Red Letter Day

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Why can't I just enjoy the damn movie?

OK, a warning...this post contains massive spoilers for the movie I am Legend. Do not read any further if you do not want to read about events that happen in the movie. I will add some white space and additional warnings in case you are reading this is a news feed.

Spoilers ahead.....go on to the next URL now unless you want to ruin it for yourself....

Last warning.....


I liked the movie; it was an entertaining hour and a half, but there was so much that just didn't make sense, so many logical inconsistencies that thinking about them came very close to ruining the suspension of disbelief. Here are some really obvious random order...

1. What is the point of blowing up the bridges off Manhattan? This make little sense as a method for quarantining an airborne virus, especially in such a porous location as Manhattan? If you want to prevent people from leaving, a huge cordon of tanks and soldiers on the bridges would have worked just as well and been easy to reverse (we assume that at this time in the story, the government still thinks it can beat this thing). And what about all the additional ways to get across the rivers? Boats, rafts, even a risky swim?

2. Where are the bodies...or the bones? According to Wil Smith, about 90% of the population is killed outright by the plague. This would result in about 5 million bodies strewn throughout Manhattan. Even if we assume the zombies ate most of the corpses, they couldn't eat the bones, and you would expect human bones to literally litter pretty much all of the island...but in the movie, there is no sign of the former human population of the city.

3. So the zombies...there are so many things wrong with them. First, how do they stay alive? Assuming they ate the dead, maybe that gets them through a year. But three years later, there's nothing alive on the island except Wil Smith and a bunch of wild animals. Given how common the zombies are (their howls echo through the night) what exactly are they eating?

Some other zombie musings....

... Are they intelligent or not? Sometimes they seem to have all the thought capabilities of a rabid animals, just hurling themselves randomly at their prey. Wil Smith himself say they no longer have any signs of humanity. However, throughout the movie they also show signs of significant intelligence, particularly their construction of the baited trap Wil Smith gets ensnared in; they also appear to have control over the zombie dogs, with the leader siccing the dogs on Smith; this same zombie leader appears in several other scenes exhibiting a human level of cunning, hatred and vengeance.

... Physiologically, the zombies make no sense. Even assuming that somehow they are able to sustain their ridiculously overheated physiology's (super sped-up heart rate and respiration) that would kill a human after more then a couple hours, and that they somehow had super-human strength and durability (even the strongest man alive would not be able to rip apart the roof of a building without tearing himself apart at the same time) this massive expenditure of strength and speed (and the extreme metabolism) would require an extraordinary input of calories (there's a reason squirrels, mice, and hummingbirds spend all their time eating)...which takes me back to my earlier point...what are they eating?

...In three years the zombies have not managed to track down Will Smith to his house? Keeping in mind that he would have to run his generators 24/7 to keep the power to the lab (and other things) going, I don't think it would be too hard for even the most dim-witted zombie, out wandering late at night to sense that something tasty might be living in this one house on the whole island that isn't silent as a tomb at night.

OK, I'll stop for now. I still liked the movie. The scenes of Manhattan in all its decaying glory were wonderfully imagined, and made me think of the ruins of Rome or other great civilizations, and I do always enjoy zombie flicks...and that is what the movie was, not a scientific documentary, so please take my critique above with a grain of salt. But still...

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  • Perfect review which Dad and I totally agree with. It was an okay movie and worth the hour and a half but except for Will Smith's acting all alone for most of it, it would be a good rental movie for $3.99 and not a $14 movie. That is how we rate movies!


    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 8:53 AM  

  • Congrats on being linked to by sullivan

    By Blogger Isaac, At 3:06 PM  

  • I think a newspaper clipping was visible in one scene. It had a headline about mass graves in Central Park. So that could explain where some of the bodies are. I also think that in one scene - where Neville enters an empty apartment to scavenge for supplies - he opens a bedroom door to find plastic draped like a tent over a bed. There's a biohazard sticker on the tent, so I'm assuming there was a body back there, or at least there once was.

    As for the zombies' intelligence, I think we're meant to believe that they are evolving, getting smarter, as they get more desperate for food and as time goes on. Hence, the one leader zombie who exposes himself to sunlight - just a little - before backing off. Perhaps he's learned how to make a trap from watching other zombies get trapped.

    But otherwise, you're right about a lot. Why blow the bridges if the virus is airborne? Can the zombies not swim? (Although Neville calls NYC "Ground Zero," so this could be early enough that it hasn't spread to the rest of the globe just yet.

