On the one hand it’s a cracking, well-paced action thriller with some expertly directed tense scenes. The bit with the vampire dogs held back by an ever-decreasing sliver of setting sun as an injured Neville struggles lamely toward his car is a stand out moment. And there are plenty of other unsettling and memorable moments, too.
On the other hand, however, it’s far too CGI‘d for my liking. It’s like they tried so hard to make the bad guys scary, and in the process kind of missed the point of why zombies are so fearsome — it’s because they were once just as human as the rest of us, but now they’ve been corrupted and perverted into something monstrous. That’s been lost somewhere here. For my money the infected in 28 Days Later were more terrifying than I Am Legend’s supercharged computer-generated versions.
Being a fan of the book, it was always going to be an uphill struggle, but Constantine director Francis Lawrence and the writers did a commendable job of updating the story. Of course the ending doesn’t live up to the uber-grim novel version, and a lot of the subtle details — like the different vampire race and the lascivious vampires trying to tempt Neville out of his safe house — are missing altogether. The ‘legend’ in the film is also crudely simplified in comparison to Matheson’s novel.
It’s still well worth seeing though, at least for the superbly realised post-apocalyptic New York setting and, surprisingly, Will Smith’s very credible performance. I was a little disappointed that he didn’t do his trademark “AW HELL NAW!”, but you can’t have everything…