Friday, December 14, 2007

I AM LEGEND

DIRECTOR: Francis Lawrence

CAST: Will Smith, Alice Braga, Dash Mihok

RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes

RATING: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence

LINKS/TRAILERS
· Official site

PHOTO GALLERY

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GRADE: B

It's also, of course, a showcase for Will Smith, who has been proclaimed by all the magazine polls of the past year as the Biggest Movie Star in the World. He's practically the only cast member here, so if you're one of his fans, you've definitely come to the right place.

The film is set in the year 2012, after a genetically altered virus has destroyed most of mankind. Smith plays a 52-year-old former Army doctor who's somehow immune from the scourge and lives in a Manhattan utterly devoid of his own kind.

He and his German shepherd (animals also are mostly immune) have the city to themselves during the day but at night the streets are taken over by former humans that the affliction has turned into ugly, slobbering, kill-crazy fiends out to eat him.

When he's not foraging for food, browsing video stores or visiting the city's great museums (he has grabbed Van Gogh's "Starry Night" from the Museum of Modern Art for his wall), he's at work in his basement laboratory trying to develop a serum that will save mankind.

Meanwhile, he's sending messages out into the world trying to connect with other survivors who may have been blessed with immunity and survived the apocalypse -- perhaps even the wife and daughter he sent to the country when the city was quarantined.

If all this sounds familiar, it's because the movie is based on the 1954 novel by Richard Matheson and has been made twice before: 1964's "The Last Man on Earth," with Vincent Price, and 1971's "The Omega Man," with Charlton Heston.

This $100 million version is by far the best, if only because it's resting on a tremendous special effect: a vast, intricately detailed, computer-altered vision of an eerily depopulated and decaying New York City with weeds and wild animals retaking its canyons.

The movie has some kick as a thriller, with Smith outwitting and blowing away legions of attacking zombies. This action is well staged, but we've seen it all before ("28 Days Later," etc.) and it's not nearly as compelling as the down time, where it starts to resemble a kind of Robinson Crusoe saga. Here the character's isolation is endlessly fascinating and Smith is endearingly vulnerable as he wanders through his daily survivalist routines, amiably talking to himself and his loyal dog, fighting his intense loneliness.

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