Tuesday, October 20, 2009

31 days of Halloween: I Am Legend

I Am Legend is a book written by screenwriter and novelist Richard Matheson. Matheson penned some of the best Twilight Zone episodes including "Third from the Sun," "A World of Difference," "Nick of Time," "The Invaders," "Little Girl Lost," "Mute," "Death Ship," and "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet." He also wrote the book, "What Dreams May Come," which was later made as the 1998 Robin Williams film.

I Am Legend is a film that has been made no less than three times. The first was Last Man on Earth, staring Vincent Price – fighting Vampires. Price plays the Robert Neville character, called here Robert Morgan, a scientist. I'd have to say that this version is the closest to the original story, though some changes were made that still really perplex me (title and main character's name). The infected humans are more like walking zombies (though they can speak relatively well).

The second film adaptation of this work was "The Omega Man" with Charlton Heston taking the reigns as Robert Neville, a military scientist. This time around the "monsters" are more like cultish albinos (with the black 'monsters' donning white Afros). The film suffers from what I like to call "The 70s." I didn't really buy that the affected humans found it so difficult to capture Neville in this film, considering some of the events that occur later in the film. The infected humans are better done in this film and a lot closer to the intelligence of the original story's creatures.

The third version is the most recent, film, donning the book's title, I Am Legend. This time Will Smith takes on the role as the protagonist (or antagonist depending on how you look at things). I liked the atmosphere of the film, and the story is done successfully throughout most of the film. The problem I have with the movie is that the audience is not shown any real potential intelligence from the creatures. Outside a few instances of brief "human comprehension" - they're treated like animals. The ending is butchered far more than either of the two previous versions endings. They filmed an ending that was relatively close to the end of the original film - with elements of Nevile realizing the reality of his being, but because the audience isn't shown anything but the animalistic nature of the "Darkseekers" - the ending just didn't make enough sense to test auidences, so they changed it. I find it somewhat ironic that the only one of the three movies that used the original title completely missed the meaning and intent of the story with the changed ending.

Maybe they'll get it right some day.

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