I am Legend, starring Will Smith, is a zombie movie with a difference – which, according to our writer Monta Alaine, makes it all the more worth seeing. You can stream it on Netflix right now – though you’ll need more to prepare for a sequel…
When you think of zombies and zombie movies, you usually think of blood and guts á la George A. Romero’s classic “Night of the Living Dead” or action like in “World War Z”.
Based on Richard Matheson’s book, director Francis Lawrence created “I am Legend” to represent a genre that is different in many ways: Quieter, almost spiritual you could say.“I am Legend” is not the first film adaptation of the material: with “The Last Man on Earth” there was already a variant with Vincent Price in 1964, “The Omega Man” and “I am Omega” would follow later. “I am Legend” is currently streaming in its theatrical version on Netflix.
This is what I am Legend is about:
The year is 2012: three years earlier, a mutated virus swept the planet, killing billions of people. The virologist Lt. Colonel Robert Neville (Will Smith) appears to be the last survivor and his dog holding the fort in New York. They roam overgrown streets, past abandoned cars, looking for food.
But before sundown they must be home and barricade themselves: for at night the infected, the darkseekers, dare to come out of the shadows. To continue his research for a cure, Neville lures an infected woman into a trap. With dire consequences: the next day he finds himself in such a trap…
Empty Manhattan – dense atmosphere
Before coming to the cinema, Francis Lawrence made music videos for everything big and big. He is responsible for clips such as Aerosmith’s “Jaded” with Mila Kunis, Britney Spears’ “I’m a Slave 4U”, Justin Timberlake’s “Cry me a River” and Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance”.
From miniature works of art to big things, with the opening scenes of “I am Legend,” he and his location manager Paul Kramer have created something downright iconic. The deserted streets of Manhattan were not created on the computeras you might think, but were all shot in closed off sections of the street – and not anywhere on and around prominent locations like 5th Avenue or part of the street in front of the Flat Iron Building.
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These scenes alone make “I Am Legend” totally worth it: the overgrown urban jungle, overgrown with greenery, recaptured by animals. One is only too happy to overlook one or the other gap in the logic.
Even though this text is a streaming tip, I still want to make a short insert here to recommend the Blu-ray.
›› “I am Legend” Blu-ray at Amazon*
This provides a worth seeing making-of, which 50 minutes of sensational behind-the-scenes footage contains, revealing more about the shoot. You will mainly find documentation about the science behind “I Am Legend” and the alternate version of the film, which contains a completely different ending in addition to two small extra scenes. Of course we don’t want to reveal this and the end of the cinema version on Netflix here, but the hint. There will be a sequel: “I Am Legend 2” will not be based on the finale of the theatrical version, but on the alternate ending. More about this in the follow-up article:
“I Am Legend 2” Will Be Like “The Last Of Us”: So Will Smith Should Return Despite The First Movie’s Ending
What also characterizes ‘I Am Legend’ is the tranquility. For large parts of the film, we only follow Marcel as he struggles through it alone with his dog. He usually does so without saying a word, with a seriousness and discipline that he owes only to his military background. In the book, Marcel is different: he drinks a lot so as not to go crazy, is angry and neglected.
›› Richard Matheson’s “I am Legend” at Amazon*
Unlike zombies and zombie-like creatures, the Darkseekers are also mindless hunters. They seem organized and intelligent to some extent – even catching Neville by mimicking his own trap (this aspect was amplified in the alternate version, by the way). And when Neville meets the infected, tension permeates the film’s silence, and suddenly everything seems to turn around.
No legend without pathos
After the loss of his dog, Neville is on the verge of suicide. This is how he meets Anna (Alice Braga), who just manages to save him. With Anna, there’s an even deeper spiritual component to the film: she says it was God’s plan for her to meet him and that they had to go to a camp of survivors in Vermont. In the final confrontation with the infected, Marcel sees the symbolism and, if you will, the plan.
That might be a bit much for one or the other – a lot of pathos, a lot of faith, a lot of fate. But legends, or men who become legends, can’t do without either.
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