Friday, 7 March 2008

I Am Legend

'I am a twat for forking out four-and-a-half quid to see this fucking movie', more like.

This movie is shite.


First, let me say I went into it with a reasonably open mind. I am a huge fan of the book this is 'based' on, it's one of my favourites; I knew the movie had changed many, many things, so went into it thinking I would just look on it as a totally separate entity.

So I did, and it's still a load of shite. Warning – there are spoilers in this.

Even more annoyingly, the changes that were made contributed to its shiteness.

Okay, the book features one man, the last man on earth, who is surrounded by what are basically vampires. This was caused by a virus, and every night, his fortified home is plagued by his neighbours wanting a slice of Robert Neville pie. They call out to him, they play on his loneliness, they try to lure him out with sex. He's been alone for three years, and this drives him crazy night after night. The book was written in the 1950s, so no VCR or DVD for him; a record player is the best distraction he's got. That, killing vampires all day, and trying to find out why he is immune to the virus.

The movie still has a virus (though it bears more than a passing resemblance to 28 Days Later in its effects), and it still has creatures that want to feed on you. But they have no human qualities, which removes one of the most interesting dynamics out of the story. They're monsters, and poorly computer-generated ones at that. Oh, but one of them is cleverer than the rest, and tries to catch Neville in the movie. It makes for a reasonably interesting sequence, in which one of the strangest moves of the movie occurs; the dog dies.

In the book, he encounters the dog and spends a long time trying to win its trust. He never does, fully, and the dog disappears each night to sleep in its own hiding place. One day, the dog never returns. Neville is understandably heartbroken; this is the closest to a relationship he's come in the time since everyone died.

The movie sees the dog with Will Smith from the start, and he's had the dog since it's a pup. Yes, he's upset, but the work put into the relationship to earn the dog's trust is a wonderful part of the story.

I guess the dog relationship is not that important, but in the book it illustrated quite perfectly his loneliness. In the movie, he had had company since day one. Not so bad.

What else? Unforgivably, this movie – one of the most expensive ever made – is boring. It really is dull. In the hands of a better writer, this could have been great; with a better, more articulate actor in the lead role, it could have been really special. It's not. Smith does fine with what is a fucking awful script, but he's very limited as an actor in an action role. We know he can act – he was Ali, he had Happyness… but he was in Bad Boys and Bad Boys II, Wikky wikky Wild Wild West… and in the action roles, he's limited to put it politely. Some actors can do it, some can't – I'm thinking Matt Damon, Chow Yun Fat – but also, this is a movie with one man in it for almost its entirety. Not only do they have to carry the movie, they are the movie; so if the script is poor and the lead is hamstrung by that, how good can the movie be?

There are big fucking holes in it too. In the book, everyone except Neville is dead of one sort or other. In the movie, we learn that there is a one per cent survival rate – one per cent immunity. Two other people come and find Neville; one is a young boy, maybe eight years old. So if this has been kicking around for three years, how the fuck did a five-year-old kid survive something that's turned billions of people into flesh-eating monsters? Never explained.

With the island cut off – it's set in Noo Yoik – how did these folks reach it? Never explained.

My biggest gripe though, is the ending. The end of the book is… it's unique. It's where the name comes from. SPOILERS FOR THE BOOK AND MOVIE FOLLOW!

In the book, Neville has been killing vampires wherever he finds them, until one night, they overrun his house and capture him. Captured, he speaks with a sympathetic vamp (there's a good reason they get on – read the book!) and she slips him the means to kill himself, as the vampires plan a public execution of him.

Why? Well, he figures it out as he look out of his cell and sees thousands upon thousands of vampire-types waiting to see him come out and die. He's become something else; he's become the boogeyman, the name they say to their children-vampire things when they won't behave, Robert Nevill will come and take you in the night. Their roles have been reversed, he is the anomaly in this new world – and he paraphrases, "I am legend."

