I am Legend

10 01 2008

I am LegendWarning: spoilers follow

I saw the film ‘I am Legend’ last night at the cinema. It’s a film about a scientist, Robert Neville, in New York city in the year 2012 who is the sole survivor of a terrible virus which has killed most people and turned the few remaining into horrible monster creatures. For the most part I liked the film – the tension throughout kept me gripped (literally – to the person sitting next to me) until the end. However, I was surpised that it felt like a thriller – I think I expected to see more of Will Smith save the world and less of the light-fearing monster/humans leaping out of dark corners.

The scenes where he is in the city in the day-light with only his dog for company are eerie. The city appears abandoned, with grass growing in the middle of the streets, no traffic and no activity anywhere to be seen. At one point Neville hunts deer in the centre of the city, another time he stands on a military ship in the harbour and drives golf balls into a parking lot. These scenes were powerful because it is close to impossible to imagine what New York City would be like if I was the only human there. It reminded me of Douglas Coupland’s book Girlfriend in a Coma, in which a group of friends suvive an atrocity that kills everyone else on earth.

 Neville is a biologist who is trying to find a cure for virus. Since he is immune, he is convinced that he can save everyone left if he finds a vaccine. However, when his dog, his sole companion, is infected, his lonliness overwhelms him and he gives up on living. Anna, another survivor, appears and saves him at the last moment. She tells him that God sent her and has told her about a colony of survivers. Neville is dismissive of the idea of God. Although he admits that humans are responsible for the virus, he feels that God has abandoned them.

 In the end, he realises that in his final trial he has discovered a cure for the virus. He gives up his life to protect Anna so that she can take a vial of the cured blood to the colony.

 Neville makes for an interesting Messiah. He is so painfully alone in New York but still managing to survive and continue his research, trying to rescue the infected humans. But cracks appear and the would-be-saviour gives up on everything and tries to kill himself. If he is a legend, then he is a flawed one.

Is this what people want in a saviour? Someone who is very human, who gives up and gets things wrong sometimes? Are we only willing to be saved by someone who is flawed like us?

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