Making the Grades
The irony seems so... well... Hollywood. I Am Legend may be the most religious movie to hit screens during the 2007 holiday season, with a character uttering lines like, "If we listen, you can hear God's plan." But before you get too excited about the idea of a film that demonstrates practical application for faith in everyday life, you must understand the reason for turning to a supreme being is desperation -- because flesh-eating zombies are knocking at the door... and the windows... and eating their way through the roof.
Will Smith (who seems to attract alien and mutated life forms on the silver screen) plays Robert Neville, a military research scientist who is immune to a deadly virus that was an unplanned side-effect of a miraculous cure for cancer. By the time the fast-spreading bug was discovered, the Big Apple was in shambles, and hopes for evacuation were fading fast.
Three years later, he and his dog wander the ghost town that was once New York City. Robert fills his days hunting deer, using the aircraft carrier Intrepid as a driving range to knock golf balls over the Hudson River, and fishing in the opulent pond fronting the Temple of Dendur in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. (It's a visually stunning sightseeing trip, with NYC looking perfectly shabby from a riot followed by neglect.) However, this idyllic life ends when the sun goes down. Battening down his Washington Square home with metal shutters, the lonely man prepares for night after night of the living dead.
Sharing the city with him are the infected mutants who somehow survived the plague, but are now changed beings. Highly sensitive to light, they hide amongst the shadowy buildings by day until darkness descends. Then they roam the streets, accompanied by their rabid dogs, looking for fresh meat.
As deadly as his neighbors are, Robert has managed to smuggle a private lab into the cellar of his home where he attempts to find a cure to bring civility back to humanity. Needless to say, even if he should reach his goal, he will still have a huge hurdle in convincing a hungry zombie to take the shot. ("Hold still please, this won't hurt a bit...")
Smith tackles one of the most difficult roles a script can dish out -- playing lead in a movie with few other speaking participants (the zombies can only scream, and his dog isn't blessed with speech). For the most part, he comes off strong, but not enough to save this film from turning into a typical "made you jump" experience.
Thankfully, little dialogue also means little chance for nasty language. Only a small number of moderate expletives and terms of deity are heard. Sexual content is clear as well. However, the confrontations between this sane scientist and the mad Manhattans are frequent, and enough to keep the under-13 crowd awake for a few nights. While far from a gore-fest, many scenes depict the hero fighting off crowds of attacking misfits with his machine gun, pistol and fists. Like most cinematic monsters, the idea that these were once people is set aside -- especially when he begins mowing them down with his SUV.
It's hardly a spiritual experience, but if you are determined to find religion at the cinema during 2007's holiday season, this may be as good as it gets.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about I Am Legend.
If you had New York City to yourself, what would you do? How important is socialization to human beings? Would you rather live somewhere isolated or in a large city?
How does Robert’s attitude toward religion change during this story? Do you think you would be more or less reliant on faith in a desperate situation?