Will Smith, star of such films as “I, Robot,” “Independence Day” and “Men in Black,” is no stranger to sci-fi flicks and has long had an affinity for Richard Matheson’s timeless novel I Am Legend. So when filmmakers learned of his interest in the movie they naturally offered him the part.
Smith is Robert Neville, a military scientist based in Manhattan who unsuccessfully spearheads the government’s attempt to find a vaccine to combat a deadly virus. Once the virus ravages the city all non-infected residents are evacuated, but during the process Neville tragically loses his wife (Richardson) and daughter Marley (played by Smith’s real life 7-year-old daughter Willow). Uniquely immune from the virus and determined to find a cure he remains in the deserted city with only his dog Samantha for companionship.
By day, he and Samantha struggle to keep ahead of the infected creatures whilst scavenging for supplies, working in the lab and broadcasting daily radio messages in hopes of finding other survivors. By night, they barricade themselves in a building monitoring the creatures as they hunt and forage through the streets for prey. The creatures, a bunch of bloodthirsty, hairless sub-humans -- mutant victims of the plague with semi transparent skins created with CGI and visual effects makeup are zombie like, nocturnal and feed on other human beings.
Complex, intense and provocative, “Legend” is a modern day quintessential story of one man against the world.
Smith does a great job of carrying “Legend” all by himself for about two-thirds of its running time and isn't helped by additional characters in the opening and closing sequences. Heavily relying on various forms of expression to portray the emotional range of his characters journey, he wins our sympathy with his eyes and body language when there's no one else on the screen. Samantha, his ever faithful and doting German shepherd embodies comfort and companionship in times of loneliness and insecurity and Neville clings to her for emotional support talking to man’s best friend as though she was his girlfriend.
The movie's power and effect center on the deserted city as Neville makes each lesson in survival an intense one. With awe inspiring visuals and fascinating sweeping shots of an isolated New York with its cessation of water, power and excessive vegetation growth it’s effective in creating the overall powerful feeling of eeriness and abandonment.