Monday, December 17, 2007

'I Am Legend'-- Where there's a Will.....

Okay so there are zombies in Manhattan, so.... what else is new? Everybody knows that-- just look at the number of Starbucks there are in New York. But seriously, Will Smith has come a long way since 'Fresh Prince of Bel Air', to say the least. His last two movies have shown a maturation of his acting skills, and a willingness to stretch out more than a little. This movie is, in that sense, a stretch as well. The movie is one hour 40 minutes, short by many standards, and the pace is quite slow at the beginning, as the director commendably allows the story to unfold gradually. The last thirty minutes of the film pick up the pace to a breathless rate. By then we have seen the loneliness, the angst, the anger, the pride of Col. Neville, who still thinks he can develop a vaccine, even a cure for the zombies, even though his failure rate after two years of trying was 100%. Hope springs eternal. This movie should have been called 'Good Will Hunting'--- but that title was taken.

Col. Robert Neville, a soldier and a scientist (as we discover from seeing the covering of Time with his picture on it stuck on his refrigerator) is apparently the last real man standing in Manhattan, looking for a cure for a disease that has either killed most of humanity or turned them into zombies. One Dr. Krippen apparently thought that the measles virus could cure cancer if used differently. Did it work--- NOT SO MUCH!!! In this movie medical research gets to be both the villain, and in the end the hero as Neville develops the vaccine against the plague.

Col. Neville is accompanied only by his trust German shepherd Sam, and in one sense, this movie is about a man and his dog. He keeps broadcasting on all AM frequencies hoping to find another non-zombie human, and then two show up, having driven to Manhattan from Maryland! They regale Col. Neville with the news there is a survivor colony in the Vermont mountains. When Neville presses 'Anna' on how she knows this, her answer is simple---'God told me'--- an answer Neville is not much inclined to believe (even though at the beginning of the film his wife prays for his safety as she and their child are leaving NY). Could it just be coincidence that Anna and Ethan drove up just as Col. Neville was about to give himself up as zombie food, and they saved his life? Or was that a singular providence of God? The movie actually raises this issue, and does so effectively.

Without spoiling the movie's ending, I will say that Anna was not 15% shy of plumb, and Col. Neville had not done all that laboratory work for nothing. In the end, Neville gets to be a self-sacrificial savior figure in more than one sense. Not soldier as savior in this film, but to some extent scientist as savior.

This movie has some very graphic CG scenes of zombies on the prowl, more than a little hungry, and as such it probably deserved an R rating rather than a PG-13 rating. Having said this, it may well be the best drama/sci-fi/suspense/horror flick out there during this Christmas season of slim pickins. It will probably not win any Oscars, but it is a film that is rather well done, and in various respects is thought provoking. The ability of the human race to survive requires a self-sacrificial savior-- at least now and again.


Matt Akins said...

My wife and I saw it, and we will be recommending it for our church's annual "God in the Movies" sermon series.

As far as "drama/sci-fi/suspense/horror" movies, I would recommend checking out Sunshine when it comes out on DVD (or Blu-Ray) in January . . .:

There's also one of the versions of Bladerunner contained in the Ultimate edition coming out tomorrow. You can't possibly have seen all 5 versions, now can you?

Jeremy said...

What did you think of the redemptive elements of the movie? I was blown away at the end by the very interesting (intentional?) correspondence to the gospel redemptive motifs sprinkled throughout the movie, but especially at the end...his realization the cure is "in the blood" and his the fact that his legacy was one of the restorer of humans was, I thought, almost too purposefully redemptive.

Anyway, thanks for the post.

Odgie said...

I have been on the fence about seeing this, because I know that so much has been changed from the novel, which is one of my favorites. However, the generally positive reaction I am picking up here and there makes me think "maybe"

Adam said...

Dr. BW3!

I agreed with your review. I thought the movie was a nail-biter, as well as encouraging unlike other movies that touch this type of subject. Will Smith really sold the part, and did a fantastic job.

I thought this movie was similar to Shamaylan's Signs a few years ago. Just when you are absolutely certain that God has left the picture, and all that is left is despair and desolation, you see that He is really there, and has been there the whole time.

Marc Axelrod said...

It sounds like a fun movie. Will Smith's movies usually are.

Dr. Witherington, I will prepare a short study Guide for the Living Word next month if this is OK. I'll have about 5 or 6 discussion questions for each chapter. Does this sound good? I'll email them to you by January 23rd, Lord willing.

I have a Dish 622 DVR and I love it. I have about 150 hours of movies recorded on it, waiting to be watched. Plus I have a $50 Regal Cinema gift card gathering dust on my headboard. I love movies. My mom and soon to be bat mitzvahed niece will be here this weekend, so I'll probably use it while they are here.

But my movie watching time is limited because it is subordinated to my reading time. I just finished Jesus Through the Centuries by Jaroslav Pelikan (Good book), and I have about 370 pages to go in Doug Moo's Romans (great book). Plus, I am reading Mcculough's John Adams' biography and Isaac Bashevis Singer's In My Father's Court."

I just got your Hebrews, James and Jude. I read the first Letters and Homilies book on the Pastorals and and epistles of John. IIRC, the Ephesian province ties these books together.

Peace and blessings this Christmas!

Ben Witherington said...

Marc, that will be fine. I thought the redemptive elements in the movie were not overplayed, except perhaps at the very end. The let your little light shine was a bit over the top, perhaps.


Cody Thomas said...

This movie probably made me the most tense of any movie I've seen in years. From loud, contrasted scene changes and vampires jumping out of the darkness, I was at all times tense. I loved it! I love Will Smith movies anyways!

Shane Vander Hart said...

Thanks for the review. I'm looking forward to watching it!