Having watched all three of the Richard Matheson “I Am Legend” adaptations, I am confident in saying that I Am Legend is – by far – the best of the lot. Will Smith is incredible in this film, and the direction is spot on.
The weakest point of I Am Legend is the fact that the director relied so heavily on CGI work; it just doesn’t look that great. Almost everything is CGI, or has a CGI addition, including the cityscapes, the darkseekers, and so on. Because the CGI is so mediocre, I wouldn’t be upset if this film was remade (again) in another 10 – 15 years just so we could get an improvement on the special effects. In 2007 the CGI was just on the brink of becoming great, and I Am Legend is on the outside looking in.
The tension that director Francis Lawrence is able to add to the film is better than any of the previous adaptations, and Smith is more emotionally attached to what’s happening to him in this post-apocalyptic universe than Vincent Price or Charlton Heston, which makes this the most memorable of the three.
I’ve seen I Am Legend a lot, and liked it every time, but this is the first time I’ve seen the extended, alternate cut. The only real difference is the alternate ending, which I actually like better than the theatrical ending. Sure, it’s “hollywood-ized”, but its much more cathartic for the viewer than the original ending. If you haven’t watched this alternate finale, check it out. Don’t just watch the alternate ending, though, watch the whole movie leading up to it because it makes for a different emotional journey. I like both, but would choose the second one as my source if I ever directed I Am Legend 2 (which really should happen).
I Am Legend is a great movie. With better CGI, it might’ve been a 4-star outing. Even as it is, it’s still one of my favorite post-apocalyptic films out there, and definitely the best adaptation of Matheson’s novel.