So, I'm home for the holidays, and that means I have HBO on demand, and thaaaat means... I'm watching I Am Legend. I won't be watching the entire thing, because... the last twenty minutes suck so hard they are practically physically unbearable to watch. However, and it has to be said, that if all the minutes that proceeded those last twenty weren't so freakishly, astoundingly good, and didn't have so much potential, both realized an not, that when the film eventually fails it does not just do so spectacularly, but on a personal level.
First off, there's a movie billboard in Times Square that has the batsignal with Supes' S emblazoned over it. How fucking badass is that shit?
Now, even as early as the chasing of the deer, you're confronted by the film's biggest technical snafu, which is: The CGI sucks. Now how, one must ask themselves, is this possible? How could that possibly be? An event, blockbuster film starring Will Smith should have all the money in the goddamn world to get made with. So who dropped the ball on the CGI? I've seen video game graphics more convincing than some of the stuff in this movie. 'Some of the stuff', of course, referring to the rats, dogs, lions, etc, and NOT referring to the Infected.
The Infected are a whole other issue.
You need two things to make a movie about something fucking beyond unbelievable believable: Mystery and care. In Jaws, in Signs, you are left almost wholly to the devices of your own mind. The glimpses you get of the Other, the danger, the antagonist, are incomplete and short, until the end. Jaws of course delivers the payoff, Signs less so. But I saw it in theaters, and I don't think there was a single person who didn't jump like hell when you saw that Mexican kid's birthday video.
Butterfly spotting, collecting corn. Eh. Not a fan.
Where was I? Ah. Coming up in the film, here, we'll get our first glimpse of the Infected, and... it's terrifying. The ring of huddled figures so pale they gleam in the dark, panting harshly as they sleep standing up over the waiting carcass of the dear. If the image of something nearly-human but not after all that build up isn't enough to freak you out, then Will Smith's expression is more than enough to supply your mind with the information missing from the image it's been presented.
He's terrified. This capable, armed man is terrified out of his goddamn skull. And because you empathize with him, you feel that terror. It's enough.
And then, not even before your first exposure to the monsters is over- they've ruined it. Look, here it comes, it's about to happen. Chasing the deer over the cars- awesome. This deer even looks more convincing than they as of yet have. Sam runs into the building and Neville loses his shit.
Okay, now, we're all scared for the dog already. We understand you're not supposed to go in the dark. And this room is very, very dark. We can't hear the doggy, we can't see the doggy, we know Neville's afraid.
Then we hear the noise. Deer noise, does not sound like a happy deer. So now we know there's a threat in the dark. His breath, the sound of frightened, uneven human breathing, that's a visceral thing for us to connect with. We know ,as an audience, what it feels like in our chests when our breath sounds like that. He says he's going to abandon Sam and then doesn't. I don't know about you, but this is when I fall in love with Neville.
So, now we're seeing blood on the stairs, we assume the worst has happened and Sam the German Shepherd is dead. This movie sucks. We see a muzzle. This movie officially sucks more than any movie has ever sucked OH WAIT IT'S THE DEER. YAY! FUCK THE DEER! But where's Sam?!
We notice in this shot of him walking with the gun raised that he still wears his wedding ring.
He turns the light of the gun around a wall aaaaaaand- Infected. Lots of infected huddled in a circle. Watching it now, I feel as though we've already seen too much. At the time, I didn't think so, so I'll let it slide. The best shot is when he pulls back and you just see the crowns of their bald bald heads faintly lit by the covered up glow from the gunsight. We find Sam, aaaaaaaaaaand BOOM! Infected attack!
The next shots are effective. Even though we're seeing them in broad daylight they're twitching so much that you can't really see them. We know they're human, or were, we know they're all shirtless, apparently, but they're still strange enough to freak us out. Then, the baiting happens. He crushes a vile of his own blood to trap one, successfully, and then we see Benvolio from Baz Lurhman's R+J all baldified and upset, and that, that is the moment it gets fucked up. Because he looks like a cartoon. He looks like the mummy from The Mummy- jaw opens too wide, eyes are overly watery and too big. When Neville gets the Infected woman on the table, she looks like a video game construct. There's nothing real about her. It's imminently unbelievable. And the crime of it is that Will Smith's performance is.... so good. It's so good.
