I Am Legend
Cast: Will Smith, Alice Braga
Direction: Francis Lawrence
Right off, this sci-fi horror nightmare plays upon the fear - what if you were the last man on earth? Will Smith, newly bodybuffed, is that man. And, he only has a dog and nasty cannibalistic zombies for company Sounds far-out? It is.
Gratifyingly the fourth adaptation of the 1954 apocalyptic novel by Richard Matheson, is directed with considerable tension and throb by Lawrence, who earlier helmed the hardly heard-of Constantine.
A devastated futuristic New York is the backdrop for this battle of nerves between the sole human survivor and ghoulish critters baying for his blood. This doesn't exactly make for cheerful entertainment. But those with a taste for the shudders will be hooked by the eerie spectacle of Smith winning against unimaginable odds.
In keeping with paranoid prophecies, we are expected to go with the hypothesis that a man-made virus can exterminate Planet Earth.
The expert British actress, Emma Thompson, shows up briefly, as the inadvertent reason for the virus-induced destruction. The attractive Brazilian actress Alice Braga fetches up with a kid, too, for that sliver of the human quotient. Yet clearly, the film is a star platform for Smith who - somewhat like Robinson Crusoe finds his identity and redemption in isolation. <b1>
Whether he's speeding past empty Manhattan streets (fantastically recreated), fobbing off the zombie attacks or looking desperately for a way out of the post-Doomsday scenario, here's a hero whom we empathise with.
In The Omega Man (1971), an earlier version of the novel, Charlton Heston had called the shots amidst the overriding bleakness. Now Smith takes over the job with brooding intensity. In fact, this is one of the most expert performances by the actor who has been mostly identified with comic, slapstick roles.
Indeed at a point when he's been described as Hollywood's hottest box-office star, by going against his archetypal roles, he takes on a commercial gambit. The result is a one-man show aided by an imaginative production design and computer-generated special effects.
The finale is somewhat unconvincing and simplistic. Never mind. This Legend still has what it takes to get you to the multiplex.