Of the three movie adaptations of Richard Matheson's I Am Legend go, I'd only previously seen The Omega Man, the very loose 1971 version starring Charleton Heston. The earlier adaptation, 1964's Vincent Price-starring The Last Man on Earth is rather more obscure, though I'll probably try to see it at some point.
Having read and loved the novella, and after literally waiting over a decade for a modern adaptation, I was pretty dismayed to learn that Wil Smith had been signed to star in 2007's version of the vampire apocalypse story that inspired everything from Night of the Living Dead to 28 Days Later. I was fresh off seeing the abysmal I, Robot and my loathing for Smith (and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman) had really peaked.
Still, there was little doubt that I'd see this new version, despite the involvement of these folks. Fortunately, while Goldsman brought his patented "shit" writing touches (Batman and Robin, Lost in Space) to the movie, it managed to survive thanks to the efforts of others, principally Smith.
That's right: Wil Smith is absolutely fantastic in this movie. I never expected to type those words, believe me, but his performance is easily Oscar™-worthy, in my opinion.
Thank god the Arnold Schwarzenegger version never got made.
And now, a few negatives (of course):
Most reviews I've read of the film mention that the CGI vampires are awful, and that is somewhat true. It's not the quality of the animation, though, but rather that they are incredibly generic. These vampires are essentially the same wall-crawling, super-jumping badass swarms of CGI beasts we've been fed over and over and fucking over again in the last ten years. From the horrid morlocks of the equally-horrid 2002 version of The Time Machine to the horrid robots from the previously-mentioned I, Robot, it seems like there is an irrational compulsion in Hollywood to make monsters act like swarms of pissed-off crickets.
I would have liked some explanation of how certain things came to pass regarding driving to and from Manhattan at certain points. They weren't deal-breakers, but were kind of hard to rationalize.
Why use an actress of Emma Thompson's caliber as the creator of the "cure for cancer" if you're not going to have another interview with her after it has all gone wrong. An interview where she's just devastated by what she has accidentally wrought would have been fantastic.
The ending SUCKS.
You don't even have to be familiar with the brilliantly dark ending of the novella to find what the film gives us disappointing. Not only is it the polar opposite of the novella, it also squanders its own work at creating some kind of depth in the antagonists. I am furious at whoever wrote the ending (undoubtably Akiva Goldsman -- the bane of my existence as a movie lover) because they threw away so much potential. It's as if whoever wrote the end hadn't even read the rest of the screenplay, much less the source material.
What pisses me off is that all my curiosity at what they were building to with the vampires' obvious intelligence and the female he'd cured will remain unsatisfied forever, because they just tossed it.