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: Movie Review: I Am Legend - part 1
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Feb 8th 2008
Director Francis Lawrence is responsible for one of the stupidest ideas in comic-to-movie adaptations: to turn John Constantine from Hellblazer into a guy from Los Angeles, who wears black clothing and has brown hair, and to give him all sorts of beyond-ridiculous super-gadgets. And Lawrence was also responsible for making a decent movie out of that. "Constantine" was very flawed, but enjoyable, thanks to the cast (yes, including the underrated Keanu Reeves) and Lawrence's excellent direction. Which led me to think that maybe Lawrence is a talented director who made a very serious mistake.
Apparently, though, it seems he's building a trademark: to make a stupid decision in every one of his movies, and then direct the shit out of it. It's what happens in this "I Am Legend". He made two serious mistakes here: the first is the CGI vampires. The second was letting Akiva Goldsman anywhere near the script. Aside from that, the movie is excellent.
The story's already well-known, but hey, fuck it: military scientist Robert Neville (i.e. good with chemicals AND with guns) is seemingly the last man on the planet, after a virus bred from a presumed "cure for cancer" spread throughout the world and turned the population into a kind of vampire. Living with his pet dog, he has a lot of food in stock, but hunts for some deer meat whenever possible. And at night, he hides in his house, while the vampires roam the streets.
The movie starts very, very well, and goes on brilliantly until the middle. I can bet this first half was completely written by Mark Protosevich (responsible for the efficient Poseidon and The Cell, which I have yet to see): he builds the tension slowly and eases us in into Neville's life. We learn he talks to his dog and pretend mannequins are real people so he won't feel so lonely. We learn how amazingly careful he is not to be discovered by the vampires. Without many words, the script shows us every detail of the man's life.
Lawrence also shines: giving us information via old newspapers and etc. instead of using expositive dialogue, he creates nice visuals and conducts every scene very well. The warehouse sequence is fantastically filmed, with only two angles: Neville's face and the aim of his flashlight. Using the sound effects efficiently, this is easily the most tense sequence in the movie. Lawrence also creates a beautiful scene at the end, using a successfully dramatic slow-motion (although the theological meaning of it is annoying, which will be discussed later. No spoilers.)
And then the first mistake comes: the CGI vampires. Obviously this was done so the vampires could move faster and be more bizarre, but really, an actor in makeover would have kicked some CGI ass. It's painfully obvious we're looking at virtual creatures, which takes away a good deal of the tension. The good direction and the excellent performance by Will Smith (which will be discussed later) help, but the CGI is really bad quality. Gollum is ten times more real than any of those creatures. Fuck, even the DEERS look artificial. Terrible job on the special effects department. And even if it wasn't: actor in makeover would be much better.
But despite that, the movie goes on very well, featuring a very touching scene in which Neville begs for a mannequin to talk to him. It might sound funny, but believe me, it's anything but.
Then Akiva Goldsman steps in.
How do I know part of the script here was written by him? His other movies, like Batman and Robin, Batman Forever, Cinderella Man, Da Vinci Code, I Robot and etc. have a lot of his ridiculous style here. First, the girl Anna and her son, Ethan. The way they come into the movie is way too forced and unlikely... and the movie establishes very well the kind of person Neville is, so what he's doing when Anna appears is something we know he'd never do no matter what.
(continued in Part 2)
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