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I Am Legend


Stars: Will Smith, Alice Braga

Director: Francis Lawrence

Filmed 37 years ago as The Omega Man, but here given a CGI 'motion capture' makeover under the original title of Richard Matheson's classic sci-fi novel, this efficient sci-fi story starts compellingly in a world stricken by a killer virus to which only one per cent of the earth's population has proved immune.

Conceived as a cure for cancer by the ill-named Dr Krippin (an unbilled Emma Thompson, scarcely able to repress a smile), the 'viral' serum turns its 'patients' into howling nocturnal mutants who, with all traces of normal human behaviour removed, fall on the rest of the population like rats on a piece of meat.

A solitary survivor in a New York City overgrown with grass and weeds, virologist Robert Neville (Smith) chases deer through the deserted streets for food, radios daily for other survivors and works in his locked-up laboratory by night, trying to find a cure. His only companion is an Alsatian dog, which is clearly destined not to last the film.

Keeping his house in darkness, for fear the city's myriad mutants should find it and consume him, Neville is, alas, the architect of his own downfall - as the film slides downhill with him. Unaccountably going berserk with his high-powered rifle on seeing one of his favourite store models moved on to the street, he inadvertently causes the death of his dog, misses a radio rendezvous with two other survivors and gives away the location of his hideout. Cue mayhem.

Director Lawrence matches (but doesn't improve) the underrated Charlton Heston version, his most original moment coming when mutant dogs strain to maul the (injured) hero, held back only by a rapidly decreasing shaft of sunlight. Smith, virtually the only actor, strides purposefully through the first half of the film, before rather bewilderingly getting to spout reggae legend Bob Marley's philosophy of life half-way through. Otherwise, special effects are sometimes a bit cheesy, but routine zombie-style excitements will satisfy most fans of the genre.

David Quinlan

USA 2007. UK Distributor: Warner Brothers. Technicolor.
96 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 20 Dec 2007