I love zombie movies, but let's face it: zombies are kind of a one-trick pony, right? Sure there are the slight variations on the theme. You have your classic, slow, lumbering zombie of the Romero movies, and on the flip side is the 28 Days Later zombie--rabid and quite capable of running. In the end, though, the zombies all want the same thing: to devour your warm, living flesh.
Zombies for the sake of zombies, however, just won't cut it. There has to be a story in which to place the zombies, and it better be good. Scary movies tend to be far scarier when you actually care about the charaters and what's happening to them. Otherwise you're left with 1981's Oasis of the Zombies.
I take that back. Any film about Nazi Zombies can't be all bad.
But we're talking about I Am Legend here, and the ruins of Manhattan are no oasis, not to Dr. Robert Neville (a more than capable Will Smith), who, though slowly deteriorating in his solitude, manages to keep up his daily routine of hunting deer and finding a cure for the virus that wiped out 99% of the world's population. Of course he's not totally alone. His German shepherd, Samantha, is ever at his side (except when getting into heaps of trouble). Still, a dog is just a dog and not a replacement for the family Neville lost during the evacuation of the city. Neville is thus battling two enemies: those who come out at night to prey and the one that makes him have conversations with store mannequins. The question is: how long does he want to keep up the fight?
Now, what I love about this film's take on the zombie is that these living dead do something I've not seen before: they think! While their hunger is insatiable, it is not so overpowering that it precludes problem solving. I like that, and it makes things twice as tough for our hero.
Kudos as well to director Francis Lawrence and his effects crew for the creation of a crumbling, empty Manhattan, which proves a far more effective horror set than I thought possible. Scares and suspense abound.
Negatives? There weren't many for me. The last chapter of the story felt crammed into a tiny space. Also I guess the look of the CGI zombies was a little off, but I'm nit picking.
Nate's McBone rating: 4.0 McBones.