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Wednesday, 23 January 2008

I Am Legend

To say that Will Smith can currently do no wrong with his performances isn't the same thing as saying he's making a lot of good movies. In fact, he's been the best thing in a lot of not-quite-there movies for so long now that it's hard not to think there might be a link between him looking so good and his movies falling so flat. Sadly, I Am Legend does nothing to buck this trend: considering how good it is for most of it's running time and how badly it drops the ball at the end, Mr Smith's desire to have his character turn out just how he likes it might be a good place to lay much of the blame. Make no mistake, this really is a good film for the first hour or so: Smith is the last man alive in New York (and presumably the world) after a cancer cure mutates and turns people into either a corpse or a vampire-like monster. Fortunately, Smith is playing your average super-competent solider / doctor / survivalist combo, and so the only real drawback to his lifestyle of driving around a deserted city hunting wildlife and grabbing mutants to drag back to his base to test cures out on is the loneliness. Which is handled really well, giving the film an eerie feel that's actually pretty haunting stuff for a Hollywood blockbuster. And when there's a few subtle hints that the mutants - who Smith considers to be mindless animals - are actually putting together a civilisation of their own, fans of the book might start to think this is actually going to follow through on the original's devastating ending. No such luck. Some other people turn up and the whole film basically falls apart into a bunch of incoherent action, leaving what was promising to be something special as yet another almost on Smith's resume.

Anthony Morris (this review appeared in Forte #419)

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