Looking back at I AM LEGEND - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Looking back at I AM LEGEND

Tom Pheby delves into his DVD collection and picks out the lone Will Smith movie, I Am Legend.

Now before we get going on this one I have a confession, I don't like Will Smith as an actor! There, I've said it. For me he's never added value to anything he's appeared in. I wised up to his antics after Men in Black, which was just an excuse to let him be street wise and mildly amusing, and he has grated on me ever since, he's about as welcome in my lounge as dry rot!

The trouble with Smith is that in film terms he has become Cod and Chips, enjoyable on the odd occasion but not something you want or need on a regular basis. He's either typecast, cast as a type or has scripts especially written to showcase his particular brand of pithy urban humour. Often it's a mixture of all three, and that's why he dies upright in most films he's made.

So with that in mind imagine my surprise in 2007 when I am Legend was released. I felt compelled to watch this science fiction horror flick, but I already had a preconceived idea about what I was going to see. I waited for Smith to traipse on to set as 'The Fresh Prince of Bellend' and deliver yet another cool but unsatisfying performance. But I am Legend bucks the trend and stops the Smith cinematic rot. Initially I was a little annoyed with myself for liking it, because I was so used to my Will Smith bashing ways.

Smith plays Military Virologist Robert Neville, the man at the centre of a drama featuring a contagious and unstoppable mutating virus which requires the evacuation of New York City. Based on Richard Mathesons novel, and directed by Francis Lawrence, I am Legend certainly conveys the loneliness and desperation of being the soul survivor in the Big Apple. There are poignant scenes such as when Neville goes to a local video store and interacts with various mannequins just to create some form of normality, but it appears to us like he may well be losing his sanity.

Neville has to limit his forays into the desolate city centre and ensure he's back before nightfall or risk encountering the skulking mutants lurking in the dark corners of abandoned apartment buildings. He has succumbed to rituals that now govern his solitary existence, and these include trying to contact the outside world and attempting to discover a cure for the virus. Then we are curious observers to his peculiar night time regime, locking down all possible entry points and bizarrely choosing to sleep in the bath with his faithful dog Sam.

Smith's character manages to abduct a live female mutant to pioneer a cure, but this upsets her obsessive, aggressive mutant partner who seeks reprisal. It would appear that even mutants have feelings, and as the antagonist looks to recover his partner from the 'hip and happening' virologist, it leads to an excellent, pulsating finale.

There are some interesting questions raised by I am Legend as it tries to play with our own thoughts and feelings. If we were unlucky enough to find ourselves under similar circumstances, how would one adapt to the endless loneliness without losing a sense of reality or perspective? It's a disturbing and brilliant film, which exceeded my expectations of Smith's acting ability. Although with his track record, just as I find a reason to like him, he'll no doubt go and make something that I comprehensively detest, so I can resume my normal outlook on his dubious CV.

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