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]