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I Am Legend (9/10)

by Tony Medley

The cast of this is pretty short, Will Smith and a German shepherd named Sam. Well, there are other people in the film through flashbacks, but essentially this is Will Smith all by his lonesome. This is the third remake of Richard Matheson’s 1954 novel of the same name (the others were The Last Man on Earth (1964) with Vincent Price and The Omega Man (1971) with Charlton Heston. This one won’t be able to be topped.

Robert Neville (Smith) is a virologist, the last surviving man in New York three years after an anti-cancer cure composed of a man-made virus turned into a deadly unstoppable infectious microorganism which became airborne, killing the entire population of New York City, and, as far as he knows, the rest of the world.

He has a lab in his fortress-like apartment and he’s methodically trying to find a vaccine that will cure what killed everyone. For three years, Smith has lived alone in New York City populated by wild animals (digitally inserted) and a bunch of zombies, who are called the Infected, who only come out at night. If he can find a cure, he apparently can inject it in the Infected and cure them. As it is, they are wild monsters.

To prepare for this role, Smith lost 20 pounds, down to 185 lbs from his normal 205. This is not the first time he’s altered his weight for a role, having gained up to 220 for Ali (2001). Fitness trainer Darrell Foster says, “We put him in desperate straits—high-altitude training for oxygen deprivation, heat, cold, humidity, low-caloric intake and many other adverse conditions. It helped him develop the mental aspects of his character as well as the physical.”

Smith obviously carries the film since he’s in virtually every scene and generally all by himself except for Sam. As the only person in the city, he has access to everything, all the stores, medical supplies, canned goods, everything. He can even hit golf balls off a nuclear aircraft carrier.

Smith does have a co-star in the film, though, New York City itself. Production designer Naomi Shohan dressed the city to look as it might if abandoned to nature for three years. The filmmakers didn’t use a lot of CGI for the creation of the City; they shot in the city itself, dressing it at off times so as to not disrupt life in the city too much. The result, according to Shohan, is “a kind of timelessness; the hardness and grit of the city, once engulfed by nature, becomes a sensual landscape.”

The intensity of this film never lets up.