I Am Legend. I've read the book, so it was time to see the movie. I have to say, it was the films preview that got me interested in the novel initially, and after reading the book, my expectations were high.
In the film, Will Smith plays a virologist, Robert Neville, who believes that he is the only human alive on earth not infected by a man made plague. Throughout his solitude he is kept company by his dog, and is driven by a promise to his daughter to find a cure to the plague, and "make the monsters go away".
Whilst Neville may, or may not, be the last man on earth, it is not to say he's all alone. Those people infected by the virus, have taken on the characteristics of a rabid dog. They are driven by a thirst for blood and have a violent aversion to sun light, but are not referred to as vampires.
Interspersed throughout the film are flash backs to Nevilles life just prior to the mass spread of the virus. We meet his wife and daughter, and learn the dog that is his companion was left behind by his daughter to keep him safe. Very early on we also learn the virus was a mutation. In 2009 scientists believed they had found the cure for cancer. It was this cure that mutated and evolved into the plague, and it was Neville who worked for the army trying to stop the plague from spreading in the early days.
So Neville's days are spent alone, attempting to find a way to reverse the effects of the plague, search for other survivors, as well as to survive himself. To say much more would spoil the last half of the movie, so I'll stop there!
Obviously this movie was going to sink or swim based on the performance of Will Smith. For a majority of the film he is the only human in shot. Fortunately he does a bang up job or else I Am Legend could have been a stinker! This is a serious Will Smith, there is no Fresh Prince of Bel Air in sight!
Effects wise the film is solid. Seeing New York uninhabited and overgrown is an awe inspiring sight, however this is let down somewhat by the look of the infected. They are convincing enough, but given the standard of a lot of the CGI stuff going around lately, I was a little let down.
So, how does the film compare to the book? Interestingly, the film version, I Am Legend is the first of the three "adaptations" to adopt the novels title. With that aside though, there are a lot of differences between book and film, to such an extent that I'd suggest that it is a little unfair to call the film an adaptation of the novel.
- The novel is set over a three year period in the late 1970's. Flashbacks aside, the film takes place in 2012.
- In the novel, Robert Neville is an average guy. In the film he's an army trained virologist. Much of the novel is dedicated to Neville studying virology, and attempting to find the source of the virus, and his lack of formal training is a barrier he has to overcome. His study is dedicated to efficient ways of killing the infected as much as anything else. This then leads to questions of his own humanity, and in some ways he becomes a moral "grey area". Obviously, the film does away with all of that, we are told the source of the virus 2 minutes into the film, and Neville's focus is on a cure and saving the infected, he's the 'good guy'.
- The novel draws comparisons to vampires very quickly, the infected can only be killed by sunlight or a stake through the heart. They have an aversion to garlic. The infected also retain some memories of their former life. They gather out the front of Nevilles house and his old neighbour chants his name. Neville spends his days hunting and killing infected while they sleep. In the film, the infected can be shot, and don't appear to speak. With the exception of the odd test subject, Neville doesn't actively hunt, largely because he wants to save them. This makes a big difference in terms of the survival element.
- In the novel, Neville doesn't have a dog, he finds and befriends a stray toward the end of the story, but it dies after 2 weeks.
- In the novel, there are the rabid infected, as well as the "still living". The "still living" are infected people who have developed a way of keeping the virus at bay. They still sleep during the day, but have retained some humanity. During the day Neville can't distinguish between the infected and the "still living" so he kills indiscriminately. This impacts heavily upon the ending of the novel. In the film, there are only infected, there are no "still living". Obviously this means that the last half of the film and novel have very little in common.
In summary, whilst the initial set-up is the same, it does not take long for the novel and film to split off and head down different paths. The one other thing the book and film have in common is the basic premise of survival whilst posing a similar question, when a man loses everything, can he find a reason to go on living?
Overall, the film was a good one. Will Smith puts in an excellent performance throughout. Yes, there are times when it gets a little bogged down, and the ending comes abruptly, but is still a cool film to watch. Check it out if you get the chance. I'm giving it 4 out of 5 pickles.
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