I’m not big on the genre of zombie movies. I’ve never seen Night of the Living Dead or The Evil Dead or The Walking Dead or any movie or show with “dead” in the title (as far as I know). Thus, most of what I know is based on things I’ve read or heard, but one common factor that has mainly kept me from such films is its penchant for violence and gore. The concept of the living dead is interesting to me, but it’s not worth slogging through buckets of blood or body parts. Therefore, I’ve included these films as two of the most restrained members of the zombie genre.
I put I Am Legend and World War Z together because, after seeing the latter, I was struck by several similarities between the two. Both are based on well-received science fiction horror novels. Both involve several startling jump scenes and a worldwide pandemic of a mysterious disease that turns many or all of its victims into mindless monsters that throw themselves wildly against windshields. Both include a sympathetic family man trying to find a cure, and both end with the protagonist locked in a glass room.
I Am Legend is a melancholy picture of an empty New York, starring Will Smith as Robert Neville. Unlike Gerry Lane in World War Z, Neville loses everything in his search for a cure, and Will Smith makes the pathos of his situation very believable and touching. The film includes both one of the most intense and one of the saddest scenes ever, namely Neville’s first encounter with the infected (which feels like an edge-of-your-seat first-person-shooter video game) and his killing of his beloved dog, on his birthday no less. This sad scene ranks up there with Old Yeller as far as traumatic canine deaths.
A main problem with I Am Legend is the end. There was no need for Neville to kill himself, since he could have fit in the little niche in which Anna and Ethan hid. I much prefer the abovementioned alternate ending, which is much less depressing, though it diverges from the book on which the film is based.
World War Z features actual zombies, rather than the more vampiric mutants. While some people have stated that fast-moving undead are a cliché now, the sight of the rushing zombie hordes is admittedly unnerving.
Though my VC refused to see it because of her dislike for Brad Pitt, I thought he did a decent job as Gerry Lane, though not as good as Will Smith’s performance. Yet, while I Am Legend has many scenes that dwell on what he has lost, World War Z is a much more straightforward action movie (with most direct acts of violence thankfully offscreen), the pace of which hardly slows down enough to let the implications of this global disaster sink in. Yet Gerry’s family survive, unlike Neville’s, and so does he, which makes the end a little happier, if equally ambiguous. On the other hand, Neville actually found a cure for the disease, whereas Gerry’s solution is just to prevent its spread, leaving everyone already a zombie to just be exterminated. Plus, unlike I Am Legend and a similar epidemic film Contagion, we never learn where the zombie outbreak came from. (I blame the Sumatran rat monkey.)
Both have some language and violence, and the very concept of a disease wiping out most of the world’s population is inherently sobering, but both manage to excite, thrill, and believably create these frightening what-if situations.
Best line from I Am Legend: (Neville, speaking of Bob Marley) “When they asked him why – he said, “The people, who were trying to make this world worse… are not taking a day off. How can I? Light up the darkness.”
Best line from World War Z: (Jurgen Warmbrunn in Israel) “Most people don’t believe something can happen until it already has. That’s not stupidity or weakness, that’s just human nature.”Artistry: 6 Characters/Actors: 6 Entertainment: 7 Visual Effects: 7 Originality: 5 Watchability: 6 Other (language, violence, and subject matter): -6 TOTAL: 31 out of 60
Next: #297: Horton Hears a Who!
© 2014 S. G. Liput