Will Smith is about as big an action star as has ever hit the big screen. He’s been part of some blockbusters over the years and will go down, easily, as one of the most talented and recognizable folks we’ll ever see come out of Hollywood. And he has a run of movies that always deserve a rewatch. One of those films is set to hit Netflix at the beginning of next month. That’s right, I Am Legend will hit the streaming service on March 1st. Get ready for a vampire takeover.
I Am Legend stars Will Smith and is based on the Richard Matheson book of the same name. The concept is relatively simple though no less scary. Basically, a wonder drug has been developed that is reported to have the ability to completely cure cancer. Sounds great until there are some, well, side effects. The main one is that it causes a worldwide pandemic that wipes out 90% of the population and turns basically everyone left into a nocturnal vampire hellspawn. Smith plays Dr. Robert Neville, one of the lead military scientists who’d been in charge of containing the virus but is now one of the only normal humans left in the world. Here, check out the trailer for I Am Legend:
Now Will Smith is living alone in an abandoned and post-apocalyptic New York City, spending his days with his trusty dog Sam. They go about their now-normal routine of collecting supplies, hunting the new wildlife in the city, trying to retain a bit of normalcy, and also trapping vampires to study. Because along with surviving, Neville is also trying to find a cure for the disease.
This ends up being one of the truly great performances for Will Smith. Almost all of the movie is spent with him alone on-screen. There are flashbacks of course to his old life prior to the virus (though not many) and some other things do crop up. But for the most part, this movie is 100% Smith. He maintains an external dialogue to Sam, goes about his routine and drives nearly every piece of action and plot. It’s a huge lift for the actor considering the flick is nearly all on his shoulders. He handles the job very well.
I Am Legend, on the back of Will Smith as a superstar and the incredible hype around turning the book into a movie did perform very well at the box office. On its $150 million budget, it scored about $585 million in cash at the door. Vampires were still in their movie prime at this point in 2007 though admittedly, these bad guys don’t have the exact same bloodsucking tropes as other versions.
And it had a solid, if unspectacular, performance with critics, sitting at 68% on Rotten Tomatoes and 65 on Metacritic. Where the movie got dinged was on the plot. The movie was almost separated into two parts that didn’t jive all that well together. Other than the name, it was also quite different from the actual novel which rubbed critics the wrong way. But almost all agreed that Will Smith in the lead role wasn’t the issue at all, it was indeed a strength. His star power plays really well here without being overly domineering.
Director Francis Lawrence was fresh off of helming Constantine when he and Will Smith teamed up for this one. He’d go on to even greater heights when he was behind the lens for three of the four The Hunger Game movies with Catching Fire and then Mockingjay Part 1 and Part 2.
Will Smith would go on to do other action movies after this like Hancock, Suicide Squad, and even Bright but I Am Legend was really the last one in which he really shines. Next up for the actor is another Bad Boys movie, a Bright sequel, and more.
It easy to forget what a big deal this film was at the time, but there was massive hype around the whole thing. And in about a week you’ll be able to catch it on Netflix. It’s definitely worth checking back in on; Will Smith carries I Am Legend from start to finish.