Sunday, December 16, 2007

I Am Legend and Adaptations

A and I went to see I Am Legend last night at Alamo Village (not my favorite theater . . . Alamo South Lamar broke my heart for the second week in a row by failing to show the movie I wanted).

Pre-show included a 70s vintage short film shot by a couple of teenagers called "The Last Omega Man on Earth," scenes from an episode of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and a variety of Will Smith music videos, including "Summertime" and "Parents Just Don't Understand."

We enjoyed the movie, but then we mostly enjoy movies. Our only recent disagreements:
-- No Country For Old Men
, which I thought was a great Coen Brothers movie and A thought was not thrilling enough to be a thriller and not "talky" enough to be a philosophical rumination (I would chalk that up to a difference in expectations).
-- 30 Days of Night, which he thought was an enjoyable vampire movie and I thought sucked. Hard. Mostly because the vampires' backstory was non-existent, so I cared not about them at all.

I Am Legend was not a great movie, but I am glad I saw it and it gave us plenty to talk about. It also cements Will Smith as the greatest movie star alive . . . spoiler-ish: since he carries the entire movie by himself, is crazy, and yet it's impossible to imagine anyone else being as likable.
A.O. Scott, in his NY Times review, concluded: "There is something graceful and effortless about this performance, which not only shows what it might feel like to be the last man on earth, but also demonstrates what it is to be a movie star."

A has seen all of the previous adaptations of Richard Matheson's I Am Legend, and he re-read the book recently to prepare. As we drove back, he told me he really liked it, but it was very different from the book. After he described all the differences, including spoilers: the fact that there were actual vampires who remembered who they were and spoke to him instead of "zombie-vampires," mutations, and the development of a vampire society -- terrifying!

The only way they could have done a true adaption of the novel would have been in a six-hour BBC miniseries in order to properly capture all of the elements of the story. Still, that's something I would love to see.

The difficulty in making a movie from a novel is choosing which elements to include and then deciding how to make a coherent story from those few elements. I think they made a terrific movie from I Am Legend, which stands together with an internal logic. That story, though, differs significantly enough from the novel that I will be reading the novel, despite knowing everything that happens.

On its own as a movie, I Am Legend was well worth seeing.

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