Saturday, December 15, 2007

I Am Legend

I Am Kind of Enjoyable. I went to this movie prepared not to like it, and was pleasantly surprised to find myself enjoying most of it. There aren't that many Fresh Prince moments, which is a big plus; but then I think that all movies starring Will Smith should obey the Keanu Rule and give him as little dialogue as possible, because when he opens his mouth that's when the trouble starts. The shots of empty Manhattan are riveting. A lot of the fun of seeing the movie is recognizing streets, corners, buildings (look--there's the doughnut place on Seventh Avenue). But as much as I enjoyed myself, I can't say that I actually liked the film, for a couple of reasons.

I Am Schizophrenic. This is so obviously two movies that it’s laughable. Every interesting moment that’s set up in the first two-thirds is totally ignored in the last 30 minutes. The idea that the vampires have human feelings and human intelligence? Set up and never knocked down. The idea that Robert Neville is as more of a monster to them than they are to him? Set up and never knocked down. You have to wonder: does nobody see this on the production end? It’s like a mystery novel where all the clues are ignored in the last chapter. A book like that would never get published; but movies like I Am Legend get made all the frakking time.

I Am Formulaic. Remember the three-part flashback of how Will Smith lost his arm in I, Robot? Same thing here: a three-part backstory flashback about yet another loss. Is this required in all Hollywood scripts or just Will Smith vehicles? Are there writers even now dreaming up new three-part backstory flashbacks while they picket Paramount?

I Am Picky. According to the theatre and movie posters in post-plague Times Square, The Producers is still playing two years from now (ha!), along with Wicked (yup) and Hairspray (maybe) but on the plus side, we can expect a Batman/Superman movie in summer ‘09. Robert Neville is immune to the airborne virus and vampire bites and he's also an accomplished scientist looking for a cure, which is one coincidence too many for me--I mean why not have him be the cause of the vampire plague as well? And post-plague Manhattan is overrun with deer and lions, but the only rats we ever see are in Neville's laboratory. As if.

I Am All About The Ending. There must be a lot of people out there who don't know that this movie isn't even a re-make--it's a re-make of a re-make, having been filmed twice before as The Last Man On Earth with Vincent Price and The Omega Man with Charlton Heston. And if you've seen either of these movies, then you know how the story ends. Which is pretty much the same way the book ends. So when, before the movie opened, Will Smith in a Tokyo press conference revealed details about the end of the movie, producer and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman shouted "Don't ruin the ending! Don't ruin it for people!" This says so many things about Hollywood. When they remake Casablanca, and the actor playing Rick reveals that Ilsa goes off with Laszlo, I can so totally see the producer yelling "Don't ruin it for people!" Like the ending is all that matters. (Which would explain why the last 30 minute chunk of this movie feels like a different film--it sets up the ending Goldsman wanted, as opposed to the ending the story demanded.)

I Am Blockbuster. And it'll make a ton of money, despite the fact that it's pieced together and formulaic, which means we can expect even more pieced-together formulaic action-adventure flicks; and yes, by seeing it, I have helped to cause their creation. So blame me when Will Smith stars in Soylent Green, and Akiva Goldsman chews him out for telling the press that SG is people. I just hope that Batman-Superman movie is as good as the trailer was for The Dark Knight. Holy crap, does that look good.

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