The Sci-Fi Chronicles serves up the third and latest incarnation of Richard Matheson’s story. This one was made in 2007 and stars Will Smith as Robert Neville. This version of the film comes across as a much more solid adaptation of the original work but is deeply marred by the very dated CG work on the vampire creatures that now wander the darkened catacombs of New York, and run through its streets at night.
The film would have been better served going with a practical creation for these creatures, as they look terrible, and have no weight or reality. Anytime these creations were on the screen, I was completely booted out of the film, which is too bad, as the rest of the film works pretty damned well.
This is a much more tense version and a better realized film than either of its predecessors, with Smith turning in a strong performance of a man both haunted by the events around him, and attempting to stave off the inevitable madness that stems from his loneliness, even with his loyal dog, Sam, at his side.
He tries to keep his madness at bay with mannequins he’s set up around the city to interact with, especially at his local video store. But it also demonstrates his loneliness and man’s need for social interaction.
At night, he seals himself and Sam into his family’s apartment. We learn about them in flashbacks, learning he is a colonel, and is trying to get his wife and daughter off of Manhattan island and to safety, while he stays behind to try to figure out and combat this man-made virus that was supposed to eradicate cancer.
His days are spent working on a cure, scavenging for supplies, and waiting daily at the wharf, for any other survivors on the island to answer his radio message. He’s hoping, and he may be right, that he is not the last human alive in New York.
The bulk of the film is incredibly entertaining, and well-made, as long as you ignore the CG work, not only on the creatures, but some of the other elements that appear in the film. As it progresses, Neville is pushed further and further into loneliness, despair and madness, but keeps working, literally to the final moment (which shouldn’t be much of a spoiler, if you’ve read or watched any of the other incarnations).
The film is also littered with lots of Warner/DC comics in-jokes, the most prominent of which is the large Batman/Superman poster in Times Square… Eight years later, it’s finally happening…
Smith is great, the story solid, and the best plotted version of it featured on-screen to date, but, sigh, those CG monsters… They didn’t do the film any favors.