Will Smith (The Pursuit of Happyness) has the perfect mix of charisma and talent, making him a joy to watch. This was apparent from his early movie appearances of the mid-90’s and is still true today. Hopefully when it’s all said and done, the two- time Academy Award nominee will have a gold statue for his mantle. In the meantime, most of his movies are must-see, for me at least. I say most, because I can recall a few skippable ones (The Legend of Bagger Vance, Wild Wild West anyone?). Nevertheless, count me among Will Smith’s many fans.
I Am Legend is the apocalyptic tale of Robert Neville, a doctor and sole survivor of a catastrophic virus that has destroyed the world’s population. For unknown reasons, Neville is immune to the virus. His days are spent broadcasting a radio message to any survivors, roaming around Manhattan, hitting a few golf balls, and otherwise trying to maintain his sanity in the absence of human companionship. His only company is Sam, his loyal German Shepherd. Lest you think that the only point of this movie is to watch a solitary Smith amuse himself like Tom Hanks in Castaway, let me fill you in on the other key detail I’ve neglected to mention. Some humans were not killed by the virus, rather they mutated into nocturnal zombie-like creatures who fed on survivors after the initial outbreak. Neville must make sure he returns home before dusk, or else he will have to contend with these creatures. Although immune to the virus, he can still be killed by them, just not infected. He feverishly works on a cure for the virus by altering samples of his own blood and then (dangerously) administering the doses to the creatures. As Neville soon learns, the zombies are super strong, and their resourcefulness and intelligence become manifest with unfortunate consequences.
Will Smith shines in roles that allow him to show his broad range of emotions. He is particularly skilled at non-verbal acting, when he allows his face and eyes to do the talking. He doesn’t just cry, he cries differently, if that makes any sense. Think about it. The way you’d cry if your grandma died is not the same way you’d cry if your boyfriend/girlfriend cheated on you. Feel me? Smith is a master at delivering the perfect display of emotion. I was also very impressed with director Francis Lawrence’s depiction. I’ve never heard of him directing anything other than music videos, so for him to be able to create such a terrific feature film is nothing short of AMAZING. I’ve raved about the movie thus far, but it was not without its flaws. I always say that in terms of audience approval, movies can be won or lost in the last 5 minutes, and I Am Legend does not end strongly, which was a shame. You want to leave the audience on a high note, which just means a strong note, not necessarily a happy ending. You don’t want to erase all the good shit that unfolded in the previous hour and a half. I Am Legend falls short in its plausibility and will leave you scratching your head at certain parts, but I suggest you check it out. It was fascinating to watch Neville’s daily routine, his sanity bolstered only by his desire to find a cure and by the constant presence of man’s best and only friend, Sam. I Am Legend will leave you on the edge of your seat, if nothing else. Smith meets the challenge of carrying the movie by himself, and if you’re foolish enough to have neglected his talent before, you’ll be a believer by the time the credits roll.