Just fishin' in the dark, son.
Now, this is quite clever. Social de-evolution appears complete, typical human behavior is not entirely absent. He says this after explaining that an Infected male exposed himself to sunlight, disregarding the instinctive imperative of self preservation. Which is precisely what Neville just did in going into the darkened building to save a dog. So in fact that is not the Infecteds' de-evolution, it is their growing humanization as they become more than a swarm, but a tribe, a social community. Likewise, Neville is losing his.
Dude, this fuckin' scene with the bridge and the helicopters, I swear to God. A month. And entire MONTH outside my dorm. Thanks for making the morning commute to campus so much fun, Legend.
The damn butterfly thing again. Ugh.
Sam protect daddy. D:
Oh, shit, I'm gonna cry.
Okay, so here's the other thing with this movie. The second best performance in it is by the dog. That's probably where I'll stop watching. Right before that scene. Because I cannot even begin to deal with coping with it. Okay. So.
This movie sucks BECAUSE: It could have been so totally awesome. Instead of this becoming about him being hunted by the vampire community, though, it becomes about him and this chick and this kid. Who needs it.
Now, an interesting question. Did Neville set up the Fred-trap himself and forget about it, or did the Infected copy him and set it up to trap him? The more interesting prognosis would be that Neville did it himself, but it's only more interesting that way because the monsters are so uninteresting and unaddressed that if it was them, it's a total waste. If it was Neville, that's interesting psychology.
Okay, I thought I was going to make it longer, but this is the scene where Sam gets hurt, aaaaaaand I don't know if I can handle it. I will begin to weep uncontrollably. However, it might be worth it to see Smith's performance when he's driving alone the next day, and when he goes into the record store. But I don't know if I can watch what it takes to get there.
God, that dog has an amazing sense of urgency. Some actors could learn from her.
The Infected is holding the dogs. This shows control and socialization. Sam, get in the car. Clearly, in my mind, this trap was set by the Infected, but it's such a damn waste because then they just.... never address the fact. Oh my God, Samantha, no. Okay, so this scene is.... just about unwatchable. If you don't cry, during this scene, you have no soul. You just don't.
Baby don't worry about a thing.
Oh God. And you're just hoping so hard that the vaccine will work, it worked on the rat, it started to work on the girl, but no. No, it doesn't. And then you just have to watch his face as he kills not only the only thing he loves, but the last thing he had of his baby girl. Sam was the last member of his family. Now, for the first time in the film, Nevile is completely alone. And I am a sobbing mess.
The empty seat in the car after he's buried her. And now the pull-back shot. Alone. Just in case you hadn't picked up on it. And now, now, proof of the Academy's bullshit. The Tower Records scene.
Neville confronting the mannequin in the Tower Records, and finding himself unable to continue the charade he's so far built, the imaginary back and forth; watching him completely unravel as a human being, realizing that he is now the last, the last Human Thing (because canine or not, Samantha was a Human Thing, not an Infected one) left alive... Someone just give the man his damn Oscar so he can go home. Will Smith is an amazing natural talent, and always has been, but he is now, also, an amazing actor.
Oh, look, Benvolio's back. Not for long, though. Because the movie killers have arrived- send me a woman and a kid when you've lost your balls and don't know what else to do with a plot line. Sweet effing Jesus. At least the little snots in Jurassic Park were worth something. Well, the boy, anyway. These two are useless.
Oh God, flashback, and we have puppy!Sam. Because watching her die wasn't enough. Now we have to be reminded of how much we love her. God damn you, I Am legend. God damn you. Watching the bridge collapse makes me want to watch Cloverfield, though. But that makes me think of Let The Right One In and that makes me angry.
