Saturday, December 22, 2007

Is he Legend?

Warning: If you have not seen the movie "I am Legend" and intend on seeing it, do not read any further. My post contains spoilers.

Right, so with that being said, I saw the movie on Saturday, and I thought I'd give my review/opinion on it. The overall premise was interesting, especially given that there is much going on in life sciences with stem cell research and the like. However, after my heart stopped racing from the sudden scares amidst deathly silence, I started mulling over some aspects of the movie. Namely, I had issues with the development of the infection, Dr. Neville's (Will Smith) assessment that the zombie-vampires had "reduced brain function" and/or no longer had social skills, what the zombie-vampire leader was really after, how the other two survivors got to Dr. Neville in New York, and the ending. That's a lot, I know, but they're all sort of linked.

Even with my rudimentary knowledge about viruses, I thought re-engineering a virus, which by their very nature are very mutable, to cure cancer would not be the smartest move. Fine, I accept that they figured out how to make the thing work, but there wasn't enough exposition of how and why the virus-cure changed and spread. One day everything's great, and then fast forward three years and everyone is dead or a zombie-vampire. There wasn't any explanation for why or how the people turned into the zombie-vampires. Given that Dr. Neville was conducting that much research on a cure, some explanation could've been given via his video logs as to what property of the virus turned people into the things. Toward the end, we also find out that he tested potential cures on many zombie-vampires, but they all died. Wouldn't he have run further tests to find out why?

Dr. Neville also hypothesises that the creatures now have reduced brain function and are socially inept because one of them voluntarily exposed himself to sunlight when Dr. Neville trapped a test specimen. However, they were obviously watching him as he made his daily rounds because they set a similar trap using one of the mannequins Dr. Neville positioned to simulate people at a store. If anything, that shows cunning and observation. They knew moving that mannequin would scare the bejeezus out of Dr. Neville, catch him unaware (which it did), and they'd be able to snare him. In addition, the zombie-vampire that exposed himself to sunlight was the one who acted as the leader when they launched the attack on Dr. Neville. As far as the motive for the trap and subsequent attack, I didn't think it was simply for food, but to get back the girl zombie-vampire Dr. Neville trapped to test on.

The whole survival saga is set in an eerily desolate and destroyed New York City, complete with bombed out bridges. In an effort to quarantine the virus in its early stages, the island of Manhattan is sealed off. Ostensibly, the tunnels were also blocked and/or taken out, so there's no way in or out of the city. However, 2/3 of the way into the movie, we come to see that there, in fact, other survivors who heard Dr. Neville's daily transmissions on AM frequencies asking him to meet him on some pier at noon. But, how did they get there if no one could leave or get into the city? Okay, fine, they got there, but then the woman survivor says there's a survivors' colony in Vermont. Dr. Neville loses it and says there is no survivors' colony, no God, nothing except this reality he's in. Random side note -- after three years of no contact with humans, let alone a woman, as one of my friends pointed out, you'd think Dr. Neville would want to get it on with this Brasilian chica! Nope. He explains Bob Marley and that he can still "fix" the virus.

In the end, the zombie-vampires figure out where Dr. Neville's fortress of solitude is and come after him. Why? Not sure, but like I said, I think it was for the chick zombie-vampire. How are they able to have superhuman wall scaling and jumping capabilities? No idea. In the original book and previous two movie adaptations, the zombie-vampires were actually much more organised and intelligent a la the vampire societies in movies like "Blade" and "Underworld." How Dr. Neville becomes legend is that he then becomes viewed as "the other" by the zombie-vampires because he hunts them ruthlessly. Think of it as our vampire stories flipped so that the humans are the baddies. Dr. Neville originally gets taken by the vampires and killed, thereby becoming the stuff of "legend," hence the title. In this movie version, however, he has an a-ha moment when he realises the cure is in the blood (duh) as he sees the condition of the captured she-zombie-vampire improve while the zombie-vampire horde is throwing themselves against the bulletproof glass to break in. Dr. Neville shoves the other two survivors into some escape hatch and launches himself at the zombie-vampire horde with a grenade in hand. Dr. Neville's cure contained in the vial of blood he extracted before dying becomes legend as the two survivors reach the colony in Vermont (in a magic SUV that can jump blown up bridges?). Bleh.

Visually, the movie was amazing because I kept wondering how the hell they managed to empty/block off New York streets. What was even more amazing was the deathly silence that pervaded most of the movie. New York is inherently a cacophony of white noise, so that whole juxtaposition was quite jarring. However, the visuals department got a C- in the creature department. Once I was done jumping out of my skin at their howling, and they howled way too much and too loudly, the zombie-vampires looked a lot like the mummy from "The Mummy." Will Smith himself did as good a job as he could with the story and script, but it won't be the stuff of legend like "Ali" (get it?).

So, what did you think? Like? Love? Hate? Whatever? Feel free to leave comments.

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