Another morning when I should have been trying to sort out the mess that is my cupboard, has been spent watching bits of “I am Legend.” (Justification: I abandoned the project only after I was done with the second shelf, so I did get some work done.)
Loosely based on Richard Matheson’s novel “I am Legend” the film has the one of Will Smith’s most sincere performances to date. As someone with a lot of screen time Smith’s role evokes Tom Hank’s island life in Castaway, with Wilson (the friendly basketball?) replaced by a doe- eyed German Shepard called Samantha.
Matheson’s version of “I am Legend, a twist on the classic “Last man on earth” formula (placed in a urban landscape, elimination of humanity by humans and the looming danger of an enemy that needs help) is considered one of the foundation stones for the zombie sub-culture as we know it today.
From a cancer cure gone awry, a scientist tirelessly working for a solution to deafening silences, the world of “I am Legend” (the film) is obviously larger, more cinematic in it’s retelling. Scenes shot at New York’s Times Square and Brooklyn Bridge were at that point some of the most expensive ones in the history of film making. Eerily reminiscent of “A World without us,” it’s disorienting to see the streets we know so well covered in moss with a herd of deer racing through them. (15 seconds of fame begin now: One scene has will Smith driving down an over-run and abandoned Lexington Avenue around 27th street where I have inhaled many a Bisibele Bhaath at “Saravnaas”: 15 seconds of fame over)
The montage of Smith going about his day is heart-rending and made me wonder, if you are the last man on Earth, what do you have left to live for? In the case of Smith, it is the need to find a cure, but wouldn’t it be much simpler to go with the tide and end it? What can one single man do in the face of a disaster that has brought the most powerful race on this planet to its collective knees? The construction of the human mind with our animal instincts wired in always amazes me. We are survivors, no matter what. (Except for these guys, if that’s not proof of natural selection, I’m not sure what is.)
Samantha, Smith’s dog seems to be a personification of his will to live. The moment Samantha is hurt, Smith’s resolve seems to crumble, and he attempts to end it. First off, that dog is beautiful. My personal experience with German Shepards has not been pleasant (I have a giant scar on my nose to prove it), but I have yet to see a dog with more soulful eyes than Sam. Much like with Frasier’s Eddy, I am in puppy love. In my mind, Sam served as a perfect foil to the vicious creatures that humanity had turned into, something so pure and unquestioning in her love and devotion- qualities that make us human. (While watching the video, you will ask yourself if you’re really watching a video of a dog in a movie and nearly tearing up. To that I will say, yes.)
And of course, one of my favourite scenes in the film is when Will Smith talks about Bob Marley.
“He had this idea. It was kind of a virologist idea. He believed that you could cure racism and hate — literally cure it, by injecting music and love into people’s lives. One day he was scheduled to perform at a peace rally, gunmen came to his house and shot him down. Two days later, he walked out on that stage and sang. Somebody asked him “why” he said: “The people that are trying to make this world worse are not taking a day off — how can I? “
With renewed vigour I turn my attention back to my cupboard. I’d like very much to be a part of Bob Marley’s gang. I don’t need a messy room distracting me while the bad guys aren’t even taking a day off.