When you read a book, particularly action or thriller, you tend to create mental images around the people and events in the book. I have felt sometimes that the degree of joy you derive from a book is directly proportional to the degree of vividness you mange to create in these mental images.
This is true for the simple reason that the entire experience of reading the book becomes richer. That means if watching the movie creates a more exciting experience than what you had as a mental image from reading, you are likely to appreciate the movie.
When I watched Jurassic Park I thought, “Damn, I should’ve read the book first”. The movie was so brilliant in capturing the ecosystem in Site A:Isla Nublar, its flora and fauna, its crude, bloodthirsty, dominant inhabitants and their demeanor (Homo sapiens included) that I didn’t think the book would evoke imagination anything close to this brilliant movie. Especially given my challenged mental faculties.
I was wrong.
Michael Crichton is not any ordinary fly that’s likely to get trapped in ember. The book was incredible and my respect for both the movie as well as the book shot up.
That was probably the only time in my experience did a movie do justice to a book and vice versa.
And that was probably the only time that I saw a movie and decided to read the book.
Until last night.
I watched a late night movie at Inox. I wished I had worn a hat to the hall. Well, I might not have taken it off and awarded the movie an elaborate bow, but I would have touched the hat at its rim and tipped it about 10°.
And as apparent, it did affect me enough to consider writing about it in Pathe which has never so far carried a movie review, and considering that a movie review is one of the most commonly written things on blogs, you could say it took team work of a distinguished bunch of people to make me finally do this – A book by Peter Matheson, a movie directed by Francis Lawrence, Screen Play by Akiva Goldsman and Mark Protosevich and incredible portrayal of Robert Neville by Will Smith, the whole cast and crew that got together and indulged in teamwork.
Yes, I am talking about I Am Legend.
A man-made deadly virus. Un-availability of a vaccine. Virus turning airborne and rapidly infecting people across the globe. And a world that dramatically disintegrates in merely a few hours after millions of years of investment into evolution.
Yes, we are dealing with an infection that causes a chilling ‘de-evolution’ of the human race.
Nationalities disappear. Countries vanish. Languages disappear. Ideologies melt. Religious differences disintegrate. The world, in just a few hours, becomes a place of only 4 kinds.
95% of the world population that have mutated into nocturnal carnivorous beasts that display up to 9 times normal human aggression, leaving New York, and perhaps the rest of the world, a totally, uninhabited empty, city. Yes, that’s right, an empty New York city.
4% elsewhere that are constantly under threat of being infected anytime.
1% that is somehow immune to the virus.
And an immune Will Smith, the one scientist who can find the vaccine, and reverse the ecological disaster – and has and does what it takes to be able to say “I Am Legend”.
Update: Tian points out that 90% of the population is infact dead by 2012. Which is in fact true from various references I managed to find. Of the remaining ten percent, less than one percent is immune to the virus–everyone else is infected.
The movie has a few layered messages that you might spot. But only if you aren’t busy sitting at the edge of your seat, gripping the arm rest, biting your nails and trying hard to appear composed. One is the music that Will Smith plays at various situations. Many are introspective and contextual. WS’s reference to Bob Marley and his message – the layer being Alice Braga has no clue what he was talking about. I thought that was quite deep – the disconnect they share is quite significant and thought provoking. It really does contrast their core drives. Another rather subtle message is the one on the butterfly – the layer being WS’s final take on God. Be alert to that one.
I am stopping myself from giving my most critical comment because it might be a movie spoiler. So let me just say the end could have been different.
The story of man destroying man has been done to death. Pardon the pun. We’ve seen the likes of Outbreak, etc, but this one certainly broke away from the cliché successfully. However my strong point of contention about such movies is the writers think the United States is the world. This was very obvious in the Morgan Freeman movie, Deep Impact. For the record, Europe, Africa and Asia are weaved into dialogues but it’s always in an ‘oh by the way’ tone. I must mention though, that Independence Day did acknowledge the rest of the world.
When you make movies thinking about dollars of profits and overseas rights, and markets in China and India, you can’t shut the rest of the world out in the script. That’s one point I think where I am Legend kinda let me down.
Its definitely worth a watch. And, let me know if it makes you think it might be worth a read too.