Review: I Am Legend plus I Am Improver of Legend.
This review contains major spoilers for the film I Am Legend, and probably the book by Richard Matheson as well, so don't read it. (I mean the review. Don't read the review. Read the book by all means. I haven't, so let me know what it's like, 'kay?)
I didn't see much hype for I Am Legend before I watched it today, but I imagine any hype it had got would have been too much. It probably avoided that by, despite being a major disaster film, not being a major disaster action film. There's stuff blowing up, but sedately, there's a mass exodus of NYC, but little panic, there are zombie-vampires (zompires? vambies?), but they're suffering an identity crisis (Are we a mindless destructive mob or are we cunning blood suckers?). Bucking recent trends in science fiction films, it's pretty depressing. Well, of course it would be - the whole earth's population is killed off by a manufactured virus leading to one man and his dog slowly going nuts.
While going nuts, our single human character Robert (Will Smith) attempts to find a cure for the zompirism by experimenting on infected rats and the occasional ex-human. So far so good. I was with it until the dog scene. Although the film was serious and dark, it was lightened enough to keep me involved with the only two characters (Sam - the dog - stealing all her scenes). Fishing in the koi pond, golf off the fighter plane's wing, lions roaming the streets - all good. Until the dog scene. I'll come back to that.
The film however made a wrong turn which resulted in the end lacking an emotional punch. I didn't care enough about Ethan and Anna that they got to safety. I hadn't known them long enough for it to matter to me that they hand a plastic vial of blood to a faceless person. The emotion of a story should not be tied to an inanimate object. I believe I've said this before.
Here's how I think the story would have gone better. No changes in the first two thirds - Sam is infected by the dark seeker dogs, Robert takes her back to the lab. Firstly he straps her to a table like he did with the human subject. He then injects her with the cure. It fails. Sam is clearly infected, snapping and growling. Robert administers a massive sedative, she goes limp and stops breathing. Robert is distraught. The audience cries. Then we return to the scenes where he attempts to kill off the vambies (and himself) and is rescued by Anna and Ethan. Incidentally can anyone explain to me how Anna and Ethan reached Robert if the island was sealed off and all the bridges blown up?
The film continues as we've seen it. The zompires attack the house, they race for the basement, the door is broken down, all seems lost. Anna notices that the ex-human seems more-human. Robert immediately turns to Sam's body, still strapped to the gurney. Her breathing is regular, her fur is no longer loose. As he touches one of her wounds she whimpers. The vambies are beating at the glass doors. The butterfly pattern appears in the glass, Robert notices Anna's butterfly tattoo. We flashback to Robert's daughter making a butterfly shape with her hands (as we have seen) and her pushing the puppy to him, "Here, Daddy, you take Sam."
Robert snaps back to the present and orders Anna and Ethan into the fireplace, "You get in," Anna urges, "There's room for you." Robert unstraps Sam, and pushes her into Ethan's arms. "Take her, she's the cure. Stay in there until dawn." He shuts the door, takes out the convenient hand grenade and blows up the lab, the zompires and himself.
Cut to Anna and Ethan driving. They find the survivor colony. They get out of the car. Sam gets out too and walks on her own four paws through the gate. Cheesey voice over optional, audience cheers, The End.