Tuesday, December 4, 2007

I AM LEGEND (and Will Smith is fairly famous as well)

Okay, how many people reading this are going to see the movie just for this poster? And the catchphrase probably doesn't even refer to the dog. But damn, that's a nice looking dog. Not as handsome as Max, but hey--who is? I sure hope this movie doesn't lead to a lot of people going out and buying German Shepherd Dogs they don't know how to take care of, and ruining the breed, but I guess that's been going on ever since Strongheart, and there's no going back now. Anyway, it's actually the AKC that's ruining the GSD, but that's a rant for another day.

I'm less resistant to Will Smith than I used to be ("The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is a movie star now?"), and I've almost forgiven him for starring in an adaptation of Isaac Asimov's "I, Robot" that borrowed the title and a few ideas and stuck them on a whole different story (I was a science fiction buff before I ever had a dog). And he's a big dog lover--he and the missus have a pack of rotties at home, that Cesar Millan helped them train. As movie stars go, he's good people. Now if he'd just make a good movie.

Part of "I Am Legend" was shot at the Kingsbridge Armory, which I frequently pass on my way home from work--that piques my interest somewhat. And hey, maybe it isn't just another piece of overbudgeted actioncrap--but I don't go to a lot of movies these days, and Hollywood remakes are at the bottom of my list, normally. I'm going to this one for the dog. The last two times they turned this story into a movie ("The Last Man on Earth" with Vincent Price, which sticks pretty close to the original, and "The Omega Man" with Charlton Heston, which really doesn't) there wasn't any dog--but there is one in the book.

In the original Richard Matheson novel, "I Am Legend", there's no tough-looking German Shepherd Dog--just a frightened little mutt who somehow survived the horrific plague that devastated the planet and turned the survivors into vampires (oh c'mon, that is not a spoiler, there have been two movie adapations already--Rosebud is Charles Foster Kane's sled! In Titanic, the ship sinks! Somebody stop me!).

Robert Neville, the hero of the story (as he sees it), is desperately lonely, and when he sees the dog timidly skulking around, he moves heaven and earth to win his trust, even though Neville is pretty busy killing vampires during the day while they sleep, then fighting them off during the night--and to make it even worse, one of them looks like Oliver Hardy. It's too hard to explain, you just have to read the book, which is more interesting and original than any movie made from it is ever likely to be.

Anyway, Neville manages to catch the dog, and then spoils him rotten to win him over. The dog doesn't prowl with him around the deserted city (which isn't New York, by the way), and he doesn't help him fight vampires--he doesn't really do much of anything but wag his tail in gratitude for the food and caresses Neville gives him, and lick his savior's hand--and for Neville, that's more than enough. Just the chance to care for another living being, and be loved in return. It's the most tender and moving part of a pretty grim narrative, and basically, the dog is the only real friend Neville ever finds, before--well, that would be telling.

I'm going to take a wild guess that the story ends a little differently for Will Smith's Neville. Not sure about the dog--while they obviously got the idea of Neville having a dog from the novel, and saw story potential the previous two films missed out on, they are self-evidently going in a very different direction with it. All I know is I better not shell out ten or eleven bucks, and then find out the dog is in two or three scenes. I will post a scathingly negative review here if that happens. Beware the wrath of Washington Tykes, Warner Brothers! I have at least eight or nine semi-dedicated readers! Grrrrr!!!!

Will Smith apparently gave away the ending of this particular "I Am Legend" at a press conference, but that was probably more about what happens to his character. I just want to know what happens to the dog. I already know what happens to the dog in the novel. And for once, I am rooting for Hollywood to go for the happy ending, and never mind the novel. Even though the novel is a classic, and the movie probably--isn't. I want the doggy to live!

But I just bet you they're going for an Old Yeller moment at some point, and I'll end up needing to clean my eyeglasses. Dammit.

Speaking of Old Yeller, the movie turned 50 this month. I'm presently contemplating an homage for the blog. Hollywood used to know how to make dog movies. Now they just make movies with dogs. But just for the poster, I'm going. "The Last Man on Earth is Not Alone". Not as long as he's got a dog. Damn straight.

PS: I just realized--no leash!

Are the leash laws not enforced in Post-Apocalyptic New York? There's an upside to everything, isn't there? Bet he can take the dog into the subways with him too. Now that there aren't any trains. Isn't that always the way?

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