Why "I Am Legend" is the Only Zombie Film I Can Stand
I Am Legend was the first zombie film I had ever watched, and quite frankly, it is the only zombie anything I can actually stand. Zombies have never been an antagonist of intrigue to me, but the zombies in I Am Legend are different. And well, who doesn’t love any film Will Smith is in?! Focusing on what these zombies bring to the table that differentiate them from the rest, and the multifaceted way in which the idea of humanity is represented in the film, my blog and I are here to delve deep into a post-apocalyptic NYC and highlight the legendary feats of director Francis Lawrence’s I Am Legend.
Starting with the undead, let’s see exactly what it is about the zombies in I Am Legend that give them and this film such a cherished and loyal fanbase, even after all these years (13 to be exact). The first great achievement for me is that these zombies do not move at a slow, unarticulated pace. One of the things that irritates me the most when it comes to zombies is that they move as if they don’t know where they're going, constantly dragging their feet, keep their arms up in front of them for I don’t even know what reason, make weird growling moaning sounds and quite frankly, I find them atrocious more so than scary? Does anyone else relate?! Now I’ve never been one to get into series like The Walking Dead – for the exact reason that I’m not a zombie fan and, someone once told me said zombies can't open doors… so that was the final nail in The Walking Dead coffin for me! The fact that zombies are just gross and stagnant antagonists is a key reason as to why I usually don’t take to zombie films or series, and why I Am Legend on the other hand is the sole branch on this zombie themed tree of entertainment that I can not only stand, but respect as villains. Why? Because these zombies move with purpose, run incredibly fast, jump incredibly high, their minds seem quite functional despite the disease and the human conception that only human beings can be intelligent creatures and, they look and sound terrifying. All those characteristics wrapped into one makes for a dangerous and scary villain – far more than the standard zombie you can out walk or hide behind a closed door from!
With regard to the concept of humanity, I Am Legend represents said concept in three different ways, each allowing the viewer to learn something not only about humanity, but how important such a multifaceted word actually is. Starting with the basic idea of humanity, defined first as “all human beings collectively; the human race; humankind” and “the quality or condition of being human; human nature” as dictionary.com states, it’s obvious that the first idea of humanity represented in the film is its lack thereof – due to a cure for cancer that mutated turning patients into zombies, and said zombies then killing and/or converting the rest of humanity. The lack of humanity in this sense, reinforces to viewers just how important humanity and human beings are when it comes down to basic and fundamental functionality for us humans. We are after all, social animals. In I Am Legend protagonist Dr. Robert Neville is forced to survive in a post-apocalyptic NYC with nothing but his German Shepherd and zombies that scour the city when the sun goes down. And although he broadcasts messages everyday for years over the radio to reach out to potential survivors, he still goes home at the end of each day having not come across a single soul or a single voice besides his own, and instead is greeted only by the roar of zombies when they emerge at night. So how does he survive all this time alone? Without humanity? By creating it.
The lack of humanity leads protagonist Robert to create a sense of it – simply to stay sane as how could one survive such horrendous circumstances, and endure a horrifying reality every day and night? Using mannequins to create members of society, have people to one-sidedly “chat” with, and to establish a “norm” for day to day activities, Robert strategically places these mannequins in stores he visits or area’s of the city he often frequents, as a means to feel less alone and still a part of something – as a city devoid of humans for three years and a mindset that you are the sole person left on the face of the planet is a dreary and depressing reality. On top of this we have Roberts dog “Samantha” – who is definitely mans best friend in this circumstance – and another “voice” to communicate with during these years of absolute solitude, and fear. By setting up a daily regiment that is followed day in and day out, Robert feels less alone. Whether its chats with mannequins at the video rental store carried out quite happily, or conversations and activities with his dog, his days go by a bit less empty and a bit less eerily. He has learned to make the most of his situation and it prevents him from losing hope or even worse, his sanity. Oh, the irony behind these concepts of humanity!
For the final rendition of humanity present in I Am Legend, we have the humanity of zombies! A species known as the undead, where “social de-evolution appears complete”, “typical human behaviour is now entirely absent”, and a cannibalistic diet all point toward anything but humanity, the humanity to be found within these zombies is an incredibly refreshing spin! How often do you come across zombies that still have feelings? That show their anger, their sorrow, when someone they love or deem important in some shape or form is killed, captured, or injured? Not often. In fact, aside from I Am Legend I have never come across any zombies that reflect hints of humanity. This is why I tolerate and even somewhat admire, one could say, the zombie antagonist in this film! To avoid spoilers (although this 2007 film is one I’m quite sure countless people have already seen), I won't get into the details of which zombies highlight this glimmer of humanity amongst the undead, and the bold and somewhat comforting notion that bleeds through to showcase to viewers how not-so-different the “other” in this film might be. On the other hand, something I do wish to share for those who have not yet seen this film or, have seen it but never uncovered the many layers this film (and many others) contain, is the fundamental concept and feeling known as “love” – often only found amongst human beings and perhaps some species of animals or mammals – and how it weaves its thin web behind the scenes, waiting for viewers like flies to fly into and be captured by it. Sound intriguing? If your answer is “yes” or even “perhaps”, then you already know what to do – find I Am Legend, be on the look out, and get ready to take in the many ways in which love pokes its head above apocalyptic waters.
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