THIS POST IS RATED "S"
Will Smith. I wanted to see Independence Day when it came out, but didn't really want to see Will Smith. All I knew of him was that he was some goofy rapper-type, and I was prepared not to like him. But he inhabited that role well, and then equally in Men in Black, followed by disciplined, credible performances every film I've seen him in. He's turned out to be a very capable, talented actor, and his name in a movie is a big plus to me.
Which is good in this case because Smith carries I Am Legend largely on his shoulders (unless you count the dog). Nor does he disappoint, for much of the movie. I'll get back to the qualifier in a moment.
The movie. The first two-thirds of the movie is really top-notch for the genre, very atmospheric and tense. Flashbacks (never my favorite device) are well-used to flash out the background, and the foreground is grim and gripping.
And tense. I saw the movie alone, and several sequences had me squirming and talking to the screen, warning and bracing myself against what I was sure (usually correctly) was a coming jump-scene. One of the sequences was among the tensest I've ever seen. As I said, the first two-thirds of the movie was great.
Ah, but then.
You know how some movies have their Stupid Moment, and never really recover? As if all the smart writers and directors got fired, and the second-string took over?
Well, there's a very moving moment roughly two-thirds of the way through. (Though it, itself, is occasioned by a stupid moment of its own.) The moment itself is a real showcase of Smith's talents, and is the sort of acting that in another genre might well get his name mentioned for an Oscar. The camera is in tight closeup on his face, and Smith's expressions (plus some sound-effects) very movingly and wordlessly tell us everything that is happening. Few could deliver such a scene as convincingly.
But then after that moment comes the Stupid Moment. We have to accept that Smith's character snaps for most of the rest of the movie. And I just really didn't. He pretty well lost me, and the movie went down to a disappointing climax that I didn't really fully understand.
For me, the first and larger portion was worth it, and I'm glad I went; the last prevents an unqualified thumbs-up.
God-talk. The premise of the movie is very interesting and plausible. A scientist "cures cancer" by engineering a virus -- which turns very, very bad, and turns just about everyone and everything except weeds into nearly-mindless zombie/vampire types. Could it happen? Absolutely. Could one or another of the plagues of Revelation couple with such an event? Possibly.
We know from Biblical prophecy that man will never wipe himself out nor destroy the earth. But we don't know that he will never come close. I've wondered more than once whether the prophecies of end times battles are even more literal than we literalists tend to take them, some catastrophe or series of catastrophes driving mankind back literally to arrows, swords and spears.
There is a fair bit of shapeless God-talk in the movie. Smith's character says "God didn't do this to us, we did it to ourselves." Posters in the very realistically ravaged city send messages such as "God still loves us." At a later point, Smith's character says "There is no god," but later a woman appears who says that God is talking to her. Turns out He evidently is talking to her, and later to Smith as well, and God saves the day. God saves mankind from himself.
Now there's nothing Christian about that, since saying "God" is like saying "food." Further, the God-hearing lady says she can hear God because it's so quiet, which in isolation is more New-Agey than Christian.
But it is nice for Hollywood to have any God-talk that isn't knee-jerk dopey boilerplate cynicism.