Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Book review for a movie with the same title

"I am Legend" by Richard Matheson. I read this book the week before the movie opened (Dec. 14, 2007) because I wanted to be able to appreciate the book without any influence from the movie. Originally published in 1954, "I am Legend" takes place in the futuristic year of 1976. Despite this, the story holds up in today's world.

The story is about Robert Neville, a plant worker, who finds himself the last survivor of a plague that has turned the rest of the world into vampires. From the opening scene, we see how Robert spends his days; making stakes, hunting vampires as they sleep (with said stakes), restocking his supplies (from the now empty stores around his California town), and reinforcing his home.

At night, he stays locked in his house, battling the demons in his own mind; his drinking (it helps take his mind off the vampires that surround his house each night), the fact that his daughter was killed by the virus that mutated everyone else, and that he was forced to kill his wife when she was changed by the virus.

Robert struggles to do research, searching for clues to ways to either kill or cure the infected. Typical vampire mythos serve him well. Garlic around the windows, crucifixes (or Torahs for jewish vampires, the Koran for muslims, etc.), holy water, wooden stakes, and sunlight. But he wants to know why certain things work better than others. He comes to the realization that vampirism was able to take over civilization because people don't believe. After all, how do you fight a foe that you don't believe in.

It's a great story that brings to life the complete lonliness and isolation that Robert Neville feels. His only companions are his thoughts and the ever-present vampires. At turns heartbreaking and terrifying, "I am Legend" is one of the best novellas I ever read.

On Saturday, Jen and I were able to wrangle a babysitter for Peanut and head to the movies. It was kind of slim pickings at the theatre, but I was surprised when Jen suggested we should go see "I am Legend". I'd been wanting to see it, but it wasn't really her kind of movie. Much to our surprise, we both really liked it.

It was pretty intense at times, even though I knew the most of what was coming. They did "hollywood" it up a bit, but not in a bad way. The movie maintained the main themes of of the novella, showing us a Robert Neville obsessed with his loneliness, heartbroken at the loss of his family, and desperate to find a way to save himself and humanity.

Will Smith did such a good job bringing Matheson's character to life, it was hard to imagine that he used to be the "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air". Watching the hope and anguish in his performance made the movie seem all the more real. That, and the fact that the ghouls in the movie are infected with a rabies type disease and aren't true vampires.

I know it's almost gone from theatres, but I'd recommend seeing it if you haven't already. Or find someone who has a bootleg copy if you can't make it to the theatres. (the authors of this blog do not condone bootlegging of any type. Unless someone's got an early cut of "Dark Knight".


pseudored2 said...

We just finished the book here as well and look forward to the movie once I get over this flu. Good to hear it will be worth it!

The Mrs. said...

In the wise words of Blaine & Antwon (Men on Film - the greatest movie reviewers EVER)...

Hay-ted it!

Thank goodness for Blackbuster - not a penny wasted on this viewing. I wanted more story of how everything started. I needed some background, and sci-fi is so not my thing.

Sounds like I may like the book better.