I Am Legend

Or, The Omega Man Part II. That 1971 Charleton Heston flick was also based on the novel I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson, and though I’ve never seen The Omega Man, I think it’s safe to say that this version is much better. It’s even safer to say that it’s better than the first film version, 1964’s The Last Man on Earth, with Vincent Price.
You can’t go wrong with Will Smith, anyway. He reminds me in a way of Joaquin Phoenix, in that they both seem so real and down-to-earth even on the screen, and when it’s over, you kind of wish you could sit down with them over drinks and discuss the movie. He even makes his acting a family affair — just like his son Jaden played his son in The Pursuit of Happyness, his daughter Willow now plays his daughter here.
She’s Marley, named after Bob Marley, whose music is a large part of the soundtrack. Will is Robert Neville, former military scientist, now the last man on earth, or at least the last man on earth who isn’t constantly screaming and snapping and foaming at the mouth. In 2009, a scientist named Dr. Krippin (the actress playing this part is uncredited, but you’ll recognize her, and I won’t spoil the surprise) introduced a genetically engineered virus that was supposedly a miraculous cure for cancer. And maybe it was a miraculous cure for cancer, but it was also deadly in its own right, kind of like rabies, and Robert was one of the people hunting for a cure.
With a 90% kill rate, 9% of the survivors were turned into zombie/vampire creatures, who can sniff out blood miles away and sizzle when exposed to sunlight. The remaining 1%, naturally immune to the virus, are unfortunately not immune to the ravenous attacks of these night-seekers, as they’re called, and suddenly being afraid of the dark is just a rational thing to be.
Three years later, Will is apparently the only (nonrabid) man in all of New York City, and his German shepherd, Sam, is the only noninfected dog. With Sam as his only friend and companion, he searches for other survivors, harvests corn in the middle of Brooklyn, has conversations with shop window dummies, and hunts deer with a rifle and scope from a Mustang Shelby GT500. Lions hunt them, too, and do better than Robert does. He’s downright crazed in some scenes, of course — after three years (1001 days is mentioned at one point), I’d be sounding crazed, too, and I don’t even like people all that much.

Good news: No more leash laws. Bad news: Things trying to eat you and your dog.

In his basement, he’s set up his own lab, using rats and the occasional trapped human subject to test various anti-viral drugs, recording his findings in obsessive detail, six times over. They’re pretty much all negative findings, but he records them just the same, using this work and Sam’s company to keep his tenuous hold on his sanity. Before they were separated, he promised his wife and daughter that he would stop this, and even though he knows it’s too late for that, some part of him still fights to keep that promise.
There’s a great showdown with the creatures at one point, and then the story takes a bit of a turn, which worried me a little, but turned out to be a pretty good turn, well-handled, and I won’t give that away either. But those creatures are seriously spooky. They’re basically your standard zombies, computer-generated in a lot of places and reminiscient of the undead troops from The Mummy and The Mummy Returns, but the scenes with them are well-done and many times downright claustrophobic. Like The Mist, they’re spookiest when you only hear them, just eerie sounds somewhere in the dark that you can’t quite track down.
So we’ll go with four idols. It’s still a zombie movie, but like 28 Days Later it isn’t just a zombie movie. I wish I’d had the chance to read the book before seeing this, but I suspect it stuck pretty closely to the original plot. It isn’t an upbeat movie, obviously, so be prepared to sniffle a little, which I admit I did at one point, and I’m not given to crying at movies. The point is, even if you’re not usually a fan of the post-apocalyptic zombie kind of thing, give this one a try. I’m pretty sure you really can’t go wrong with Will Smith…