I Am Legend adaptation “review”

To be honest, I’m in the middle of scrambling to reach my 2016 reading goal. (I probably won’t reach it.) How are you doing with your reading goal? Do you have one? Do you care? LMK.

I recently read Richard Matheson’s “I Am Legend” and freaking loved it. I have always put books like that (post-apocalyptic, monster, etc. books) into the general “since I’m such a scaredy cat I probably won’t finish it” category, which is unfortunate but mostly true. “I Am Legend”, however, came out of the need for a short book I could add to my “Read” list this year, and from a friend’s recommendation. I truly have been trying to branch out more in my reading, and this time it was definitely worth it.

What I loved most about the book was Neville’s complete isolation, and the perspective we as the reader were allowed to see of it. Given the nature of the singular character, it’s interesting that the book wasn’t in first person; that shift could have given the story a bit more suspense. However, since this is my first glance into Matheson, it might just be his MO. I was completely awe struck by his writing style, though. The man can write. Obviously.

Apart from that, the title and theme of the book are just sublime. I guessed at the true meaning quite early when Neville was reviewing the research he had done on vampires. “And, before science had caught up with legend, the legend had swallowed science and everything.” (Matheson 29) Humanity now was becoming the legend.

The beauty that Neville became a legend, in the mythical sense of the word, based on the fact that he was the last human, was so simple and yet so, like, beautiful. You know? It wasn’t that he was a legend in the “superhero” sense of the word because he gave this incredible last stand and set out to defeat the vampires altogether.

Enter the film I Am Legend.

All of my issues with the film stem from the fact that film was not a true representation of what the book’s message was. Yes, I understand that in adaptations things must change, and that a film audience is often a much different audience than a story’s readership, but this one just deviated too far for me.

For one, Neville’s isolation was completely taken away with the presence of Samantha, his dog. There was no room for Neville to have his crazed moments, and even when Sam did die of the virus, I did not believe Neville’s scene of loneliness in the video store talking to the mannequin; not nearly enough time had passed.

I can even forgive the new backstory of Neville being some sort of Army Medical Doctor, and even that the vampires could be killed by simple bullets, but what I cannot forgive is the end. This idea that true humanity had ultimately survived. It completely robbed Robert Neville of being that legend, the last, the myth of humanity. To have Neville make a last stand in the film by literally sacrificing himself is a disservice to the character that Matheson set him out to be, and it was very upsetting. His end was meant to be met alone, as the last human. I feel like the film extremely misinterpreted the “legend” aspect of the story, but that only shows our own modernity.

Today we have no legends, apart from those few and far between urban legends like Bigfoot or whatever. Now all of our legends are seen in a historical aspect, what someone’s legacy is, rather than a myth.

So, yes I enjoyed the book and perhaps got a bit attached. This is only my silly opinion, but I had to get it out. If you’re a film maker, stop fucking up books, will you?

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