Another apocalyptic thriller involving an inflated budget and an even more overly-inflated actor’s ego can involuntarily make you roll your eyes and highly doubt any element of originality. So Will Smith saves the world. But didn’t he do that in “Independence Day”…then again in “Men in Black”…and “I, Robot”…then some western movie? Yes, he did indeed. But somehow all hope is not lost in his humanity-saving abilities in “I Am Legend.” It actually restores any hope of a unique end-of-the-world thriller. Despite its many logical inconsistencies (like the likelihood that the only immune human of a deadly virus happens to be a scientist with not only brains, but a physique to rely on if his calculations go amuck, or how the utilities in the city are still working three years after abandonment, or how Smith’s character, Robert Neville, set up zombie traps comparable to a superhero’s doing…there’s really no end) and the disappointing zombie special effects, Smith provides a noteworthy performance as the presumed last man on earth in 2012. Emotional depth has curiously found its way into the sci-fi protagonist.
Without question, the mere idea of flesh-eating, inexplicably strong animalistic humans lurking in the night is more frightening than when the zombie-esque monsters are actually seen. Lawrence is definitely able to master the element of surprise in the first half of the movie, but mildly fails to keep a thrilling atmosphere as the film progresses. As soon as he loses the advantage of mystery and the shock value of Neville’s surprising emotional range, “Legend” slowly becomes more of a special effects overdose than a horrific suspense-thriller. Lawrence better accomplishes supernatural suspense and anxiety through the eerie feeling of empty, overgrown Manhattan streets and slow walks in dark halls than the climactic huge massive zombie-attacks, excessive shooting-sprees and single-man artillery explosions. Once “Legend” stopped being a hybrid of “Castaway’s” one-man-show plot and “28 Days Later’s” modernistic zombie elements, and gradually became a slightly predictable cliché monster movie (mildly modified by some bizarre religious-undertoned ending), the film lost its individuality. Oh, and also, the concluding voice-over by Alice Braga (playing the character of Anna) who joins Neville in the last thirty minutes of the movie somehow knows enough to “tell the legend.” Honestly, despite her endearing qualities, her character had little to offer as far as substance is concerned.
Smith’s character also adds a significant and surprising element of horror when he touches on the capabilities and strength of the human psyche when left alone with his dog and a mob of viral zombies. Neville is a brilliant scientist that continues to hold on to the hope of someday curing the infected humans, and in his attempts to remain sane, he takes on a bizarre daily schedule with his dog, Sam, constantly at his side. Speaking to mannequins he has set up throughout the streets of New York is originally funny but ultimately frightening when he believes one to be real through mild disillusionment. The most emotionally invested relationship exists between Neville and Sam, which inevitably ends up creating masterfully high-tensioned scenes, especially with the predisposition that canines rarely make it through to the end.
“Legend” is definitely worth the 100 minutes, but expect to be impressed by Smith’s acting ability to carry a huge movie solo, the alluring visual sets of a entirely unpopulated Manhattan (complete with clever futuristic elements like sky-high gas prices and a “Superman vs. Batman” billboard), and a commendable amount of time mumbling “What the hell are you doing?” “Hurry the fuck-up!” and “Get the hell out of there!” than a strong beginning-to-end thriller. Its failure to maintain a consistent tone or purpose and the bizarre and totally weak ending, did not outweigh the rest of the film, but did add a frustrating schizophrenia. Nonetheless, Will Smith oddly never seems to fail to save the world in a different way every time so check it out just in case you’ve been properly preparing and taking notes since “Independence Day.”