Will Smith plays Robert Neville, a military virologist who is immune to a man-made virus that has devastated the planet. With his dog Sam (who gives Max the Bionic Dog a run for his money), Neville lives day by day, sending out radio signals, hunting deer (deer survived a virus but New York City's indestructible rats didn't?), chatting to mannequins and fighting off 2012 vampires.
I Am Legend, directed by Francis Lawrence (Constantine and Janet Jackson's "Son of a Gun" video) is a remake of three other films and an adaptation of the 1954 novel by Richard Matheson. However, it's obvious the movie is a take off the Brit horror classics, 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later. While those two films delivered the savagery, I Am Legend is trapped in overloaded CGI effects and unsure if it wants to be a political thriller or horror movie cheese.
The first half of the film engages the audience with an empty, grassy New York City filled with tigers and lions (the animal kingdom suddenly making it to the island of Manhattan was a lil' odd). By the time we reach the 2012 vampires it's as if we are trapped in an Xbox 360 demon killer game rather than a potentially good end-of-days film.
The beauty of 28 Days/Weeks Later was the raw imagery with a low budget and using little special effects, just some extras and good make-up artists. Sometimes when a movie has too much money, it's loses its soul. The tidal wave of CGI effects is a complete act of laziness and I Am Legend gets about as visually lazy as the last season of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
Whatever the case, Smith manages to sustain in this make you jump, make you laugh and make you scream action flick. An incredibly athletic Smith, delivering half-naked on a treadmill, emotes with sensitivity and passion. This is no Oscar winning role, but it proves Smith has grown as an actor from his days in Independence Day to where he is no longer just relying on great action for a good movie.
The last quarter of the movie is when the plot manages to crumble with religious monologues of "There is no God!" This rant obviously foreshadows good 'ole Willy will eat those words with a predictable and sappy finale.
This latest Hollywood concoction is a better than most of the American genre end-of-the-world flicks. Still, I Am Legend is far from legendary.
I Am Legend opens in theaters today.