I Am Legend Frank Lawrence

I Am Legend Frank Lawrence

The great Hollywood hack job strikes again. Only a team of topical money scavengers with ridiculously bloated self-importance could take one of the most inventive vampire stories ever written and gut it for parts in this agonizingly sanitized mash-up of 28 Days Later and The Omega Man. Fittingly, John William Corrington, screenwriter of Omega Man is buried in the writers’ credits along with top billed perpetrators Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind, Batman and Robin) and Mark Protosevich (The Cell). This telling of Richard Matheson’s brilliantly haunting novel is even more drastically divergent from the source material than the 1971 Charlton Heston sci-fi farce. Will Smith stars as Robert Neville, a military man and brilliant scientist hell-bent on finding a cure for a man-made plague that has killed most of the world’s population and turned the rest into what are essentially rabid zombies. Three years later, Neville seems to be the only human survivor in New York and possibly the world. Luckily, but inexplicably, his faithful dog is unaffected, and the deer and lions roaming the streets of a beautifully broken and barren New York are likewise devoid of dangerous infection. Neville spends his days hunting, driving fast cars, and talking to mannequins he’s set up to populate portions of the city, when he’s not experimenting on critters and creatures in attempts to turn his blood into a cure. Instead of the thoughtfully explored science and psychology of vampirism in the book, the filmmakers opt to name serialized vaccines and mention redundant hard drives, before resorting to quotes from Shrek instead of exploring the mental anguish of Robert Neville. There are no vampires; it’s primarily a story of a man, his dog, and a bunch of angry mindless mutants. Replacing the zestfully devilish character of Ben Cortman as Neville’s foil, we get a non-descript Alpha Male mutant beast-mastering a pack of rage dogs. Smith actually delivers some of the best work of his career, really selling his fear and unhinged sanity while minimizing his goofy mugging, though much of his dialogue is rife with more Fresh Prince-isms than I’d comfortably attribute to a military scientist. Viewers hungry for a faithful adaptation of Matheson’s story will have to be content with the campy but accurate Last Man On Earth with Vincent Price, but if you want some safely clichéd thrills, or a look at Big Willie Style’s sensitive side, Hollywood has got you covered. (Warner)