Richard Matheson’s well-known short science fiction story, ‘I Am Legend,’ returned to the big screen, in a larger, louder and, frankly, a lot less fun. (The story was originally made into a film in 1964 with the film ‘The Last Man on Earth,’ then remade in 1971’s ‘The Omega Man,’ with Charleton Heston. So, to be completely truthful, this article should be called remake remake this, but that’s a mouthful.) I have not seen ‘The Last Man on Earth,’ and this article will be focusing on the differences between ‘Legend’ and ‘Omega.’
In ‘Legend,’ Will Smith stars as Robert Neville, an army scientist who is immune to a disease that swept across the earth, turning most of the population into flesh-hungry zombie-like beings. (They run and scream, thereby making them not zombies.) Francis Lawrence’s film focuses on the loneliness of Neville, who spends his time driving up and down the deserted and overgrown streets of New York. Compare that to ‘The Omega Man.’ Charleton Heston’s Neville is stuck in an empty Los Angeles, wandering the streets and, for reasons I can’t completely understand, watching ‘Woodstock,’ over and over again. Will Smith is fighting against something called ‘The Darkseekers,’ creatures who only come out and attack and thirst for blood at night. Heston is fighting members of ‘The Family,’ a group of albino zombie-like creatures, who use bows and arrows, but are fighting with Neville because of his use of ‘wheel-like,’ items like machine guns and grenades. I Am Zombie-like.
However, the big difference is the ending. Heston dies in a Christ-like pose because, well, if Chuck can’t save mankind, who can, frankly? Will Smith also sacrifices himself for the greater good, but Smith’s ending is a little more upbeat because it is shown that a group of humans still exist. Heston only has a few survivors to try to make go of it in a non-zombie lifestyle. I Am A Fan of Chuck Heston.
‘I Am Legend’ originally had a different where, (stop reading if you don’t know how it ends,) Smith is the legend among the Darkseekers because he is killing them to find out how to cure whatever is turning them into seekers. See? It’s a big switch. It’s supposed to make you think. But producers got worried that people wouldn’t like to think at a movie and switched it to something a little less confrontational. I Am Disappointed.
Frankly, if they had gone with this ending, I would have liked the movie before. However, I wouldn’t have liked it enough to recommend it. While the effects that made New York look desolate were cool, there was one flashback sequence that showed the destruction of the Brooklyn Bridge that looked so incredibly fake and CGI that I sorta lost interest after that. With ‘Omega Man,’ they didn’t resort to any tricky CGI. All they had was Chuck Heston, kicking ass and taking names.
So, in summation, ‘Legend,’ is good but nothing worth running out to see. And, ‘Omega,’ is something worth checking out if, like me, you like Charleton Heston science fiction movies. -Sam