‘I Am Legend’ (2007)

‘I Am Legend’ (2007) Though Richard Matheson’s novella has been adapted for the screen 3 times and served as the inspiration for George Romero and John Russo’s ‘Living Dead’ franchises , but this is the first time that a film has borne the original title. With each incarnation the story has played against its own specific cultural background:

1964′s ‘ Last Man on Earth ‘ starring Vincent Price, was quintessentially an Atomic-age Cold War story; Romero and Russo played their story as an American Civil Rights morality tale while a politically disenchanted Charleton Heston found fit to illustrate Matheson’s story as a reaction against the late ’60′s/early ’70′s culture of protest – against the Vietnam War, Voting Rights, Black Power and the rise of cults, such as Charles Manson’s ‘Family’ in 1971′s ‘ Omega Man ‘.

That said, the Manhattan depicted in this most recent rendition of ‘Legend’ has been transported to New York City and from the city’s appearance, it looks as the WTC had only been the hors d’oeuvre of a 9-11 attack as all the bridges into Manhattan have been demolished and the city an open funeral-garden. Given recent events like Katrina, 9-11 and the collapse of the I-35W highway bridge in Minneapolis, events like those might give us greater pause about the state of our infrtastructure, c. 2007.

Of course, the Protosevich portion of the script had been kicking around Hollywood since 1994, when Warner Bros. commissioned Mark Protosevich to write it and the draft drew attention and intent from talent as varied as Ridley Scott , Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Douglas and Tom Cruise throuout the ’90′s. “>Early drafts of the Protosevich script were bore greater resemblance to Matheson’s novella as Protosevich looks past the American situational politics of the moment (the ’50′s, ’60′s, ’70′s and the 90′s) to acknowledge, like Matheson before him, that Robert Neville is a being who has survived past his usefulness as his enemies and antagonists represent the next step on the ladder of human evolution, whether that be productive or measurable on a human scale.

But the politics of Hollywood are that of expediency and it’s always necessary to get a sympathetic actor into the starring role and ‘asses into theater seats’. So, once Will Smith became attached to the project, his personal touch-up scribe, Akiva Goldsman stepped-up to recast the story in a fashion better-tailored to Mr. Smith’s strengths and Warners’ economic necessity. (For what it’s worth, the movie is devoid of Smith’s folksy and signature “ Hell, nos “.)

The resulting movie is a whole two heads above the last Goldsman-Smith collaboration, ‘ I, Robot ‘. With Protosevich’s script to work from, ‘Legend ‘s first hour is remarkable, a piece of drama that’s been admirably compared to Tom Hanks’ performance in ‘< a href= http://cineblog.us/”http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0162222/”>Cast Away’ (2000) and ‘ The Quiet Earth (1985). I only wish they had stayed closer to Matheson’s original ideas and engaged the late-arriving Anna in a more productive way. As with I, Robot , though, I wish that Goldsmal had taken some time to reflect on his story to elevate it above the level of an SFX spectacle and explore the high-concept parameters of his story just a bit more.

Earlier this year, Protosevich pitched a Legend to Warner Bros., but without Smith starring in it, it’s unclear how far the bid will go.

Rating: ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

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