pretty much on one night/scene), Neville’s kid randomly says “Look at the butterfly!”. Later, Neville sees a butterfly tattoo on a fellow survivor, and realizes what he has to do to save humanity. So, yes, this film essentially rips off “Swing away, Merrill!” and manages to make it even dumber. Who knows which writer is to blame on this though, since the film has had so many false starts and different creative teams over the past 10 years. This results in what has to be a cinematic first (at least for a film based on a book), as we are given a “Based on a screenplay by” credit in addition to the story/screenplay credits (and, of course, Matheson for his novel). And that’s just the credited writers!!!

So while it was far from a bad film, it was really disheartening to watch as the film went from great to merely OK. Like 30 Days of Night, this has the potential to be one of the years’ best genre films (luckily, the PG-13 rating is of no real consequence in relation to the film’s flaws), but the lazy script prevented such a thing from happening. Still, I was entertained for the most part, thanks in part to the antics of my fellow moviegoers. Going to get a snack, I witnessed a man screaming and yelling about his pretzel, which resulted in a refund, and then the guy went back to his movie... which was Alvin and the Chipmunks. I didn’t think anything would top that, but then I saw a girl buy a soda and Sour Patch Kids, and then throw the soda into the trash without even as much as putting a straw into the lid. What the hell kind of person pays 4 dollars for a cup of colored water and then immediately throws it away?

My enjoyment was also aided by a 6 minute preview of The Dark Knight (aka Batman 2). We watch pretty much a whole scene, detailing a bank robbery orchestrated by the Joker, who is believed to be pulling the strings from an unknown location, and not the 5th robbery member whose face we never see. The scene also includes William Fichtner brandishing a shotgun and generally being awesome. Someone get this guy a starring role!!!

UPDATE – the movie made 80 million over the weekend, beating even Return of the King for a December opening. So who cares what I think?

What say you?


  1. Liked the movie. Not spectacular, but enjoyable. Like many movies, a bit cheesy at the ending.

  2. Yeah, it was kind of lame, wasn't it?

    Voodoo Who Do

  3. I just saw The Last Man on Earth, and enjoyed it very much. Can't imagine this being as good. How does it compare?

    The Vault of Horror

  4. About the same... obviously the empty new York is more impressive than the empty... whatever the hell passed for LA in Last Man... though i think the older film was more consistent.

  5. The thing I always loved about the book was the source of the title: "I Am Legend" comes from the fact that HE is the monster, he is a legend to the vampires; a scary being that kills them while they are sleeping and inspires fear in them. I always thought that was a neat way to present the perspective of who the villain in the story really is...

    I haven't seen this kind of screw up since "A Sound of Thunder" - why do they even BOTHER to keep the title the same if they edit out the whole POINT of the title during the filming?

  6. I am so disappointed! It sounded like it had alot of potential.

  7. I think you are too kind to this movie. I found that it went from OK to really BAD! I really wonder how can a movie like "MIST" flop at the box office and "I am legend" making all that money. I guess it's one of earth's mysteries...

  8. My problem with this movie is SOLELY the detour they took from the book.
    The book made all the sense. This movie killed all of that.

    What about the ending not shown in theaters...and there is a reason for it..it detours from the book EVEN MORE than original.

    The book is great..I even liked Last Man On Earth moreso.

    What shocked me is Mike Patton (Faith No More, Mr Bungle, etc) did all the voices/screams of the Vampires in the newest adaptation.

    Its hard to explain to people the difference between the movie and the book without giving away the entire plot. I have people who watched the movie and have NO CLUE about the book. I explain the difference and they get MORE interested. funny shit..I dont know why filmmakers decide to do things sometimes.

  9. Of the three attempts at this story, I prefer "The Omega Man".

    It's a 70s thing.

  10. Luv your website and reviews.

    Actually, there was a version that had Cortman and an ending that even Matheson liked. Unfortunately, Akiva Goldsman and Will Smith kept changing the guy's script so much that he thre in the towel.

    You can read it here:


    I'm hoping that someone will make this version someday. Curious as to what you think of it.


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