One of my favorite actors is Will Smith, though not from the days of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. But after he has moved to the big screen, starting with Wild Wild West. Then there is Independence Day, Enemy of the State, I Robot, The Hitch, and most recently, The Pursuit of Happyness.
When his latest offering, I Am Legend, came out, this month, the kids have been clamoring to watch it in cinemas. And we gladly obliged, yesterday, at the Muvico venue in New Tampa. This is our very first visit to the complex, one devoted solely to movie screening. The seats are spacious, well cushioned, and arranged with the best incline so as no patron's line of sight would be obstructed regardless where one sits. So we settled in to a fabulous treat of sight and sound.
It has been a while since we were at a cinema, being contented to the home setting, watching DVDs the progress of which can be controlled at the finger's tip. A call came in, no problem, pause and wait. Need to answer the call of nature, no problem there, the pause key is always available, though at the expense of continuity. Then again, it's just a movie, nothing earth-shattering there. There are much larger irritations in life that we need to worry about, or fuss over.
So we were pleasantly surprised by the varied pre-movie entertainment provided by ScreenVision, not the usual fare of static displays that we had grown accustomed to. As patrons started to trickle in, the screen alternated between film clips and slide advertisement, interspersed with movie trivia for those who need to be challenged. Soon it was time for the feature presentation (from this point on there maybe some plot spoilers, even though I have omitted any reference to details, but focused on some broad features), Dr. Robert Neville (played by Will Smith) and Sam (his canine companion) against a whole colony of mutated human beings who had lost the last vestiges of human behavior, thanks to the wondrous cancer drug-turned-viral scourge that decimated close to 99% of world's population through aerial spread and contact. [The image is from here.]
The last 1% of Homo sapiens who possessed natural immunity were gradually being annihilated by this pack of mutants who roamed New York City nocturnally. And light remained the greatest ally of Dr. Neville. But he did not give up, tirelessly looking for the medical vaccine in his basement lab, and conducting trials, first on rats, and then the captured mutants, if it proved promising. Dutifully, everyday he broadcast using a radio frequency to others survivors, and to meet him at a dock, at noon, when the sun is at its highest. “You're no alone,” he concluded his daily broadcast.
Somewhere along the way, he lost Sam, whose immunity was only against air-borne propagation when it was mauled by a pack of infected canine. In the end, he was forced to killed Sam in his embrace, tears streaking down his face, when Sam started to exhibit rabid behavior.
That's when his resolve broke, and he rampaged over the mutants at night, when he knew better to stay indoor, trying to kill them all with his SUV, but to no avail when he was up against a stampede. I guess he was being human after all, after more than three years of talking only with Sam and mannequins, both unable to respond in kind. To bring home the point, he even remembered the lines of Shrek and the donkey in the movie.
As predictable as any movie, help had to come from somewhere at the brink of his demise. The company of one soon expanded to three. But events took a nasty turn when the mutants found out where he stayed, a brick building fortified by metal doors and windows and rigged with explosives and spot lights all around. In the final battle between the good and evil, he was systematically outnumbered by the mutants, guided by their animal instincts and single-mindedness to destroy all humans without regard to their own lives. Just like in an animal herd, a lead of the pack stood out, and seemed to be able to marshal a concerted attack, even replicating a trick used by Neville to trap one of its own.
The end is almost inevitable, that the hero would have to sacrifice his own life for the salvation of humanity, but not before he realized where the cure lied, the blood of his human trial, but at low temperature, and he passed a vial of it to the other two survivors who continued on to reach the survivor colony up in Vermont (it seems the cold temperature there has rendered the virulent virus inactive). Thus a legend was born, and his legacy remained.
The doomsday scenario as painted in the movie is a scary one, and seems more plausible than the nuclear winter, the climate change-induced calamities, and certainly alien attack that have typified the disasters movies of note to date. What with genetic engineering, the biological warfare, coupled with human greed that is always at the center of things, the viral scourge would seem more imminent than the other threats to the human species as we know it.
But I doubt this “concern” would ever stay in our consciousness for long, knowing full well this movie would be just another make-believe cinematic stimulation that would not go beyond the confines of the five senses. It's more likely most people would just marvel how Will Smith alone could carry the entire film on his broad shoulders, reminiscent of Tom Hank's role in Cast Away.