Summary: Hollywood finally has its holiday moneymaker, a big-screen adaptation of Richard Matheson's futuristic novel about the sole survivor of a biological apocalypse. Set in the deserted streets of New York City, the movie has a powerful look, a strong performance by Will Smith and (alas) vampiric zombies whose body-smashing, ear-splitting attacks arrive with increasing regularity.
Will Smith seems to be the only star left who can open a movie, and he's bound to score again with "I Am Legend," the story of a scientist who finds himself living alone in New York City after the population has been decimated by a plague-like virus. Smart in its development, the movie quickly gives way to the customary horror shocks. And I have to admit that my heart sank when I realized that "I Am Legend" was going to spend time pitting Smith's Robert Neville against flesh-eating former humans who've been turned into sun-fearing cannibals by a virus to which Neville (for some reason) is immune.
The picture begins to slip once Neville's German Shepherd Sam (short for Samantha) meets her sorry fate. And I'm tired of creatures whose greatest strength seems to involve a willingness to crash into walls - again and again. But that won't stop audiences from gobbling this one up the way that the zombies devour the living. Enough said.
Oh, one more thing: Director Francis Lawrence does a fine job handling large-scale scenes such as the evacuation of Manhattan, staged at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge. And, yes, I spent a lot of time wondering how the effects wizards managed to make New York City look deserted. Glutted with abandoned cars, vacant buildings and overgrown weeds, the Big Apple definitely appeared to be rotting. Oh well, it's amazing what computers and a little cooperation from a city's bureaucracy can accomplish.