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Movie: I Aren’t Legend

SPOILER: WARNING GALORE! For three quarters of I AM LEGEND I was delighted… Ok, not ‘delighted’ so much as compelled, scared stupid, and even bought to tears. However, the same event which turned me into a blubbering mess also marked the demise of all that I’d hoped would eventuate from this, the third adaptation of Richard Matheson’s I AM LEGEND.

Don’t misunderstand my intention here, I didn’t dislike I AM LEGEND. As far as your modern take on a mishmash of horror vehicles go, it is one of the better: not quite 28 DAYS LATER, but not BLOODREIGHN either. Despite some gaping plot holes and inexplicable happenings I AM LEGEND presents itself as brooding, emotionally transporting, thriller which shouldn’t be dismissed by anyone wary of it’s horror roots.

However, having said that, I found myself immensely frustrated after walking out of the cinema. While I enjoyed the experience that the film presented, I couldn’t help but feel like I’d been conned, taken for a ride, dare I say: hoodwinked!

In an interview prior to the film’s release writer, Akiva Goldsman, made the following statement:

…obviously Richard wrote the novel, then there were two movies. There’s a Vincent Price movie called The Last Man on Earth, and then there’s Omega Man. Then Mark Protosevich adapted I Am Legend based on both the novel and the Omega Man screenplay. So right from the birth of this incarnation it was always a hybrid. And as we move forward, we stole amply from both objects in order to try and create whatever this version of the story was.

It’s hard to ignore what Goldsman is saying there. And even if you weren’t aware of that quote, you only need to have seen what passes for an ‘adaptation’ before to know that any chance of the film being a direct telling of the novel would be extremely thin. However, the foundation of my frustration comes not from the fact that the movie deviates from the story written by Matheson, but that it does so, so completely as to render the name of the film absolutely irrelevant — discounting the pathetic attempt at the end of the movie to jam the term ‘Legend’ in there, just to make it all ok.

The phrase ‘I am legend’ is derived from the book’s ending. Robert Neville, the story’s protagonist, discovers that not all of the people infected by the virus have turned into mindless vampire/zombies (lets go with Zompires for now). Some, while still suffering from many of the diseases symptoms, have managed to form a burgeoning society. This society has been living in fear of Neville, who, unaware that they were any different than the other Zompire creatures, has been killing them during the day and hiding from them at night. To them Neville has become a Legend, much like Dracula or K-fed.

This latest adaptation discards this aspect of the story, and in doing so, discards any claim to the title ‘I AM LEGEND’ and simply becomes ‘WILL SMITH SAVES THE WORLD IV’

There are many points where the events of the novel appear to be playing out, only to eventually deviate and thumb their nose at the confused onlookers. And while it would be easy to get the distinct impression that anyone familiar with the Matheson story is being ‘Punk’d’, I think that there’s a more disappointing reason behind many of these digressions.

A few weeks ago there was talk of last minute reshoots and changes being made to the ending of the film. At the time I speculated/hoped that these changes were to bring the movie closer to the novel, sadly, I now believe the opposite to be true.

For the novel’s real ‘I AM LEGEND’ ending to occur at least some of the Zompires need to be intelligent enough to have found a way to stave off the disease and form a functioning society. We see no intelligent behaviour exhibited by the Zompires in I AM LEGEND… Except for when Neville (Smith) falls into a booby trap similar to the ones he uses to trap the Zompires. Originally I surmised that Neville had set the trap himself and had simply forgotten about it.However after pondering on it, I suspect that the scene is a remnant from a dropped storyline: one which included a certain level of intelligence on the Zompires part.

During another sequence when Neville catches a female Zompire (to use in his attempts to develop a cure) a second (male) Zompire exposes itself so sunlight, an action that Neville later notes to be a sign that the creatures have lost the ability to reason… However, my impression was that male creature was actually coming to the defence of the female. That impression was strengthened later in the film when the Zompires swarm on Neville’s lab. During this scene Neville is trapped in the same bulletproof glass cell in which he keeps the now cured female creature. Without any explanation this sequence shows the throng of Zompires move away from the cell after a gesture from a single creature, who then proceeds to relentlessly pound the glass, alone.

