MOVIE: I Am Legend (2007)

I actually saw this movie about ten days ago, but it’s taken me this long to get sufficiently out of my state of disgust long enough to put together a sentence that doesn’t consist primarily of swear words. Which is interesting because I didn’t expect this movie to be any good when I rented it — so why on earth am I so annoyed that it turned out to be so bad? I read the book by Richard Matheson a couple of months ago and didn’t think it was all that great (you can read my book review here (third or fourth review down): http://www.megwood.com/books/jan2008.html); it’s not like I was expecting them to take a sub-par novella and turn it into a brilliant film.

But here’s the thing — despite its many, MANY flaws, the book DID have several elements I found fairly effective. And the movie? Changed every single one of those elements into something WAY less effective. It was amazing how thorough they were about it too. Every single part of the book that I DIDN’T think was totally stupid was completely stupidized in the movie. Someday, I really want to meet the person who wrote the screenplay so I can shake their hand and congratulate them on being the most completely oblivious moron I have ever met.

For those that don’t know, I Am Legend is about the last human on earth, left trying to survive in a world where the rest of the population has either died or turned into vampire-like monsters (caused by a bacterial contagion of some sort in the book, and a man-made virus originally developed to cure cancer in the movie). Robert Neville is his name (played by Will Smith), and he spends the sunny days of his life out hunting vamps, and the dark nights holed up in his house with canned goods and a generator trying to figure out a way to stop the vamps (in the book) or cure the virus (in the movie) before he’s finished off as well.

Now, because I just have to for the sake of my own stark-raving sanity, I’m going to list for you the four good parts of the book that were changed suck-assily in the movie. Spoilers may ensue. You’ve been warned. NOT THAT YOU SHOULD CARE (<– another warning).

1. The way Neville’s family dies and the element of their deaths that haunts him: For those that have read the book, I’m referring to the image of Neville having to carry his daughter off to the mass burial burn pit and the guilt he carried because of that, which is something I found surprisingly poignant. In the movie, the deaths of Neville’s wife and daughter are completely different and utterly stripped of the same level of emotional depth, in my opinion. They both still die, of course, but in a way that was about as unoriginal and boring as you can imagine. It was a moment better suited for an action scene in the next Bruce Willis movie, frankly. Lame.

2. The dog: In the book, Neville comes across the dog one day while out running errands and spends a good chunk of time desperately attempting to charm it into trusting him. That whole section of the book is about HOPE, which is why what happens to the dog later was so moving it actually made me kinda tear up. In the movie, though? Ugh, it’s about as trite and tired as you can get, from where the dog originates to how it goes out in the end. I’m still rolling my eyes. TEN DAYS LATER!

3. The vampires. Once again, I must protest about the stupid looking monstery vampires! I thought the ones in 30 Days of Night were bad — these are even worse! How do humans go from looking like humans to looking like the creatures in this movie? How do their voice boxes go from making human sounds to making the sounds made by the creatures in this movie? It was totally ridiculous. Not only that, but one of the most disturbing parts of the novel were the parts where Neville would be holed up in his house listening to his NEIGHBOR, a vampire who still looked pretty much just like his neighbor, standing outside his door calling his name and asking him to come outside. You know what? THAT’S FREAKY. The creatures in this movie? Not freaky AT ALL.

4. The ending! The ending of the movie compared to the book is so classically “ruined by Hollywood” it almost seemed like it had to be a joke. What it comes down to is this: the book was about what it means to be part of a society; the movie is about Will Smith fighting monsters. There was a single moment in the film where I had a flash of hope — the scene in which it becomes clear that one of the vampires has been watching him and is intelligent enough to figure out a pretty clever way of turning the tables on him. But it doesn’t end up GOING anywhere. It was a completely wasted moment. Damn it, I hate it when that happens!

In short, the ending of the book made me go “Huh. Interesting idea.” The ending of the movie, on the other hand, made me turn to my husband (a big fan of the novel himself — we watched the movie together) and exclaim, “Seriously?!”

To which he responded with a sigh, “Man, that movie was total shit from start to finish.”

Which I think pretty much says it all.

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre: Crap, Horror

Cast: Will Smith, Emma Thompson (for about two minutes), Alice Braga.

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8 Responses to “MOVIE: I Am Legend (2007)”

  1. Trip Says:

    Worst CGI ever – no doubt. Easily the least scariest monsters this side of Young Frankenstein. The WORST ending-by-studio-committee in the history of the genre. I never wanted to roar and bang my own melon into Plexiglas harder myself.

    Oh, and your local college theater production of Atlas Shrugged called, they want their scrappy self-sufficient walled town setting back.

    Even the alternate ending recently leaked to the Internet, which incidentally, was precisely the ending I was expecting, was completely underwhelming.

    Most unforgiving of all, there were NO CUTE PUPPIES.

  2. megwood Says:

    Trip, you crack me up!

  3. Liz Says:

    OH, NO! My husband actually wanted to see this one (you know I did too), but now I’m totally peeved, and more than a little anxious about it. The clips they showed on TV looked pretty okay to me – but then, so did the ones for “30 Days,” and we know how THAT turned out! On the brightER side, I thought the movie of “The Mist” was the first time I had ever seen a Stephen King story that was better as a MOVIE than as a book! See what you think.

  4. megwood Says:

    Wow, really? I can rattle off a LONG list of King stories that I thought were ten times better on film than on the page (Shawshank Redemption, Dolores Claiborne, The Shining, Misery, Stand By Me, etc.)! In my experience, as long as King himself isn’t personally involved in the films based on his books, the films end up being massive improvements over the texts they were based on. I think King’s a great storyteller, but an absolutely abominable writer!

    But I’m glad to hear “The Mist” can be counted among those that were better on-screen — I’m hoping to finally see it this weekend! Now I’m even more excited to see it! 🙂

  5. Trip Says:

    And who among us could possibly forget the wonderful screen adaption of Maximum Overdrive?

    NOT.

  6. Liz Says:

    THANK YOU, TRIP! That’s what I meant. And BTW, I was so scared by the book of “The Shining” that I kept saying I wouldn’t finish it – but I kept going back to it. No way was the movie that scary to me!

  7. megwood Says:

    “Maximum Overdrive” is actually the perfect example of my point — the further away King is kept from the making of the movie itself, the better the movie will end up being (King not only wrote the original source material for “Maximum Overdrive” — the short story “Trucks” — he also wrote the screenplay AND he DIRECTED it!).

    Kubrick’s “The Shining” is one of the most effective horror movies I’ve ever seen — I found it way scarier than the book, though that’s primarily because I’m far more likely to be scared by something I see than something I just read about. (Which is why I watch lots of horror movies, but rarely bother with horror fiction.)

    Nevertheless, “The Shining” is one of the few movies that gave me the willies both as a child AND as an adult. I love that film!

  8. Robot Says:

    I understand that they have some animal sounds mixed in and quadruple voices and such… but the inhuman voices you are talking about were the once lead vocalist of the band Faith No More. Mr Patton did a good job on the sounds and it was an exciting movie also.

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