Will Smith is the last man on earth in the third movie adaptation of Richard Matheson's classic 1954 vampire novel. Set in a devastated, deserted Manhattan - Ground Zero for a viral plague that's turned humans into ghouls - I Am Legend sees Smith deliver a surprisingly moving performance as he wanders empty New York streets going slowly ga-ga. Some cartoonish CGI and a mangled screenplay that misses the novel's point are downsides but the apocalyptic vision brings definite chills.
In 2012 precocious scientists engineer a cancer cure. It's Nobel Prizes all round until they discover an irritating side effect: it's turning mankind into CGI ghouls. 1001 days later, New York's deserted, overgrown with weeds, populated by wild gazelles and ravenous zombie/vampires (zompires, perhaps?). It's also home to one man and his dog, virologist Robert Neville (Smith) the sole survivor of the global pandemic who's searching for a cure. Holding the movie on his own, Smith does an apocalyptic version of Tom Hanks in Castaway. He's lonely and slightly loopy: begging shop window mannequins to talk to him, playing Bob Marley on his i-Pod (Three Little Birds) and fighting running battles with the creatures that hide in the shadows.
"STUNNING DISASTER PORN"
Meanwhile, flashbacks to the epidemic let director Francis Lawrence (Constantine) capture the social meltdown in a terrifying blur of whooping sirens and martial law. The movie's villains can't quite match the stunning disaster porn, the chalky CGI creatures too awkwardly digital to scare. As Neville starts to lose the battle against them, Smith bravely mines dark emotional depths until the screenplay's sanitised ending undercuts all his hard work. Rewriting Matheson's ambiguous novel - which slyly suggested its hero might be the real monster - I Am Legend merrily destroys New York but doesn't have the bottle to tarnish its star's squeaky-clean rep.
I Am Legend is out in the UK on 26th December 2007.