legendIn the evening enforced bachelordom enabled me to continue my scifi glut by watching the 2007 film I Am Legend. Mmmm…. Well, first of all, this is but a faint echo for Will Smith of his successes in films such as  Independence Day and I, Robot. (I don’t think he is declining as an actor, but the vehicles he chooses to exercise his skills are in decline; in this vein Hancock was also a great disappointment.) I know that this was a big-grossing film and I am sure a lot of that had to do with the stunning depiction of a deserted and overgrown New York, its bridges down, its towers blind. But the studio apparently willingly deserted the twist in the tail of Richard Matheson’s original novel (1954) in favour of a simple, too simple, ending. I have been a fan of this story since as a pimply fourteen year-old I saw The Omega Man in 1971 (this was the second of three films based on the original book; the story was first filmed as The Last Man on Earth, starring Vincent Price, in 1964). The protagonist of the story, scientist Robert Neville (played variously by Vincent Price, Charlton Heston and Will Smith) is apparently the sole human survivor of a bacterial pandemic that turns human beings into mutants (they become vampires in Matheson’s story). That is the story’s first deceit; that evolution is not necessarily progressive. Because the mutants are inhuman, Neville adopts a hostile attitude towards them, whilst also seeking a cure. Thus he is the ‘legend’ of the former human race. But the mutants begin to evolve. Increasing numbers of them seek to rebuild a society. From their point of view, it is Neville who is the murdering mutant. Alas, these twists were left out of the 2007 film. Warner Brothers might have grossed less money but they would have made a better film. In their soppy ending an enclave of human beings starts rebuilding society as we know it, so that it owes more to John Wyndham’s Day of the Triffids than Matheson’s excellent book. Shame.