Saturday, December 22, 2007

"I Am Legend" -- tension, Stupid Moment, God-talk, prophecy

(for Spoilery!)

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.


CR said...

Thanks for the summary. I perused your summary really fast so as to not read any serious spoilers since I plan on seeing it in the next couple of weeks. Looks like you liked it overall.

P.D. Nelson said...

Since I read the original story that this movie was based on and saw both the Vincent Price and Charlton Heston version of this film. It sounds like they deviated from the story quite a bit. Which makes me not want to pay money to see this on the big screen. Think I'll stick with National Treasure.

CR said...

Oh, there's a Charlton Heston version of the film?? I didn't know that?! Guess I know my next movie I'll be renting from Blockbuster online.

I have a friend who works at a movie theater and movie theater employees have arrangement with local theaters that they can do a call-in and bring a guest to watch movies for free with them. The only cheap way to watch a movie. I do also want to watch National Treasure also though.

DJP said...

Carlo, the Heston version is called Omega Man. (I linked it to IMDB, but it drove Blogger nuts; no idea why.)

PD — unless Matheson's novel is really canonical to you, I'd not rule out the movie on that basis alone. Starship Troopers was a good movie (if you can see an cleaned-up version of it), but very unlike Heinlein's novel, for instance.

Pastor Steve said...

I really enjoyed the movie at the theater, but as I left I kept coming up with a bunch of implausible plot holes that bugged me, like the three dogs coming after Smith and his dog, but no one else following up the attack immediately after that.

My biggest question was although they had the cure it was useless to them since they were immune, and the only way they could use it is if they caught every one of the mutants and injected it into them and that wasn't going to happen.

They also killed off the only character you were emotionally involved in (Smith) while saving the woman who we barely got to know and her stoic kid who seemed to be emotionless for many of his scenes.

Entertaining yes, but I definitely disliked some things.

DJP said...

Sure. Plus -- the attack-dogs couldn't run around the narrow shaft of sunlight, or just jump through it so fast it wouldn't do much to them?

And yes, the little zombochick got cooler and breathed slower... but she still looked just as messed-up as before, and didn't show any signs of return to rationality.

I think I get the point of the "cure," though. You could inject the dark seekers, or you'd at least have a cure for anyone who started showing signs of infection.

CR said...

Oh man...Thanks I know Will Smith dies before I got to see the I guess I know what Dan means by spoilery, not only for him but those who post on his blog.

Anonymous said...

I saw it this afternoon, so since the spoilery is in play, I can give some insights. There were some theological undertones, I thought, through the later parts of the show. Like when they had the cure for the virus and Will Smith kept shouting "I can save you,", but none of the dark-seekers wanted saved, only to kill him. Shades of depraved man, rebellious and hell-bent against their only Savior, until they are sovereignly brought to Him (which never happened in the movie.)

P.D. Nelson said...

Ahh there's the rub I hated Starship Troopers because I want a movie closer to the book. So yes I guess the book is canonical to me. FWIW the Vincent Price version of the film (The Last man on Earth) was closest I've seen to the actual story. But even that deviated much.

CR said...

I saw the movie tonight and it was pretty good. I didn't just like the 2/3 that Dan liked, I liked all of it.

While I can appreciate people's views that watching a movie may make them think of something biblical, I just appreciated the movie for what is and what the original author, Matheson, intended it for it to be, simply, a science fiction.

With regards to end time battles, while I do lean towards a dispensational premillenial view of eschatology, there are problems regarding the weapons used in end-time invsion by Israel's enemies (Eze 38-39); i.e. chariots, horses, shields bucklers, bows and arrows. I mean, why would powerful nations fight against Israel with ancient and obsolete weapons especially since Israel has jet fighters, tanks, missiles and nuclear weapons? I'm not going to watch a movie like I Am Legend and say, ah, hah, that's how it could happen.

Seeing I Am Legend didn't make me think of theological overtones (other than, as I usually am, being uncomfortable people taking God's name in vain) or biblical prophecy. I just enjoyed it for the science fiction that it was and how the science fiction that the author intended it to be (as far as I know). So, unless it's a story by CS Lewis or JRR Tolkien where they intentionally put theological overtones, I'm not going to think of biblical prophecy or theological overtones.

philness said...


I think it is save to say that we all bounce life and even fiction off truth everyday. Sure, no one (Christians) would look at Hollywood for theological truths but we would take what Hollywood is saying and match it up against various biblical truths. And we might even go as far as to discuss those thoughts, as Dan has done.

CR said...

I hear you Phil and point taken. Thanks.

CR said...

Well, I have to say that Omega Man was one of the worst Charlton Heston movies I've ever seen and I also didn't appreciate the nudity scenes (I thought PG ratings were suppose to be safe from that?). That's one of the things I really appreciate from I am Legend no nudity and no serious nasty profanity - it's actually what I appreciate from most of Smith's movies.

I deleted the Vincent Price version of the movie from my blockbuster online rental. I'm not taking any chances.

Celal Birader said...

Saw I am Legend and a few days later saw Finding Neverland on TV.

These two movies represent two ends of a sprectrum . It was interesting to see a completely emptyed out Manhattan (how did they do that?)but all the millions they must have spent on special effects would have been better spent on a good story that actually leaves you with something after the final credits roll.

DJP said...

Haven't seen Finding Neverland. Mind telling me some about it?

CR said...


Johnny Depp plays JM Barrie the creator of Peter Pan. Barrie hid his depression by entertaining children. His producer, his wife are all harping on him so to escape all the problems he goes to some park to write his journal. While in the park he meets a widow and four boys. One of this widow's boys, who is named Peter, a real depressed boy helps foster Barrie's imagination.

It isn't until after his wife reads his journals does she begin to understand him.

One of the best movies I've seen. No sex, foul language or I think a safe family movie and Depp's acting is of course brilliant.

Unknown said...

Finally got around to seeing this movie - it just came out last weekend in Costa Rica. I REALLY enjoyed the movie for many of the same reasons. Also remember that Will Smiths character and his family pray together before they part ways. Will buy this movie when it comes out and watch it many more times.

Jamin Hubner said...

In case you guys didnt know, there is a book written on I Am Legend and Christianity called "Light Up the Darkness."

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