Back in the day, cozy-ing up to the box office window and requesting two adult tickets for "I Am Leland, please" would have caused Mrs. Film Geek to snort. No more, it seems. Not even a side-glance my way.
I gotta get some new stuff.
But, there are few things better than sneaking away for a matinee with my wife on a Friday afternoon.
Especially if the matinee flick stars Will Smith.
Adapted from the novel by Richard Matheson, I Am Legend stars Smith as Army officer and scientist Robert Neville. Neville has the task of leading an effort to stop a strain of virus that is infecting humans, mutating them into zombie-like creatures that survive on instinct alone. Isolated and lonely, Neville finds comfort in routine and his intense focus on finding a cure for the disease, even while it's obvious to the audience that his expectation isn't very realistic.
I Am Legend is the third film version of Matheson's novel. The Last Man On Earth (1964) starred Vincent Price, who fought humans-turned-vampires by an infectious disease. The Omega Man (1971) had Charlton Heston in the lead. His Robert Neville hunted down members of The Family, humans mutated by biological warfare and bent on ending scientific progress, which they consider humanity's downfall. The current Legend seems to successfully combine important elements of each into it's plot, while modernizing the theme as a fairly realistic cautionary tale regarding the clash of science and humanity.
I was mesmerized by the film in it's first hour, which is a real testament to the personality and acting ability of Will Smith. Almost completely alone on the screen during that time, Smith carries the movie with his presence. I got to know his Neville intimately during that time, and develop a real investment in his survival. The second half of the movie was a bit more disappointing: the film moved too quickly, and glossed over what I thought were important aspects of the story.
In the end, though, the central theme of the effect of science on humanity is clear. Humanity's saving grace comes from within each of us; determination and sacrifice trump microscopes and test tubes.