A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
The opening scenes of "I Am Legend" have special effects so good that they just about compensate for some later special effects that are dicey. We see Manhattan three years after a deadly virus has killed every healthy human on the island, except one. The streets are overgrown with weeds, cars are abandoned, the infrastructure is beginning to collapse. Down one street, a sports car races, driven by Robert Neville (Will Smith), who is trying to get a good shot at one of the deer roaming the city. He has worse luck than a lioness who competes with him.
Neville has only his dog to keep him company. He lives barricaded inside a house in Greenwich Village, its doors and windows sealed every night by heavy steel shutters. That's because after dark the streets are ruled by bands of predatory zombies -- hairless creatures who were once human but have changed into savage, speechless killers with fangs for teeth. In his basement, Neville has a laboratory where he is desperately seeking a vaccine against the virus, which mutated from a cure for cancer.
The story is adapted from a 1954 sci-fi novel by Richard Matheson, which has been filmed twice before, as "The Last Man on Earth" (1964) starring Vincent Price, and "The Omega Man" (1971) starring Charlton Heston. In the original novel, which Stephen King says influenced him more than any other, Neville cultivated garlic and used mirrors, crosses and sharpened stakes against his enemies, who were like traditional vampires, not super-strong zombies. I am not sure it is an advance to make him a scientist, arm him and change the nature of the creatures; Matheson developed a kind of low-key realism that was doubly effective.
In "I Am Legend," the situation raises questions of logic. If Neville firmly believes he is the last healthy man alive, who is the vaccine for? Only himself, I guess. Fair enough, although he faces a future of despair, no matter how long his cans of Spam and Dinty Moore beef stew hold out; dogs don't live forever. And how, I always wonder, do human beings in all their infinite shapes and sizes mutate into identical pale zombies with infinite speed and strength?