    I also wondered why the zombies couldn't hear the hum of Neville's generator, especially since the movie's sound design does such a good job of showing just how quiet the city is with no one alive in it.

    Also, with the bridges blown, how would the woman and child get to Vermont in 8 hours or before the sun sets? Wouldn't it take some time to cross one of the rivers and then get in a car going north? Granted, she wouldn't have to obey any speed limits, but I'd imagine the highways would be littered with abandoned cars, debris, grown in trees, etc.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 3:11 PM  

  • We know the zombies ate deer.

    By Blogger Kevin, At 3:26 PM  

  • A lot of your complaints stem from the differences between the novel and the movie.

    There were three main changes between the book and the movie. First, the dog comes and goes within one chapter of the book -- it's not tied to his previous life. Second, the monsters were not zombies but vampires.

    Third, and this is the biggest one, the human race is not saved in the end. Neville hunts these vampires during the day. Some of the vampires are fully (un)dead and others found a way to arrest the course of the disease. They exhibit all the signs of vampirism (afraid of light, garlic, etc.) but are not mindless.

    The half-dead send a spy after him, a woman. She rats him out and the half-dead storm Neville's house and take him to their underground civilization where he's told that he's going to be tried for crimes against humanity. You see, in their eyes, he's the monster that comes in the night and kills people, he's the legend they use to scare their children -- hence the title of the book.

    Everything in the movie was pointing to the novel's ending. Neville thinks the monster's behavior toward the woman he captures shows he's completely gone, but of course we realize he's pissed that Will Smith took his wife/lover/whatever. But this thread becomes totally irrelevant when, rather than explicating on it, he just blows them all up with a grenade.

    Aside from the fact that the monsters were pretty lame looking, I thought the movie was fine until the third act, when they discard half the threads they set up and change it from a movie about Neville's isolation and paranoia to this high-falutin' quest to save humanity.

    By Blogger Jesse Farmer, At 3:26 PM  

  • Just a minor quibble, Manhattan "only" has 1.5 million people. That's still a lot of corpses, but not 5 million.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 3:30 PM  

  • I too enjoyed the movie, but found these gaffes running through my mind as well. What I found most annoying however, is the title. From the original story, Neville is "legend" because he became the boogieman to an underclass of infected-but-not-yet-vampire people he was hunting and killing during the day. Apparently, Smith and his director didn't think this was a good way for family friendly and box office friendly Smith to portray the character, hence the changed ending.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 3:38 PM  

  • Since I like extreme sci-fi, my thought was: they're eating each other. Like mosquitos or piranhas. Implied idea makes them scarier.

    Tons of illogical things in the movie, like where was the electricity still coming from, but I enjoyed it mostly as pure sensory eye-candy and for Will Smith's ability to warm up the genre.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 3:39 PM  

  • I understood that it was a 90% chance you'd become a vampire/zombie, not die. So then you could move to the darkness and die there if you so desire.

    New York has rats in the darkness, could they eat rats? And they also fed on the survivors Will said.

    I also had problems with the contradictions of intelligence and social hierarchy.

    By Blogger Jason, At 3:45 PM  

  • Will Smith's reaction to the appearance of the woman and boy was illogical. Instead of being excited that someone else was alive, he whined about the bacon???

    By Blogger Homer, At 3:50 PM  

  • You left off a couple:

    1) Why did the zombie with the dogs not run out after Will Smith after Will killed the dogs??? He obviously wants him dead, and he was right there.

    2) How did Will get home that night? Did he drive home after dark like he later told the lady not to? It sure seems like it, considering how fast he got there.

    3) It was obviously important to Will's character not to drive home in the dark, so the zombies would find him. Why didn't he ASK how they got home the night before as soon as he woke up?

    4) How in the WORLD did he not ask how these others survived, when he really seemed to think that he was the last uninfected person on earth?

    5) Why wouldn't he have TOSSED the grenade and run into the steel oven (or whatever that thing was) if there was room? Wouldn't that have been just as effective?

    6) If he has a cure that he knows works on rats, why wouldn't he have tried to use it to save the dog he loves?

    7) Why did he try to crawl back to his car, even when faced with the dogs, when he could have walked or hopped on one leg (he sure looked fit enough). That must have been some head injury.

    8) Why didn't they all just hide in the lab to begin with?

    9) Why, in the post-apocalyptic future, do all the cars look so clean and freshly painted?

    10) At the end, one of the zombies bites Will Smith on the neck, picks him up off the ground, and waives him around like a chew toy (and, I think, throws him hard enough to break through the stair railing, or some other nearby conveniently fragile object). How does this barely leave a mark??

