Occasionally, movies manage to be entertaining in spite of themselves.  In these instances, solid acting, excellent special effects, and competent directing work to overcome what would otherwise be a fatal flaw:  no plot.

I Am Legend, Will Smith’s newest film, is just such a movie.

The central problem with the film is it’s premise, which makes for an entirely predictable story.  As the last man alive in New York City, Will Smith’s only hope for dramatic action depends upon confronting the unknown “un-men” who come out at night.  It’s as much as any screenwriter could do with that premise–that is, without writing an intensely pscyhological examination of man in isolation.

The weaknesses and predictability of the plot, however, are overcome–as much as they can be–by Francis Lawrence’s direction.  In hiding the cause of New York’s desolation, Lawrence weaves an element of suspense into an otherwise bland story.  He also manages to create several suspenseful and genuinely startling scenes.  Though reminiscent of the horror genre, these moments are an exciting and engaging addition.

And, as usual, Will Smith delivers a worthy performance.  Though he lacks the sardonic touch he has had in other movies, his performance is what we’ve come to expect from him:  sometimes touching, sometimes amusing, but always entertaining.

In all, I Am Legend is a fine film built on a mediocre plot.  While it won’t stand-up under multiple viewings or lofty expectations, it is an enjoyable film to see in the theatres.  If you have the time and money (and can take an intense, adult film), I Am Legend is a good choice.

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Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.

2 Comments

  1. It’s funny that you would describe a story that, in addition to being a classic of Science Fiction, has been adapted into film no less than three times and is basically the inspiration for an entire genre of films as weak on plot. That’s like saying, “The Lord of the Rings does the best it can with a bloated plot and bad characters” … everyone is entitled to their opinion of course, and someone might think that LotR has bad characters not unjustly, but it seems a little quixotic to say so. Of course, the adaptation may be poor, I haven’t seen it myself.

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  2. Matthew Lee Anderson December 22, 2007 at 5:05 pm

    Ben,

    I was only aware of one adaptation (Omega Man?). What are the others?

    That said, as premises for stories go, this one doesn’t impress me much except as I’ve articulated. This version, at least, lacks depth, complexity, and intrigue, but I don’t know what else to blame except the plot. What great conflict am I missing in the plot that I should see?

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