The atmosphere of seeing I Am Legend in NYC

I Am Legend ticket stubWe saw the movie I Am Legend during our family Chrifsmas outing to New York City over the weekend. Going into it, all I knew was that it was about an abandoned Manhattan. I had no idea it was going to be a zombie apocalypse movie (actually, it’s supposed to be a vampire apocalypse according to the source material, but this adaptation made the monsters so stupid that they functioned more as zombie antagonists than vampire antagonists).

The movie wasn’t stellar. I didn’t like the overtly religious overtones, especially the gaping plot hole that results if you don’t believe that god exists and that he personally talks to people. The original novel, which I only learned about after seeing the film, has a darker, more intelligent ending that plays around with perspective and has you asking who the monster really is. The film had no such nuance, probably a result of the director modifying the ending late during production in response to screen testing. The original story is a scifi masterpiece; this film adaptation is just a monsterfest. It’s too bad. It could have been better.

But the really interesting part was seeing this movie in Manhattan. There were scenes that took place in parts of the city we had literally been walking around earlier that day, except in the movie, they are abandoned and overgrown with wildlife, with just the occasional zombie wandering through at night. Seeing the movie in Manhattan really had the “OMG” aspect to it. One brief scene took place in Union Square, and the theater we saw the film in was located on … Union Square. The packed audience went positively atwitter as that spatial proximity dawned on them.

Another scene, in Times Square, featured a prominent billboard advertisement for the Broadway play Avenue Q. Guess which Broadway play we had just seen the previous night … Avenue Q. Yeah, the movie definitely felt very close to reality, which was downright spooky considering the otherworldly events occurring in otherwise familiar environs. The mood was excellently done. I’m sure the movie is playing very well in New York City.

Now I can’t wait for the DVD release, because I’ve read rumors online that the original ending, featuring the scifi-style nuanced ending where the protagonist is actually the monster, was completed, it just wasn’t used in the theatrical release. That will be an awesome DVD extra. If you’ve seen the movie, let me explain how the ending was supposed to go. The reason the vampires attacked Robert Neville’s house towards the end was because he had kidnapped their leader’s girlfriend and was torturing her.

The disease, it turns out, didn’t remove their humanity, as Neville thought when he mistakenly believed that the loss of human intelligence was “nearly complete”. The vampire that burned itself by exposing itself to sunlight wasn’t stupid, it was taking one last loving look at its mate as Neville abducted her. So Neville is actually going around and capturing vampires, who are helpless during the day, and killing/torturing them in large numbers in his laboratory in an effort to “cure” them. The movie title “I Am Legend” refers to Neville: he is an evil legendary character to the new inhabitants of Manhattan, guilty of mass slaughter, much as Dracula is an evil legendary character to us now. See, isn’t that a better ending?

5 Responses to “The atmosphere of seeing I Am Legend in NYC”

  1. William (green) Says:

    You didn’t get that feeling from the movie anyway? I didn’t know there was a book, and the whole group I watched it with came up with the “Who’s the monster?” thing.

    Do you know if they did include that on the DVD release?

  2. Cyde Weys Says:

    Pretty much all science fiction moves are adapted (oftentimes poorly) from books. That’s just a given.

    And yes, there is an alternate ending on the DVD where he ends up communicating with the vampires and returning the woman to them instead of killing himself and them.

  3. William (green) Says:

    By the way, why does that look like it’s printed on a paper towel?

  4. Cyde Weys Says:

    Bad scanner? The ticket itself might also have some kind of printing on it (like checks do) that stymies attempts to photocopy it. I really do think the scanner is just bad, though.

  5. Jeff V Says:

    I’m not sure how I missed this post but that ending is really awesome.