Saturday, December 31, 2011
film review: I Am Legend
I Am Legend
Directed by: Francis Lawrence
Starring: Will Smith, Alice Brega
For synopsis please see my book review.
Ok, this isn't going to be a pleasant review, but like the book review, I can't really delve into why it fails so abysmally because that'd destroy the book for potential readers. If I sum it up though, the film missed the point. Completely. Like many Hollywood adaptations of classic (or modern classic) books or films, they were too focused in how awesome Will Smith would look walking down an empty New York street, and not enough in the crux of this story, the inner turmoil that haunts the last man alive and his constant battle to hold onto his sanity, his humanity and his self.
The book isn't an epic tale of a man taking on the disease single-handedly. It's a personal account and it's god damn harrowing. The film focuses too much on making Robert a hero and a good guy and MISSES THE GOD DAMN POINT. Essentially, the film is the glossy Hollywood attempt to sell tickets, and really I don't blame anyone except the writer and the executives who green lit the film. That said, the pacing of the film is actually pretty decent. The first 15 minutes or so do a pretty good job of setting up Robert as the final man alive, and showing New York as a crumbling ghost town that's been overtaken by nature. However it misses that mechanical approach in the book, it's almost gimmicky at times, and Will Smith is far too sane and emotional to truly be a man who has spent three years alone in the world. It also eliminates the humanity of the "dark seekers" as they're known in the film. They're more like zombies now and there isn't the persistent terrorising of Robert that exists in the book. In the book his neighbour Ben and other vampires are the single thing most likely to tear Robert's sanity to shreds, because he can't help think of them as the people they once were and of the humanity they now so sorely lack.
It's those smaller details that really niggle at me as I watch this film. They might be small details but they're important to the complete picture, and if you mess with one, ultimately you mess with all of them. Worst of all though, is the end. I can forgive, to an extent, making Robert a scientist who was involved in the original deadly cure or giving him a dog for a pet, or ramping up the action as he hunts the dark seekers. If you're going to make a blockbuster, you have to please the majority, and I'm fairly sure most people who saw this film had no idea it was based on a book. What I can't forgive though, is the ending. They basically took a big steaming pile of crap and smeared it all over Matheson's memory. It appeals to the lowest common denominator and completely disrespects not only the original, but the story that they had (rather haphazardly) been building to that point. It destroyed the elegance and complexity and humanity of the story and treated the audience like idiots. The rest of the movie is hardly a must-see, but that final half hour is enough to warrant me to advise you all to stay far, far away from this "movie".
In the end I have to ask why the hell they thought this needed to be remade. The book could easily adapt to a moody and complex dystopian tale, but so far Hollywood has forced the story to bend their way in all three adaptations. Why do authors keep accepting the project if they can't keep true to the book? Surely they've read the original book and understand that their project has completely missed the mark. And if it's because Hollywood interferes, then don't make it. It's like the film adaptation of The Golden Compass, if people are pressuring you into removing the heart and soul of the story, then don't make it. Simple.
So, don't watch this. Read the book and if you must watch a film adaptation watch Night of the Living Dead because though it doesn't follow the plot in the slightest, the heart of the story is well and truly present in this classic zombie film, and it's the only film that Matheson himself thought captured his amazing novella successfully.