'I Am Legend' Movie Actually Good?   

December 13, 2007 For those of you considering heading to theaters to watch the PG-13 "I Am Legend" film with Will Smith (remake of "Last Man on Earth" and "Omega Man," both based on Richard Matheson's "I Am Legend" novel), there's actually some good news.

Lawrence French of CinefantastiqueOnline.com likes the movie:

Warner Bros. long in the works re-make of I AM LEGEND hits theaters this Friday, and I found myself rather surprised to find it quite a sensation, as I truly expected it to be the typical Hollywood case of dumbing down the original novel. Of course, this third big screen version is still not very faithful to Richard Matheson’s book, but it’s easily the best of the three movie versions that have been produced so far. And naturally, if analyzed too closely, there are some plot holes in the logic of the story, but to be truthful, what movie (and especially what fantasy movie) can’t be faulted in this regard? The prime example in this area would be most of Alfred Hitchcock’s movies, including his masterpiece, VERTIGO. They all have lapses of logic, but as Hitchcock knew so well, the trick was to keep the audience from noticing them as they were watching the film. In this regard, I AM LEGEND succeeds admirably. Director Lawrence also seems to know when less is more, as like Hitchcock in THE BIRDS, he carefully follows his suspense set pieces with quiet reflective scenes that allow an audience the chance to recover.

Needless to say, for any current Hollywood film that costs over $100 million, the technical aspects on display are quite incredible. That includes not only the beautiful fluid cinematography of Andrew Lesnie, who provides amazing overhead tracking shots down Park Ave, but also the special effects and animation work, headed by Janek Sirrs, along with the awesome sound effects led by veteran sound mixer Tod Maitland. It seems quite likely that in all of these areas, I AM LEGEND will easily be a front-runner for Oscar consideration.

In fact, it’s really due to the beautiful marriage of visuals and sound effects that the film manages to be so frightening. There is a real atmosphere of dread and fear surrounding Will Smith’s encounters with the infected “night seekers” who are not the traditional vampires of Matheson’s novel, but are still unable to venture into the daylight without instantly dissolving. Director Lawrence also seems to have wisely taken a page from Val Lewton’s notebook, and used his soundtrack to accent and surprise the audience. There are long passages of total silence that are suddenly broken by a loud sound effect that literarily jolts you out of your seat.

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