Even when watching the movie, I had the distinct sense that this was the same creature who had earlier exposed itself to sunlight. I don’t know why I thought that — I mean, all Zompires look alike to me — but others who’ve seen the movie had the same thought.

While none of this is conclusive and may exist, powered only by my desire to see an accurate telling of the I AM LEGEND novel, it does lead me to hope that one day we’ll see a director’s cut of this movie. As it is now, I AM LEGEND is a pretty cool film, it just isn’t I AM LEGEND. [source]

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10 Comments

    Well, it was definitely the same zombie guy that both looked into the sunlight and was pounding on the glass at the end.

    I’m pretty sure he was the leader of the zompires, and he *did* stick out from the rest of them as far as appearance goes.

    He looked through the sunlight to see how Neville made his trap, and he also could have had some specific interest in the girl Neville captured.

    I guess in the end he personally wanted to get back at Neville, considering he escaped from the trap the zompires made in the night.

  • That’s kinda my point – you have to guess… which is why I think that those elements are residue of a story-line which would have seen the movie end differently, should they have been kept intact.

  • Gotta say Matt is closer to the answer here.
    I thought it was pretty clear,(well to me) that the zompire guy was an “alpha” male of the group, with a very distinct group.
    and when Will says they have no intelligence I felt they were making the point that he was wrong, as it was “VERY” obvious that alpha zompire wanted his missus back by the repeat encounters between “Aplha” and Will. Did you miss that the “Alpha” was Trying to get at Will when he took the girly zompire in the daylight, then sets a trap based on Wills, then sets his doggies (most brain dead zombies don’t have pets) then lead an attack on Wills house which he clearly orders in reinforcements, then attacks the glass cell to get to zompire gf. Heck as soon as she was snared and I saw him poke his face out into the sun I got theat it was a bf/gf Zompire combo. Plus you must remember that Will’s character was slightly insane, that’s how he got caught in the trap remember. Couldn’t be a trap he forgot, it was the dummy from the dvd store. Geez? were you asleep thru out the entire movie. The only thing I see is that you were right on the “Legend” as in he was a human monstor and the one who seemed to lack intelligence to observe the zompires intelligence! no offence quite similar to what you did in this movie and it’s review Elroy! Spooky coincidence? An average flick really, not crap but not blockbuster.

  • plz excuse the typo’s it’s 4am and I need sleep
    no I’m not a zompire!!! =P

  • Personal insults aside, I think you missed the point of the post – and it wasn’t intended to be a ‘review’ at all, because there wouldn’t be much point in posting a review riddled with spoilers.

    What I was getting at was that it appeared to me that there were remnants of a dropped story line in the move – a story which quite possibly lead to an ending closer to the one in the novel (well, short story, lets be honest). I don’t reject any of the elements that you’ve mention – I was simply, probably quite desperately, attempting to find clues within the movie which suggested what was originally intended for the movie prior to the changes that were made in the weeks before it’s release.

    I guess I just have a hard time accepting that it’s intended for us (the viewer) to experience this movie from Smith’s character’s perspective and yet have that character (Time’s man of the year, saviour of the human race) miss the fact that the creatures are in fact intelligent.

    The question that keeps coming back to me is, if we’re accepting the fact that Neville (Smith) believes that the creatures lack any intelligence, then who does HE think set the trap?

  • Sorry the sarcasm wasn’t meant to be a personal insult, at 4am my humour is probally a bit off.

