Having read the book this movie is based on, I knew what I was in for, but did expect the ending of the book – instead I was pleasantly surprised to see another ending that worked and finished off the story in typical ‘feel good’ ways.
Will Smith plays a Military Virologist in New York City, he is alone and hasn’t seen another Human Being for three years. He is all alone because three years earlier, Dr. Alice Krippin created a genetically re-engineered Measles vaccine capable of curing Cancer in all forms. The Virus mutated those who took it and mutated itself, turning Humans into Rabid animals interested only in eating living flesh.
So Robert Neville (Will Smith) stays behind while everyone else without symptoms evacuates New York City so he can try to create a cure based upon his own immunity. His wife and daughter are dead because of a helicopter crash during the evacuation and his only company is the Dog handed to him as a Puppy by his daughter during that evacuation.
Reduced to a wonderful mix of primitive and modern living, Neville drives around in cars of his choosing, hunting for animal meat with Dog and Gun but all the while fearing the shadows and the Sunset. The first time we see Neville board himself up inside his building with steel shutters and shake from fear in the bathtub we begin to get an idea of the horror that emerges each and every night.
Eventually the mutants begin to show intelligence by setting a trap for Neville, leaving him hanging by his foot until Sunset. Having just managed to escape after attack by infected Dogs, there is a harrowing scene where his Dog succumbs to the Virus and turns, giving him no other choice but to choke his only friend to death.
Enraged at losing his friend, Neville sets out the next night to hunt the infected and commit suicide in the process. Just as he is about to have his face bitten off by the apparent leader of the group he was hunting, he is saved… He drops in and out of unconsciousness, but was just able to tell the woman who had saved him where he lived.
Neville awakes the following morning to find himself no longer alone. He finds it hard to accept that there is someone around who talks back to him and ate the bacon that he was saving for a special occasion but eventually, because of the child the woman brought with her, opens up to them.
Getting ever closer to the cure, Neville and his new friends close the shutters as normal that night when suddenly the groans of the infected can be heard louder than ever in the distance, it is then that Neville realises they must have followed them the previous night and tonight they were going to try to get into his home. Neville launches all his defence mechanisms including explosives, but that doesn’t stop some of the infected getting through. Neville and his new friends end up down in the Laboratory where to their amazement the subject he had been testing his latest cure on, is getting better.
Neville frantically shouts through the glass to the infected who’re trying to break-in, telling them he can save them. Eventually realising they are beyond his help he passes the information on the cure to the woman who had saved him, tells them to stay in the bunker at the back of the laboratory until morning, grabs a hand-grenade from the drawer and waits for the leader of the infected to break through the glass…
While this adaptation of the book does differ from it quite a bit, it is a very good ending. The story perhaps fits this era better than any other and this is much, much more than a Zombie picture.
I have absolutely no idea how they achieved the level they did with this movie, most impressively New York City looks as deserted as it should… All of the animals, vegetation, even the infected, they all look absolutely fantastic and it is worth seeing this movie for these alone.
There really is only one recognizable name in this movie and really only one actor. Will Smith doesn’t carry this movie – the story does – but if the story wasn’t up to par, the acting would be… Smith is capable of talking to manikins and makes it a convincing conversation! The performance by the Dog was also impressive and it really is heart-breaking when Neville (Will Smith) has to choke him.
The movie does seem short and really that is no surprise because apart from the flashbacks to the evacuation, all the action takes places over a few days. I really liked Zombie movies in the past and this a fantastic modern spin on the book, but it does have a totally different ending… I’d suggest reading the book also if you like the movie. The movie itself is absolutely worth seeing as long as you don’t expect the plot of the book to feature very much.