I’m one of the few people, I think, that genuinely likes The Last Man On Earth, the 1964 film version of Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend shot in Italy and starring Vincent Price. Sure, The Omega Man is fun to watch with a group, but the first act of Last Man is a good depiction of the isolation and lonliness that runs through Matheson’s novel. I know that the movie becomes really, horribly bad as it moves forward from there, but I’m willing to forgive it a few excesses and problems because I so enjoy the first act.
Watching this new trailer for I Am Legend starring Will Smith, I’m not sure what I’ll be asked to forgive. The structure of the trailer suggests that the flashbacks showing how the world-ending plauge spread out of control might actually be the film’s opening. The crowd scenes certainly look as if they’re meant to rope in people who expect War of the Worlds all over again, and the explanation for Manhattan’s isolation (destroyed bridges) is offered in a Michael Bay style befitting the teaser poster.
Also in teaser style, there’s little evidence of Robert Neville’s disintegrating psyche, and there’s exactly one frame (at 1:53) that suggests the film’s creatures / infected / vampires…whatever. Even then, it’s more of a vague blur, like [edit: Bob] Arctor making a cameo.
(EDIT: And maybe it’s not a humanoid at all, merely an animal. Click here to decide for yourself.)
Matheson’s story is so elegant and iconic that I can’t help but have high hopes for this version. But Matheson himself scripted The Last Man On Earth before it was heavily rewritten and (arguably) ruined. I like to think that the stuff I like is what survives from his draft. He didn’t script this one, obviously, but with Akiva Goldsman on polishing duty, I’m not convinced that I’ll get a replacement for the 1964 version come this fall.
(Then again, that version didn’t have anyone named Paradox Pollack in it. So there’s that.)