In the movie, cornered in his house, certain to die, Will Smith discovers he has cured the virus and can reverse everyone's sickness, and puts the girl and child into a safe in the wall where they can wait safely until morning and make their escape… with a vial of blood containing the cure. Then he chucks himself into the band of monsters with a hand grenade, killing himself and blowing the shit out of them.

Instead of the poignant "I am legend" ending, we have the two survivors in a car, reaching Vermont where they heard there was a colony of immune. They reach a walled area, the door opens, they're among humans again; and the voiceover says "blah blah blah, this is his legend."

I hated it. I tried and tried, but they lost me by boring the shit out of me, then really lost me with a character I couldn't care for, then really really lost me when the dog, one of the best canines I can remember seeing in a film, dies.

It's shite when your action sequences can only have one outcome; he's the last man alive, so he's got to survive or the film will only be 50 minutes long. Takes some of the suspense away, I can tell you.

Okay, maybe my mind was partially closed, but even so, I Am Legend is fucking shit.


Miss Ann Thrope said...

I have not read the book. Sometimes reading the book before seeing a movie based on it, ruins it.

I did like it but I have a hard an fast rule for liking a movie...if it keeps me from thinking about me, if I am willing to put down my crocheting to watch it, if it at any point brings a tear or a gasp...then it's a good movie.

A good movie is entertainment ergo, if I am entertained then it was good.

I'm easy like that.

badgerdaddy said...

I know what you're saying - I'm not a snob about movies. I own Josie and the Pussycats, for example.

But this... I couldn't see where all the money went on-screen. At least with big-money flops like Legend (the Ridley Scott-Tom Cruise one), you can see every penny on the screen. This? No idea what they spent it on, apart from the bit with the bridge.

I suppose this movie kept me from thinking about me, because I was thinking how damn bored I was.

The friend I went with was unimpressed too, and he didn't even know it was a book first!

lotus07 said...

There is supposed to be an alternate ending on the DVD release, but the original was so crappy, I don't think anything could improve on why bother

B.E. Earl said...

When I saw that the Fresh Prince was going to be starring in this one, it went right into my "only watch if I'm stuck at home with a 103 degree fever" file.

Miss Ann Thrope said...

I'm off to see 10,000 BC tomorrow. Here's to hoping!

Elise said...

I had a feeling it would be bad. It seems like the kind of film thats good in theory but is a complete let down. I think I'll wait for it to be aired on TV in a few years. xx

badgerdaddy said...

Yeah, Elise. Wait for it to come on TV, then go out that night.

Bla said...

The movie is watchable - nothin' less, nothin' more.

carymc said...

All Will Smith movies, save one or two exceptions, are shite.

Independence Day = shite

Bad Boys = shite

Wild Wild West = a hot heaping pile of shite

Enemy Of The State - watchable shite.. barely

Men in Black = ok.
MIB2 = shite.

The Legend In Bagger's Pants = SHITE

Ali = probably ok, did not see it.

Happyness = not total shite

Everything else = shite.

He's the king of shite. And I like the guy. But he puts out more shite than a flock of geese.

sourpuss said...

I never read the book so I thought the movie was alright. Like Miss Ann, I found it escapist entertainment for a couple hours.

The one thing I thought was contradictory was when Neville made the recording & stated the devolved creatures had lost all human behaviour.

I didn't think that was the case. It appeared to me that the one darkseeker trapped Neville in a very similar way (to the way Neville trapped one of the female darkseekers)... and it appeared to be for revenge. It also appeared to me that they were hunting him down to not only kill him but retrieve that female. I may have misinterpreted this but my point is: if the darkseekers had devolved to the point of animalistic instinct, I don't think it would have gone down the way it did.

badgerdaddy said...

Good point Sourpuss, and a fair one. It's even shitter than I thought!

Liquid said...

Diggin' your blog!

badgerdaddy said...

Thank you very much Liquid. I just popped in to your blog too, which seems positively lovely. The pic of you with a camera to your eye is great.