Braindead headbanging meatpuppets!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010 at 2:11 pm Comments (1)

Who’s up for an encore of my “fuck colds” charade?

I watched I Am Legend last night, though watching it was an amusing series of minor setbacks. It was being shown on ITV, but I thought, forget ads, let’s just watch it on DVD! The DVD wasn’t bad at first, but the sound would pop and blank for a few seconds at random moments, and even stranger, the video would cut to earlier parts in the film at totally inappropriate moments. In the midst of Neville searching through the darkened building for his dog, we got a five second glimpse at the earlier scene where he’s closing all the shutters. And then it would resume back in the building. We got as far as the second flashback to before-the-infection before we decided, this kind of stinks, so we watched the rest of it on ITV. The ads weren’t as frequent or as obtrusive as I had feared.

And then when I went to write up my thoughts on it, I realised my monitor had died. Its status light blinked randomly, but it got no picture or recognition, even though it was very clear the computer was on; you could hear the “bing!” of trying to close unsaved text documents.

So I wrote up my thoughts totally in the dark. I could write and I could save, but I certainly couldn’t look at what I was writing. It was actually pretty fun, and there weren’t quite as many spelling errors as I thought.

I’ll present my thoughts pretty much as I wrote them, minus the wacky formatting and spelling errors. Every instance of me forgetting what I was talking about will be included just for giggles.

Watched I Am Legend, the 2007(?) one with Will Smith. I kinda enjoyed it more than I thought, but at the same time didn’t enjoy it as much as I had hoped.

It really captures Neville’s life in a totally empty, lifeless city (well, lifeless besides the deer and antelope and freakin’ lions traipsing about, but not much attention is paid to them outside of the opening scene). the guy gets by not too badly, but you know that he’s not too far from plunging off the deep end, if he hasn’t already. He tries to keep himself sane by engaging in small talk with marionettes he’s placed around the video store. He goes on drives with his dog and raids people’s apartments for booze and medicine. He’s watched movie so many times he can quote scenes from Shrek off the top of his head. The human side of the story is top-notch, and easily on par with the actual book (if not slightly better, because we see more of him as a slightly more sensible human being before he goes nutso). The problem with The Omega Man was that… well, I never remember the actual one-man-in-a-city parts. I just remember him running from vampires with the woman by his side set to offbeat 70s funk music.
Where was I?
Yeah, the human scenes are great, and in a way it’s more interesting just seeing him going about his life and trying to see more of his this strange, unseen threat than, well, when the threat actually shows up.

The monsters are… monsters. They’re not a new breed of human that will succeed us, they’re just monsters. Big meat puppets with stretchy mouths and frighteningly bad CGI. They bound around and they roar like ogres from Lord of the Rings and they just look moronic. Admittedly the final scene where they start scaling the building is pretty creepy, but until then they just look too ridiculous to be frightening. I do kind of exaggerate, but the CGI does just ruin it – it’s hard to see them as real threats when they’re just so explicitly CGI. When it takes until the climax before the bloody things become even slightly scary (outside of cheapo jump scares, but that’s more “oh no i wasn’t expecting a loud noise or sudden movement” and less “oh no, these things are actually realistic enough to frighten me”) then that’s pretty bad. Pity, because when the monsters are just monsters (and the sub-plot of them using traps against him is given no conclusion) then it strips the story of… well, its story.
The bit when Neville is caught by a trap and has to slowly limp back to the car, it’s got a really interesting atmosphere. Heck, him and his dog going everywhere and snooping into all these weird places has a really great atmosphere, and when he’s attacked by freaky mutant dogs (also rather unconvincing CGI), it’s actually almost decent, mostly because they’re explicitly monsters.

Um. Thing. Let’s start again!

Basically the dogs actually look good, plus since they’re dogs you can accept the rather monstrous presentation. When the humans are just monsters it just takes a big dump over the story and what made it interesting. It’s also really really heartbreaking seeing him have to kill his dog, especially when you see it as an adorable little puppy during the flashbacks. Will Smith is brilliant at these dramatic scenes, though I will admit the “what are you doing here, Fred??!?!” scene was a bit hilarious. Just a bit, though.
Neville is taken in by a mother and child later on, and it’s rather sad seeing just low his social graces have become during his three years of solitude. In the book the guy loses his social graces when trying to rescue a girl, but that’s just because he’s a hateful ranting beardy guy screaming after her, while socially incompetent Will Smith is still loveable ol’ Will Smith. Without his dog you can just see the emptiness in his life when he hasn’t got a wagging tail in his passenger seat. Seeing him quote the Shrek scene was strangely upsetting. I almost get the impression if I’m house-bound with this cold for any longer I’d become like that, except I’d probably end up reading aloud the dialogue from Tetris Attack or singing along to the Wing Cap theme in Super Mario 64 or something a lot less poignant.
The ending seemed to come rather abruptly. Only after two scuffles with the beasts we have the climatic showdown, and it’s like, wait, the running time is over already? The movie’s only 80 minutes. I’m sure The Omega Man was longer, but it was a bit more plodding and had that whole finding-a-cure-and-another-society-of-not-weird-people subplot. Given that the infected are just total monstrous brutes, not even the gift of speech, it’s like, what good is that cure going to do? Yes, they look less monstrous, but do they act less monstrous? It seemed a bit early to judge the infected girl solely from her less weird face. I’m sure someone could argue “oh sure there was enough space in that cubby hole for him too!” but I just felt the ending as a whole was hollow. I could get behind a cure in The Omega Man because it was more about the weird cult and their change of habits. In this, they’re monsters. In the novel they appeared (emphasis!) to be monsters, but were just guys reacting quite understandably to a murderer in their midst. Admittedly you kind of wonder how well the ending can go at all with these changes – the cure seems farfetched, but considering these monsters to be the successors of mankind is a stretch as well. If we saw more of their society ad culture (if any), I might’ve been able to accept it, but it’s the kind of movie where you just feel it dug itself into a hole, and the only way it could’ve worked was either a different monster, or just dropping them altogether.
In a way the movie’s got a bit of a Left 4 Dead vibe. The lonely city and the monstrous, mostly-brainless “zombies”. You do feel they could’ve adapted the movie into that, if the two were released at the right time. I remember my dad saying (after seeing a campaign of Left 4 Dead) that its zombies were just so much more frightening and believable than that of I Am Legend. I think it helps that Left 4 Dead keeps itself grounded (in “mundane” zombie tropes) until you get the mutations like the Boomer and Tank and all that, whereas I Am Legend the monsters just look fucking ridiculous. I keep thinking of that scene from The Mummy every time they do that stupid stretchy mouth thing.

I’m glad I watched it, but even with its dumb monsters, the ending just undermines the whole thing. It’s a good flick, but I don’t know how they could have sensibly ended it.

The amusing thing is that I’d forgotten I could’ve used my TV as a monitor. DVI-HDMI cable and all. Doyyyy.

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