Ill 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 ones 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: Roberts 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 ones self, no matter how much of a mess it is. But, never fear, this isnt 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, Im 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 Smiths explosive revenge. That, Im afraid, is what this legend is really made of.