movies: i am legend

i am legend - the last man on earth is not aloneI have to say, I've been waiting for I Am Legend for a while now... Will Smith versus the vampires... what's not to love?

But the movie wasn't quite what I was expecting, which turned out to be both for better and for worse. For a start, the "vampires" probably have more in common with "The Infected" from 28 Days Later or the Reapers from Blade II than they do with anything resembling a tradition vampire. More zombie-like really...

Which is fine, don't get me wrong, but it does change the vibe of the movie somewhat even before you begin.

And I'd also assumed it was going to Will Smith ala I, Robot or Men in Black... the "wisecracking, saves the day, hero" Will Smith. What I got what something altogether different. Still interesting, but different.

He's a much more internalised character... he's been alone a little too long and he's possibly gone a little insane (as you would, not seeing another person for three years... well, I might be okay, but I'm already a bit insane), but it's that line between insanity and doing the things he needs to do to keep his mind from really falling off the edge. And Will plays the loneliness, the need for organisation and routine and just that desire for some sense of normality in this very unique circumstance. And when his carefully organised world starts to fall apart as the movie progresses, Will plays that very well too.

Actually the movie did have a lot of similarities to 28 Days Later... in some of the tone, in the whole concept of a virus out of control, and in the fact that unlike some of these movies you don't seek out the creature at the very top of the food chain, you keep your head down and stay out of their way as much as you possibly can.

I have the book, it was one of the ones I got at Christmas, so as always it will be interesting to see where and how and why they strayed away from the source material. But I am glad I didn't read the book first, because there was a whole bunch of unexpected stuff that I'm glad I wasn't expecting. And I'm kind of pissy that I happened to hear somebody who was reviewing the movie give away one particular plot point, because while it wasn't exactly unexpected, it did colour some of my viewing beforehand. I can't really explain it any better without falling into the same trap as the person I'm pissy at.

Now, as a general rule, I don't mind the horror movie genre... even the slasher movie genre doesn't bother me that much (although I won't be rushing out to see any of the Saw or Hostel movies any time soon), but the one thing that does make me jump and freak me out just a tiny, tiny bit is the "YAAAAAR BOOOOO" type movie... where things jump out, or even just a quick cut from a quiet scene to a loud sound effect makes me jump. Actually that's two kinds of jumps... the ones you're not expecting, and then the ones where the character goes somewhere you know he shouldn't be and you're just waiting for that thing that you KNOW is in there to jump out at him and chew his face off.

And there are a number of points in the movie where you just think to yourself that Will Smith's character kind of deserves to get his face chewed off... for either sticking it where it shouldn't go, or else not seeing things that are seemingly obvious to the rest of us.

So, now we start on the things that were bad...

The first and foremost things that bugged me happened within the first three or four minutes of the movie and just really pulled me out of the moment. And, as always, it was because of appallingly bad CGI. In this case deer... then shortly after that there were lions... then later on in the movie it was the large numbers of CGI (or seemingly CGI) "Infected".

In the case of the deer, they just seemed to slide and flicker on the screen as they were supposed to be running... they didn't seem to be "present", and you couldn't follow them with your eye as they ran, even though the whole thing was very fast and you probably shouldn't have been able to, but it just felt wrong.

Then the lions seemed to have been designed by somebody who had only had lions described to them, rather than something that looked and felt real. It just screamed "HEY I'M BAD CGI!" at you really.

And then there was all the Infected.

Actually I'm not sure about them... they all felt really fake and rubbery, like CGI people have a tendency to, but there are a great number of people listed in the credits as "Infected", so I'm not sure whether there were really people there, or if they were stunt people in blue suits who got replaced, or people on stage doing motion capture, or what... but they all felt fake. Even the supposed "Alpha Male" and "Alpha Female" characters, the male specifically, just looked CGI to my eyes. I mean I know that there would have been stuff where the characters would have had to be CGI doubles, because people (even stunt people on rigs) can't move like that. But I never really got a sense that they were real.

Other than that there were probably a few little niggling plot holes here and there, but for the most part while you're watching it you don't really get time to think about them that much since it's just one big thrill ride.

And I will compliment whoever was responsible for the locations and the organisation of making the whole of New York look completely abandoned and empty and unkempt... and so very, very silent. That's one of the things you do notice right at the beginning of the movie, how very silent everything is. And I would imagine for people who either live in, or have visited New York, that silence would seem even more eerie.

I'm not sure that it's one for the DVD list, but it was certainly an unexpected experience.

yani's rating: 2 zombiefolk out of 5

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