Ah, the Shrek scene. Talk about de-evolution. Neville absolutely cannot cope with other human beings, which shows that he is doomed to be excised from any society that could exist on the Earth. The moment of hallucination, seeing his wife and child in the kitchen, is further proof. He's been too damaged by watching everyone die or change. He's lived too long without other humans, and he can't fit, again. He doesn't even acknowledge the presence of the little boy. Shown finally in context, Neville seems less than human. I still like him more than the chick and the kid, though.
How can a human being be so broken and remain a human being? Well, maybe he can't. Sitting in the tub, with Sam's tennis ball sitting in discarded silhouette on the floor, you can't really blame him.
Ah, here we go. How many times would you watch Shrek if you were stranded alone and it was your kids favorite damn movie, your kid who you saw get blown up in a helicopter? Maybe a lot. And see, then he goes and tries to re-behavioralize himself. Do you like that word? I just made it up.
Unfortunately, this is where I kind of stop caring. Especially because stupid chick and little kid DIDN'T DO WHAT THEY TOLD HIM.
Okay, so, showing her the lab, again we see how he's de-humanized himself in the search for humanity's salvation. He looks like a mad scientist down there, kidnapping sick people and performing experiments on them that fail, resulting in their death. Now we, being on Neville's side, having experienced Neville's isolation, struggle, and loss, find this to be perfectly acceptable. Stupid chick, not so much.
Okay, who doesn't know who Bob Marley is? Fucking seriously. Reason number five hundred and seventy three that I hate this chick. At least this flick's got good tunes. Light up the darkness. The people trying to make this world worse are not taking a day off, how can I? His crushing sense of guilty and responsibility are even more painful when you look at what an optimist he is, at his core.
And now, the shit hits the fan because stupid chick couldn't follow fucking instructions, and didn't wait until the sun was up. This scene is an unfortunate waste of celluloid. God told you, did he? Did he tell you by spelling it out in butterflies? 588 million eaters, 12 million immune survivors. Not good odds. Worse odds now that she didn't wait til sunrise to go in the house. And Benvolio leadin' the charge.
Too bad the fuckers can climb. Things that aren't fun this holiday season: Being dragged and thrown around by the throat by a zombie vampire. Again, the CGI here fails. Every time an infected is the cornerstone of the shot, its movements are unnatural, its shmutke tattered bathrobe flutters in a way totally inconsistent with its movements.... It kills it. It's not close quarters enough, it's not scary at all, it's cartoonish... Why oh why could they not have taken a page from 28 Days Later and just makeupped up some skinny people! For the love of God, again with the Mummy mouth!
So at this point, you pretty much know the ending's gonna suck. Either they escape to the colony or they die.
Oh, and she has a butterfly tattoo on her neck. How special. The problem is, this in no way should inspire him to do this. Nor is there any reason for him to sacrifice himself. If they're not gonna stop, get in. It's a grenade, it's not a remote controlled explosive. Pull it, toss it, get in the hidey hole. His death is rendered meaningless by the fact that he didn't have to die. Samantha's death was more affecting. And then, yay, colony. Are you kidding? How are the less than 12 million survivors- say, maybe, at MOST, four million. If you're gonna be just ridiculously the hell optimistic, 4 million people- going to reverse the infection in 58 million others. With all the supplies and manpower they have? No.
Lassiter, how could you let this happen? You too, Heyman. What happened. Idea behind the book not good enough for you? So ultimately, the movie's a bunch of half-realized ideas and details that don't enhance the bigger picture so much as they do confuse it, and to be honest, Smith's performance deserved a better movie to be featured in.
Music by James Newton Howard? So he.... went on iTunes and downloaded some Bob Marley tunes. Atta boy, James. Least he picked some good ones.
...Huh, I watched the whole thing. Even the last twenty minutes. Well, good on me. I hope Robot Chicken's on.