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Robert Neville is the last
Survivor of a medicine
That wiped out most three years ago;
The rest are mutants with pale skin.
He drives through New York’s empty streets,
His only friend a dog named Sam.
Although he tries to find a cure,
So far his efforts are a sham.
One day, while scavenging for food,
He has a close call with the freaks,
Who cannot live in broad sunlight
And only let out yells and shrieks.
He captures one of them as well
To test a new experiment.
He thinks his serum doesn’t work
And starts to doubt his efforts spent.
A mutant traps him, and, in fleeing,
Robert sees Sam get a bite.
He takes her home to try his cure,
But he must strangle her that night.
At first, he’s numb and wants revenge,
Which fails as well, but he is saved
By healthy Anna and a boy,
The company that he has craved.
He doesn’t share her faith-filled hope,
But he defends her when night falls
And mutants come to storm his house.
The three then hide behind glass walls.
When Robert sees his serum works,
He sacrifices his own life
To stop the creatures and let Anna
Carry it to end the strife.
When Robert sees his serum works,
He gives his test case back, unsure.
When all the mutants let him live,
The three of them leave with his cure.
Gerry Lane’s a family man
Amidst a breakout of disease
That turns infected ones into
A zombie horde that will not ease.
His family narrowly escapes
A Newark rooftop just in time.
They’re safe aboard a U.N. ship,
But Gerry’s course turns on a dime.
If they stay safe, he has to go
And help a doctor find a cure.
They go to South Korea, where
The doc is killed, and they detour.
In Israel, a wall’s been built;
They had the foresight to prepare.
But sound attracts the zombie crowd
And makes them climb without a stair.
Jerusalem is lost, it seems,
But Gerry saves a soldier girl.
They manage passage on a plane
And fly above the hostile world.
But there’s a zombie on the plane,
And things get quite out of control.
Yet Gerry throws a live grenade
And blows the undead out the hole.
The plane goes down somewhere in Wales,
But Gerry and the girl survive.
They find a W.H.O.,
Which verifies that they’re alive.
Then Gerry wants to test a theory
Which may help with quarantine.
The zombies may ignore the sick;
Disease may keep us all unseen.
They have the samples of disease,
But that wing’s filled with the infected.
He sneaks by zombie-crowded rooms
And almost gets through undetected.
Trapped within a small glass room,
He gives himself a bad disease.
He opens up the door again
And walks through zombie hordes with ease.
Once cured of what he gave himself,
He spreads the news he chanced to find.
This helps the soldiers to fight back
And saves what’s left of all mankind.

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