    11) All those years of sleeping in the bathtub in crazy-zombie-central, and the Will Smith character has no backup plan for when the zombies get into his house? No escape route? No room wired with explosives? No giant steel door that looks like a book case to protect the lab on which the future of humanity rests?

    12) Where's he get all the fresh fruit, including oranges, apples, pears, and, I think, bananas?

    13) I can accept the deer. There are deer everywhere in New York state and the reproduce like rabbits - and they are very fast, with developed predator-avoidance mechanisms, so they could probably avoid the infected. But where'd the lions come from? How could they survive the infected? To the zombies just not like the taste of lion?

    14) How did he set up that murder/suicide plan (with the dummy on the dock) without noticing that there was an uninfected woman and a child waiting around all day at the same dock for him?

    And then there are the missed opportunities:

    1) Why didn't the film explore what would happen when the cured woman woke up? Wouldn't that have been amazing - a person who can describe what it was like to have been a zombie for 3 years? Did she eat her family? Are the zombies organized? Are they aware? Can they communicate?

    2) Speaking of organized zombies - if they are intelligent enough to set the trap, wouldn't that have been a great area to explore? Just how smart are they? The whole first half set up for the shocker that the zombies are smart and patient enough to set a complicated trap - a real "oh wow" moment - and then just dropped that idea completely for the spirituality angle.

    3) Come on - it's a multi-million dollar movie with giant set pieces that involved clearing giant swathes of New York at busy times - and you couldn't spring for the good CGI for the zombies? Or at least the better-than-a-made-for-TV-movie CGI?

    And finally, one compliment: No gratuitous sex scene between the attractive and same-aged people who think they are the last man and woman on the planet.

    By Anonymous AER, At 3:57 PM  

  • Actually, only about 1.5 million people live in Manhattan - leaving 1.35 bones, give or take, unless people were trapped on the island during working hours. But good point..

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 3:59 PM  

  • 28 Days Later was much better. but this wasn't too bad. Will Smith's comment on the zombies intelligence incorrect - he failed to realize the male was in love with the female WS captured, hence the tension between them the rest of the movie. supposedly the Omega Man movie version develops this angle.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 4:00 PM  

  • The biggest problem is Will does another hack job on a classic science fiction story. This one is just as hacked up as bad as I Robot.

    If they had bothered to actually use the book as the source for the script they would have shown the relatives of the dying people taking their dead to mass graves and burning them. Even Neville makes the trip a few times himself. Additionally, he runs into occasional bodies all the time while scavenging for food, not all are burned after things really break down. In the book he is not playing big game hunter on the streets, he goes to the market like any sane person because there is plenty of canned food there.

    Of course the source of the virus in the movie has to be some sort of man made evil so better to beat you up with some cheap preachy message. In the book it is totally natural and provides the main plot device to make the entire story hang together for the superb ending.

    So I am not angry with Will for making another crappy science fiction movie, just for ripping off the title of a classic and pretending it has anything to do with the book. Just add in a few hot naked blonds to sell it to the teenagers, call it Revenge of the Zombies Part 27, and it would be one of his best.

    By Anonymous steve, At 5:01 PM  

  • The book by Richard Matheson is a magnificently realized vampire story, humming with tension and drama. So the first question is, why aren't they vampires? Why are they zombies? Ludicrous. Are vampires not cool anymore? The book, which I read this year for the first time, was stuck to my hands, I could not put it down...and even though I realize a movie and a book are entirely different animals, again, why turn the vampires into zombies? Just stupid, stupid, stupid.

    The Omega Man, which was the second movie-rendering of the book I Am Legend (The Last Man on Earth with Vincent Price was the first - an Italian job that was alternately awful and incredibly faithful to the book), depicted Matheson's vampires as a kind of semi-zombie'd death cult; that movie sucked so hard, words fail me. Now we have Hollywood's slick-ass version - with, incredibly, the novel's title fully intact! - missing the novel's thumping, essential heart: vampires.

    Hey, Hollywood! Vampires are compelling. Did you know that?

    A note on Will Smith as Robert Neville: making him black is PC pandering at its most wretched and heinous. There's no reason to do it, beyond screwing with the novel for the sake of it - and, of course, pandering hardcore.

    Um, Hollywood? Hello? Did you know that sometimes, when you depart from a novel to extents that are measured in miles, you've ruined what you've made? Did you know some of us read, and remember what we've read? Did you know some of us treasure these books and get very pissed when you're not relatively faithful to them?

