VES Screening: I Am Legend

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i_am_legend.sized.jpg A special treat for all of you that are subscribed to this blog via RSS or email! Last night I attended a VES screening of I am Legend. After the screening there was a discussion panel from Imageworks showing and describing some of the work that went into creating the creatures and environments.

The film itself was great, much better than the book/novella by Matheson, I felt. Even the ending was better than the book. The supervisors described how they created two endings to the movie, and didn't find out which ending the production would use until a couple of weeks before the films release! The film switches between the present and the past, the past being of a thriving New York metropolis, unspoiled by a cure for cancer that goes wrong. The present is of Robert Neville, a soldier and scientist who is immune, trying to find the a current cure for all the creatures that only emerge at night. The sound design is excellent, and conveys a definite sense of loneliness, his only companion being his daughters dog that he was held custodian of when he put them on a chopper out of the city in the past. Through his basement research lab, we find the reasons and his attempts to solve the mutated cancer gene which cause aggression.

The visual effects work in the film is astounding. All of the environments of Neville in an abandoned New York are pretty convincing, and the sound, as mentioned before, really puts you into that lonely environment. The supervisors talked about being on-set, and having people and signs of life that had to be removed in post. In addition to removing signs of life, they had to add more growth and vegetation and decay that would be apparent if humans were no longer on the earth. Twice as much work!

Smiths performance is great. He really conveys his loneliness to the audience, and at times you can sense him almost snapping out of sheer frustration at being the only one sane, and alone, in New York. Unfortunately, the creatures that come out into the world at dark don't make him alone any longer. Unlike previous versions of this film, The Omega Man (1971) and The Last Man on Earth (1964), the creatures don't talk. But they do convey a sense of emotion through their animation and motion capture, which the animation supervisor went over while describing the animation work in the film. In addition to the plethora of human creatures that they had to create, they also created infected and sane lab rats for Neville to experiment on, as well as infected dogs which, in a pivotal scene, wish you weren't in Neville's shoes.

I indirectly worked with directory Francis Lawrence on Constantine, and his goal for that film was to make the demons and environments real, and tangible. With I am Legend he had the same lofty goals, to which I think he succeeded. Originally the plan was to have the infected portrayed by stunt actors, of which there is a copious list at the end credits! Through post-production however, the team was tasked with making fully CG infected people. Any shot of an infected human in Nevilles present time is CG, including closeups. After seeing the amazingly realistic human baby in Children of Men, I believe it.

A year or two ago, when other studios were bidding for this project, I can across an early script that was on the net. If you had typed in "I am Legend" into Google and hit I'm feeling lucky, you would get transported to the current screenplay. After reading that, I was hesitant (because it sucked). This film version is nothing like that written screenplay, and it's for the better.

Overall, I'd give the film a 9/10, and the visual effects an 8/10. While the environments and infected dogs, rats and people were amazing, they were still missing something, and that was environmental integration. While New York looked amazing in its destruction, it still looked too clean. There wasn't enough detritious in the air, or particulate matter, or blowing dust. It was sterile, even though it looked dirty.

What are your thoughts on the film, if you've seen it? Did it meet your expectations?


I was going to attend the VES Screening of it last night as well, but up here in Redwood City at PDI... but between the traffic and gas over there I changed my mind, heh. So I haven't seen it yet, but all the buzz around here is pretty much the opposite of your experience with it... I still plan to see it, so I'll chime in then, but I heard the CG peoples looked heavily CG (and it was dark right?) and that the first 2/3rd's of it are cool but then went to horse shit. I dunno though, I'm just sayin'

It's got a 66 over at [] though... but I find it hard to believe that it would play better than Richard Matheson's short, I loved that.

Cheers mate!

Ok, I have an update to my previous cry baby post, I saw this one over the break, and it wasn't all that bad, not nearly like how folks had talked about. The first 2 acts were pretty damn sweet, but the last act some what fizzled out for me, I enjoyed it overall though and have to say the infested CG humans didn't look all that bad, the clothes stuck out like a sore thumb though.

Not bad, just not good, once again another version of Matheson's awesome short transformed into something... Now I'd like to see a low budget I Am Legend that stays very true to the short novel.

anyhow Happy New Year! the site looks sweet.

Thanks David! Ya, I agree that the first acts were good.. After we talked, I looked back through the short story, and there are definitely some great dynamics between the characters which are missing from the film. But since they went with the infected people being really crazed, they had to cut all the interaction between Neville and Cortman out. Ah well.

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