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Second I Am Legend Trailer Hits The Net

A new trailer for the upcoming Will Smith vampire apocalypse vehicle, I Am Legend has been released to the web.

I have more than a little trepidation about this project. I want to make clear I am not dogmatically opposed to films that swerve from strict adherence to their source novels. Only the worst novels can be adapted without deviation for the big screen, if only because they are essentially screenplays in prose form.

But the many childhood mornings I spent reading and re-reading my tenth generational used copy of I Am Legend by Richard Matheson have me keening for a straight adaptation, and the Will Smith movie clearly isn’t it.

One of the themes of the original novel is the slow horror of being the only uninfected man in a slowly emptying world. The Will Smith adaptation, on the other hand, is clearly based on the concept of a rapid, 28 Days Later style infection, along with a quarantine of the isle of Manhattan. I imagine that the end of the movie will be along the lines of 28 Days Later, radically deviating from the vampire civilization that springs up at the end of the novel, in which humanity has held out by isolating the infected by making New York into a leper’s colony. But that totally neuters the power of the title: the protagonist is the last human on earth, and that makes him legend, the thing of superstition that the children of the next generation will whisper about in the dark. Humans are the new bogeymen, the new vampires.

I’m also more than a little bit cautious about Will Smith being cast as the protagonist. It’s not because I don’t like Smith, although I question whether or not he can carry off the pathos necessary for the role. It’s more because it seems a set-up to make the whole "last man on earth against the slavering, vampiric horde" thing a race analogy, which is both obvious and tedious.

Still, the last trailer has me cautiously optimistic. They’re clearly going for the slow burn here, and that’s definitely the tack to take. I don’t think we’ll be seeing Will Smith shouting "Aw Hell Nyaw" in this one.

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