    If you didn't, then know this: I'm not seeing your crappy movie. But I'll read the book again and get the movie in my mind flickering...oh yes...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 8:11 PM  

  • Dude,

    Didn't see the movie, but it's about zombies, right?

    You're saying you had a problem with suspension of disbelief because the movie did not have an accurate portrayal of the physiology of ZOMBIES???

    Dude, heads up: THEY'RE ZOMBIES!!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 8:33 PM  

  • I suspect they changed the story to make it into a more religious friendly movie.

    Scientist plays God by tampering with genetics of a disease => nearly dooms the population

    Will Smith finds God in the last moments of the film by a preachy woman who was led to him by God.

    Another logical problem is how the woman and the kid got out of that fire thing in the basement after the grenade blast. Wouldn't the house collapse or least block the door?

    By Anonymous lunee, At 9:20 PM  

  • So, first off, they're not really zombies. They're people who are infected. People. Not the undead. And if you consider the movie from the perspective that they are people, it takes on another level of drama (at least for me).

    Secondly, regarding the trap that Will got snared in, there's speculation that it was his trap and he totally forgot about it. Moved "Fred" to that spot, set the snare, and in his deteriorating mental state completely forgot it was there and went beserk on Fred. This makes some sense if you consider the lack of intelligence demonstrated by the "nightseekers." They showed basically no ability to reason, plan, or manipulate tools to the point where they could successfully rig that trap.

    Just a thought....

    By Blogger misterjamo, At 9:23 PM  

  • OK, it's not necessarily "PC" to have the main character black. Will Smith sees big money in sci-fi and can pull a lot of people into the theaters - that's what gets movies made.

    I also would have liked to see some interaction between the zombie woman he transformed and the Neville character as well.

    Lastly congrats on the Andrew Sullivan link - he rocks!

    By Anonymous jackofalltirades, At 10:21 PM  

  • Yeah, casting Will Smith isn't pandering except of the "let's put the most bankable star in the world in a movie where he's in every scene and sit back watching the cash roll in." And what do you know? It's rolling in.

    I liked it fine as a movie not requiring a great deal of thought. As an adaptation of Matheson's story, it's an abomination.

    By Anonymous Morrison, At 12:43 AM  

  • I enjoyed everything about the movie up until the last 15 minutes, which were horrible.

    But to me one part of the fun of a sci-fi movie is sitting there thinking about which parts are illogical and which parts I'd do differently. I actually LIKED all the nitpicks you list.

    [Aer: The zombie dogs can come out at dusk, while the zombie humans require total darkness - according to the clipping from the NY Post that we saw in one scene. The zombie doesn't chase Wil Smith along with the darks because it isn't totally dark yet. That's also why Smith can then drive home without being followed.]

    For me, one big nitpick was the state of the city itself. At one point in the mathematical progression of the disease, the population of Manhattan would have still been half alive, with a slightly lower number of darkseekers coming out at night. If half a million living humans fought half a million of those darkseeker things, the city would end up looking like Fallujah before the reconstruction. Manhattan should be a smoking shell. The Charlton Heston version dealt with this by having the tertiary plague cases only surface after just about everyone else was already dead.

    By Anonymous Fluffy, At 8:31 AM  

  • I haven't seen the movie, but they've apparently missed the whole point of the book, the whole point of the title.

    The point of the book is that there are intelligent not-yet-dead vampires, in addition to what are basically walking corpses. There is never even a possibility suggested of reversing this, and Neville's immune simply because he once got bitten by a vampire bat. The book like to play with the concept of scientific explanations of how this works, but Neville is not a scientist and really has no idea.

    At the end of the book, in the greatest twist ending in fiction, Neville is finally tracked down by the living vampires (As opposed to the dead ones that mindlessly torment him.), arrested, and brought before the new 'government' of vampires, and he realizes that he is the monster that comes in the night (or, rather, day) and kills you. He is legend, he is the vampire of the vampires, and monster stories will be told about him forever. He is then executed.

    Leaving that part out and talking about how humanity can be 'saved' is idiotic. The point of the book is the rather horrifying (even for the reader, because we identify so much with Neville) realization that 'humanity' and 'monster' are just a point-of-view, and that if you're the lone 'normal' person killing 'monsters' that make up the rest of the population while they're sleeping, you are, in fact, the monster. The movie certainly shouldn't be named 'I am Legend' if it's not going to show that.

    By Blogger David, At 9:59 AM  

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