One of my favorite spec fic books of all time is I AM LEGEND by Richard Matheson. It’s a lovely mish-mash of horror and sci-fi and post-apocalyptica. And it’s probably one of the most influential books when it comes to all of the other mish-mashes of horror, sci-fi and post-apcalyptica we know and love.
There have been many movies based on I AM LEGEND, but for this discussion today, I want to talk about the latest one, the Will Smith version. What I find so incredibly ironic is that while the book was the first of its kind, influencing generations of writers and filmmakers, the movie is exactly the opposite. It is almost completely the result of being influenced by all of the movies that were influenced by the book. A snake eating it’s own tail – or, I guess in this case, a zombie eating a vampire eating a zombie. Or something like that.
While Richard Matheson’s book created a shocking world where suddenly the familiarity of daily life was not only deadly – it was a prison – the movie has given us zombies that can run fast (nevermind that the book is about vampires), some stellar shots of Will Smith shirtless, and grave scenes of an empty, post-plague world.
Maybe it’s not fair to say the movie seems like a rehash of so many movies before it. Matheson was on the cusp of Cold War hysteria, baby boom suburban backlash, etc. Maybe it’s impossible for a movie to bring that kind of fresh, frightening feel, when we’ve been feeling those things for so long.
What do you think? When a book and a movie are so far apart in current events and influential zeitgeists, is it even fair to say one is not as good as the other? It’s almost like an apples to oranges comparison. Except the two things we’re scrutinizing share the same name, so maybe it’s more like comparing oranges to OraNgeZ ™.
I don’t know.
The book? Two thumbs up. The movie? One thumb sideways.