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December 2007

By Wilson Morales


American Gangster


Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Director: Francis Lawrence
Screenwriter: Akiva Goldsman, Mark Protosevich
Starring: Will Smith, Alice Braga, Salli Richardson, Willow Camille Reign Smith


In Hollywood films, when it comes to saving mankind from extinction or tyranny, there’s usually a group of people or a single man or woman who risk their lives to do the task. It may not be simple and if it’s a sci-fi films, then there’s one thing you should remember: not everything is logical. There are some things that go unexplained. Will Smith is one actor whose climb in the Hollywood industry started with ‘Independence Day’. That film catapulted him into stardom and he has never looked back. He’s also gone on to do other films where he had to save mankind such as ‘Men in Black I & II’ and ‘I, Robot’. In looking at those films, Smith does what he does best, looked good, use his athletics skills, and gets the job done, save the world, and have the film do financially well at the box office. In his latest film, once again, he has to don on his ‘super’ skills to save humanity, but this he has no one to help him as he is alone to fend for himself in ‘I Am Legend’, where he again delivers the goods amidst a few flaws.

Based on the classic novel by Richard Matheson and the previous 1971 adaptation, "The Omega Man," as the last man on Earth, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Nevelle (Smith) walks the streets of New York with his trusted dog Sam as they comb the area in his red Mustang looking to trap some deer for him to take back to the lab and figure out a cure for a disease that wiped out most of humanity some three years ago. It’s 2012 and he’s the last of the unaffected, having outlived his friends, colleagues, and family, including his wife Ginny (Richardson) and daughter Marley (Willow Smith). With lots of time on his hands, he wakes up, exercises, plays golf, ‘rents’ DVDs from a video store while talking to mannequins. While in his lab, the rats that he uses as specimen to try new antidotes doesn’t seem to pay off, which frustrates him. When he leaves his home on Washington Square, he goes by the pier and broadcast on the radio so that anyone alive can listen to him and hopefully come by. His watch sets off before night falls, as they are those dark seekers who are infected and seek to make him one of them. Every other man, woman, and child has become a ‘vampire’, and they are all hungry for Neville's blood, which may be a cure. By night, he barricades himself in his home and prays for the dawn

When an incident gets the best of him and hope is lost, Nevelle chooses to confront his worst fears and end his misery…until hope arrives, but not for long.

In ‘I Am Legend’, Will Smith gives a tour de force performance. If you thought Tom Hanks could pull it off being alone on an island in ‘Cast Away’, imagine the same thing but with plenty of landscape like New York City as your cover ground. In his previous films, Smith had the pleasure of working with other actors and robots and at times made some of his scenes look comical, but alone, there’s nothing funny about being the last survivor on Earth and he convinces you that alone he’s done what any man would do in his shoes if given the resources he had. His feelings for his dog Sam are genuine, and prove that dog can be a man’s best friend. The look of New York in a savaged, post – apocalyptic world looks amazing. With grass grown in the city, animals walking by, and cars parks in the middle of streets, credit the production design for this scenery. The problem with the film is the use of CGI in creating the dark seekers. If the production cost was expensive to begin with, what harm is there in casting humans to play the part of the infected. Third acts are always hard to maintain, and when each time the CGI was used, one starts to lose the emotion and intensity that Smith has built within the film. It then becomes a ‘sci-fi’ film, filled with special effects and illogical action. In the end, it’s Smith’s performance that carries the weight. Within the film, the glue that holds the film is his line, ‘I can fix this’. So while one may have questions as to logic and his ability to do certain things, know that Smith will deliver, as he always does.