A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that although this cerebral action thriller is quite clean when it comes to language and sexual content, it deals with intense subjects like the fall of mankind and the fight for survival. It's not for kids who get scared, since it gets pretty terrifying, especially when the mutants take their turn onscreen. They jump out of nowhere, and the movie makes the most of that suspense to heighten the audience's response. Overall, the movie is very sobering -- and, unlike many Will Smith thrillers, it's light on the fun. Still, teens will want to see it and will be intrigued by the special effects and the edge-of-your-seat action.
What's the story?
If anyone had any doubts left that Will Smith could carry a movie, I AM LEGEND will banish them forever. He's virtually alone in this sci-fi thriller, with a dog -- albeit a talented one -- as his only foil. There are stretches when he literally talks to himself, and he's able to hold the audience's gaze throughout. Frightened and on edge, determined to survive, Robert Neville (Smith) is the last man standing in all five New York City boroughs after a virus thought to have cured cancer mutates and becomes a worldwide plague. Almost everyone on the planet dies; those who survive are turned into rabid creatures who only come out at night to hunt for food. But Robert decides to stay in the new ghost town of Manhattan. "This is Ground Zero," he declares. "I can still fix this."
Three years later, he's still there, spending his days hunting for deer with his dog, Samantha, by his side. He's hoping to find an antidote to turn the mutants back into humans. In the meantime, he has to fend his enemies off -- which is no mean feat, considering how violent they are.
Is it any good?
Director Francis Lawrence has a way with suspense; jumping out of your seat is almost a requirement here. Onscreen, Manhattan transforms into a true island, isolated, removed, and falling apart. Weeds grow on the streets, Times Square is deserted, the Flatiron Building sits neglected, and an eerie hush has fallen. Bravo to the special effects crew, who have created a New York never seen before (except, perhaps, in Escape to New York). The results are nothing short of amazing.
But the story ultimately disappoints. It starts out strong, hooking viewers in, but it sputters in the end. It's as if the screenwriters (or director, or producer) ran out of ways to wrap it up. Or perhaps the film simply doesn't have the same nuances as the Richard Matheson book on which it's based. Still, you can't fault I Am Legend for trying to be different from the typical action thriller. Taking on such themes as mankind's need for companionship, the fight for survival, and the existence of God, it at least succeeds in making us think.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Hollywood's fascination with disaster movies and post-apocalyptic stories. What's the hook? How is this one different? Which aspect of the movie is more interesting to you: its thoughtful side or the fighting-off-mutants side? How is this movie different from other Will Smith sci-fi films? Families can also discuss what they'd do in Robert's place. Would you be able to keep your wits about you, as he seems to have (barely)? Would you be able to make the selfless decisions he seems to make?
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