“I Am Legend,” review by Joanna Langfield

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I’ll admit it: I wanted to see this movie like the plague. (Sorry for the pun). After suffering through it, at least I know I was right.

Will Smith has been named one of the smartest people in Hollywood for doing things like making this movie. Explain that to me. Admittedly, this one’s a go for the jugular special effects that will surely fill lots of seats opening weekend, but is making a money maker, no matter how horrific, really all that counts?

Based on the Richard Matheson novel, the film follows an Army bigwig who finds himself all alone in a devastated New York City, after a man made virus has killed virtually everyone else on Earth. Our hero, Robert Neville, is immune to the bug, but not to the virulent physical attacks from the few mutants who are also somehow alive, and not very happy about it.

With just his loyal German Shepard by his side (his beloved wife and daughter having been killed trying to escape), Neville drives through an overgrown, hollowed out city, trying to reach out to other possible survivors, but also pilfering through deserted apartments and, possibly, “borrowing” a few classics from the Museum of Modern Art, from the looks of what is displayed prominently on the walls of his plush and inexplicably well protected townhouse. Not to worry, though: Robert’s not a thief: he makes it a point to only borrow one DVD at a time from the local video store, carefully returning each one on a daily basis.

As creepy as it is, there is a kind of cool factor here, having New York City all to one’s self, no matter how much of a mess it is. But, never fear, this isn’t a film to ignore the possible good times of blowing away people, as well as several beloved landmarks. So, before we know it, those pesky mutants pop up, and all our heroes, two legged and four pawed alike, are vulnerable. But did I give too much away?

As much as the PR spin will try to sell us on the idea this movie is a meditation on “powerful themes” and the “nature of humanity,” I’m not buying it. What the filmmakers are banking on, literally, is the fact that many people will just love seeing Will, machine gun in hand, blasting away the bad guys. His devotion to his city, to mankind in general, is what, we are told with reverence, makes Neville a legend. What scares me, more than pouncing mutants, is the real “nature of humanity” shown here. A large part of the public will love watching New York get massacred, as much as they will get a charge out of Smith’s explosive revenge. That, I’m afraid, is what this legend is really made of.

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Joanna Langfield (Archived Contributor)

Her voice is heard throughout the 50 states and around the world by more than one million listeners on her syndicated radio programs: Joanna Langfield’s People Report and Video and Movie Minute. She’s also seen and heard as a regular contributing commentator on CNN International, CNN, Fox News and CNBC. In print, her articles have been published in such high profile magazines as Video Review and McCall’s. Joanna Langfield is known for taking interviews to another level with probing looks at celebrities’ insights rather than just their latest projects. As a result, she’s secured a niche among the nation’s premier interviewers and movie critics. Joanna began her career on the production staff of a local Boston television station. She then focused her energies towards radio and produced talk shows at WMEX-AM in Boston. After moving to New York, she became executive producer at WMCA-AM for talk show personalities Barry Gray and Sally Jessy Raphael. She began hosting a one-minute movie review spot which, in turn, led to her top-rated weekend call in-show, The Joanna Langfield Show (1980-83). Joanna moved to WABC-AM to host The Joanna Langfield Show on Saturday nights from 9:00pm to midnight. It was the highest rated show in its time slot. From 1987-1989, Joanna hosted Today’s People on the ABC Radio network, which was fed daily to over 300 stations around the country. She also appeared on WABC-TV as a regular on-air contributor. In 1989, Joanna formed her radio production company, Joanna Langfield Entertainment Reports, to syndicate her radio reports. She is considered to be one of the top authoritative commentators on the entertainment industry. Read Lagfield's recent articles below. For her Women On Film archive, type "Joanna Langfield" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).