It seems like just yesterday that the Brooklyn Bridge was being blown up by Hollywood. How time flies. I Am Legend, the movie for which this post-apocalyptic craziness occurred, is opening today (get your promotional survivor kit ready!). In the 100 minutes of watching it, you'll meet three main characters: Manhattan, Sam the dog, and Will Smith ("Robert Neville"). The combination is apparently a winning one, as the reviews have been frighteningly positive...it will scare you, and it will especially scare New Yorkers (particularly if those future gas prices are accurate). You can watch the 3-minute opening scene, here.
The Observer (whose reviewer was terrified by the movie) reminds us this isn't the first time Richard Matheson's sci-fi novel has been re-imagined for the big screen. It was "first filmed as a cheesy Italian-made potboiler called The Last Man on Earth, with Vincent Price (1964), then remade on the streets of L.A. as The Omega Man, with Charlton Heston (1971)." But now there is CGI, and other advanced technology, that is making the end of the world as we know it...seem a little too real. As the last (non-zombified) man roams the streets in 2012, the urban destruction and natural growth intermingle -- which makes it look very similar to the way scientists envisioned a New York without people. The NY Times A.O. Scott says, "The streetscapes he wanders through will be familiar to any visitor or resident, but the way Mr. Lawrence and his team of digital-effects artists have distressed and depopulated New York is downright uncanny. Weeds poke up through the streets, which are piled with abandoned cars, and a slow, visible process of decay has set in. A nightmare, of course, but not without its enchantments."
We're guessing those enchantments do not include the "wild rats the size of buffalo," but it seems A.O. Scott is quite enchanted with Smith's performance -- saying he "outdoes" both Price and Heston. He also says "it mixes dread and suspense with contemplative, almost pastoral moods. And without taking itself too seriously, the movie, written by Akiva Goldsman and Mark Protosevich, does ponder some pretty deep questions about the collapse and persistence of human civilization." What's everyone else saying?
Newsday's Jan Smith is less enthralled with Smith, saying "You know you're in trouble when a movie revolves around one actor and he is given nothing interesting to say." She also wonders if his character ransacked the MoMA, given the original Van Goghs and Rousseaus on his townhouse walls. Time Out New York agrees the script is the weakest part, but seems intrigued with what a low-rent, no traffic Manhattan would look like.
The Post offers up a survival guide, while The Daily News seems most smitten with the "cinematic miracle workers" who "turned Times Square, Fifth Ave., Tribeca, the Meatpacking District, and docks on the East and West Sides of the city into canyons of foul decay, a landscape overrun with weeds and rust and roaming descendants of Central Park Zoo denizens."
The Village Voice's Scott Foundas applauds the director, saying "[Francis] Lawrence -- like Peter Jackson and James Camero -- is among the few filmmakers with full access to the digital paintbox who seems to understand how those tools work best: to magnify the human dimension of a movie instead of extinguish it."
Will you go see it? Later today I Am Legend takes over the Seaport -- so be prepared to see some zombie mannequins out there!