    I get what you are saying about the storyline, guess the problem’s with books to movies is, to rip off alladins genies quote “Near cosmic sized stories, itty bitty living space!” ; )
    Look at the harry potter films, Apart from the main story they are nothing like the books as too fit in the entire story or as close as possible, would probally require each one to be 6-8 hours. e.g Dobby the house zompire…. er elf not being in the sequels while appearing in a later book.
    Book to movie ending changes occur all the time and if you haven’t already maybe you could start a thread on this? Rambo died in the first blood book, The alien wasn’t on the escape craft with ripley…
    etc etc, why, when it’s not broke do they try to fix it. (especially remakes) In the case of First Blood it would of had a greater impact to a tragic story if they had killed him I believe and spared us the crappy sequels that were mindless action. (which for mindless action were good)

  • P.S about the trap
    Quote Elroy: “The question that keeps coming back to me is, if we’re accepting the fact that Neville (Smith) believes that the creatures lack any intelligence, then who does HE think set the trap?”

    Quote Doomed: “Plus you must remember that Will’s character was slightly insane, that’s how he got caught in the trap remember. Couldn’t be a trap he forgot, it was the dummy from the dvd store.”

    It, if I recall didn’t have will(neville)
    thinking/commenting about who set the trap, I think after the dogs were set on him he realised that answer and it didn’t need to be said.
    I think he says “What are you doing out here fred! what the hell? no no” to the manequin that decided to walk across town,”Fred if you’re real? you better tell me right now!”
    This was to a mannequin, to think it could possibly be real and got across town showed he was nuts and not thinking clearly, even his reaction to his, guests shows this, not “hi how are you omg people finally” but “Gaaaaargh! I was saving that bacon”

    I didn’t mean to be insulting but I think you should rewatch the film.

  • Absolutely valid points Doomed – I agree that, for the most part, it is unrealistic to expect that an adaptation from a novel will translate exactly to a medium like film… However, in this particular case I think that fans of the original story-line have a reason to want more from this version than they got.

    As I said in the original post, there are many elements that play out as though they are heading down the path of the original story, only to then take a 90 degree turn at the last minute. Which, would have been fine had they not named the movie “I AM LEGEND” and yet subsequently removed the meaning of the title.

    To use the example you gave: First Blood – so titled because the main character is reacting to his treatment by the authorities (they draw ‘first blood’ and he reacts) – while the end of the movie may not gel with the end of the novel (I was actually unaware of the differences, thanks for that) at very least the meaning behind the title of the book remains intact.

    To put it another way, say I take the novel ‘Field of dreams’ (if there actually was one) and adapt it to film… but instead of making it about baseball… I make it about fishing, and instead of a field, I make it about a man made lake… and yet, I decide to keep the title ‘Field of dreams’. You’d completely forgive a fan of the book for being more than a little incensed at what Id done.

    Now, if I’d called the movie ‘Lake of dreams’ instead, then fans of the novel could still hold some hope that an attempt at a faithful adaptation may happen.

  • Again Doomed, I’m not disagreeing with you about the way the story plays out in the movie — or at least, how we are suppose to interpret them — I’m just pointing out that there are things in the movie that appear to be remnants of a different version of the film.

    Please understand, that I’m looking at it from the perspective of knowing that the film was changed in the weeks just before its release. And just because a scene is used in the movie doesn’t mean that that’s the way the scene was originally intended to be used.

    In an editing room scenes become building blocks, and depending on how you construct the movie you can tell different stories different ways – some of the scenes in I AM LEGEND, **in my opinion** appear to be blocks designed to tell a different story… One, as I’ve said, that appears (to me) to have been closer to the story told in the novel.

    It’s entirely possible that scenes used at end of the movie were re-shot and that other scenes were dropped or edited in such a way to match the new ending better.

    As I’ve said before I was, probably quite desperately, attempting to find clues within the movie which suggested what was originally intended for the movie prior to the changes.

  • I get what you mean, I’m a huge spider man fan and I was a bit miffed as too how they always change those stories in a similar fashion on film.

    E.g Web Shooters became Biological and part of him, took out the factor of the comic books that spidey being able to run out of fluid could put him in some bad prediciments.

    I don’t know why they do it, as you pointed out there, the under lying story is there so why not just stick to it, we viewers realise they can’t fit the whole book into a film usually but they can at least stick to the story. (and if the film is good it will draw the popular democratic as well as the fans e.g LOTR without having to “IMPROVE THE MASS APPEAL” of the story)