Saturday, February 18, 2012

I Am Legend

  I've seen I Am Legend a few times. Each time hoping I'd like it more than the previous time. However the nhilistic ending, that made little to no sense when put in perspective with the rest of the story, just... made me hate it so much.  Fortunately, I've now had a chance to see the alternate cut, with a different ending.

  Theres alot to look at in this movie. A post apocalyptic New York City grabs your attention right away.  Its visually intriguing in a big way. Its scope is unrivaled. Zoo animals have broken free and roam the streets, prowling around like its their native territory.  In an opening sequence, Dr.Robert Neville (Will Smith) goes hunting for deer. In a sports car. With an assault rifle.  On the untamed streets of NYC. Its strange to see this. But at the same time its fascinating in its matter-of-fact nature.  Its the odd aspects of the day-to-day post apocalyptic life that appeal to me in I Am Legend.

  I actually could care less about the vampires, er... 'Hemocytes' as this 'scientifically correct' tale will tell you, are whats left over of a miracle cancer cure that had unexpected side effects. Obviously.  But its still too self-conscious to call them vampires or zombies. They do seem like a vicious hybrid of both though.  They're also clearly computer generated. And while its definately effective and properly creepy, there is still a disconnect. I know I'm looking at CGI. 

  And rather than using CG to augment a actual person on set standing there in full makeup, from what I can tell these creatures are 100% computer generated.  Its interesting to look at, but... I still have issues with that aspect.  This is completely overshadowed by Will Smith's amazing performance here. Say what you will about the movie, but his acting here was impeccable.  There are strong, powerful scenes, that really call for some deeply convincing emotion, and Smith pulls it off in spades.  Its hard to not feel moved in these scenes.

  Also, the action scenes are incredibly intense. They're staged well, executed well, and are chock full of clever camera tricks and bursting with nearly palpable suspense.  I can't praise their technical execution enough. They really are thrilling to watch.  As a whole the movie is a very unique one, and its one definately worth seeing. The rest of this review however will be dedicated to reviewing the alternate ending. 

 But before I delve into that, I will say this for any newcomers, don't bother with the theatrical cut. The alternate or "unrated" cut is the only version I can truly recommend. The movie is flawed enough without the odd and unfit ending of the theatrical cut, which was my biggest complaint about the movie. This cut fixes all that.

  Throughout the movie it was consistently hinted that the hemocytes were actually capable of intelligent thought and emotion. But that subplot was abruptly dropped in the final act of the theatrical cut. However not only does this cut (spoilers?) fix the needlessly nhilistic original ending and leaves on a much different tone. The well developed hemocyte subplot is now fully realized and comes to a satisfying close, however this does sacrifice the plot-line of Neville's cure. But despite that, this ending is my preferred resolution to the movie. It feels much better and well thought out. And is preferably optimistic.

  Some may say the upbeat ending diminishes the tone and impact of the movie, but I beg to differ.  An ending which needlessly propels the core protagonist into martyrdom and manages to leave you cold and unsatisfied is the ending which does the real diminishing. 

  Only the alternate cut is worth my time now.  Its way more cohesive and nicely optimistic.
And in such a bleak situation would a little optimism really hurt?


  1. I actually just re-watched this myself a couple of days ago, and on the blu-ray the alternate ending is the default viewing option.

    I think you're right that the alternate ending is much better, and it's also much closer to the point of the original book. The book and movie are still only barely related, but with that alternate ending at least some of the themes of the book are preserved.

    And the alternate ending also happens to work better with the recent news that they're considering a new I Am Legend movie with Will Smith to star again.

    1. I think public concensus is that he died in the end.
      Not enough people have 'defaulted' the alternate ending.
      However, with a small retcon showing the alternate end, through the opening credits of such a sequel, I think they could get away with it scot free. I'd certainly pay to see another movie set in this world.