The Film Critique “I am Legend”

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Movie criticism allows one to adapt the lessons taught through the instructional process to a real film movie. It's an opportunity to observe and identify how directors collaborate with actors and actresses, cinematographers, and other film professionals. Furthermore, image review is an important method of determining the basic features of the film that the director has used. An examination of the film "I Am Legend" reveals informative contextual detail, an engaging storyline, outstanding visual choices, and the film's social and political implications.

For the purposes of this article, the film "I Am Legend" would be included. The film’s director is Francis Lawrence, and he played a significant role in the overall design process of the movie. Lawrence’s role in the overall design process was to come up with the vision of what he wanted to portray through the film. The vision includes three aspects that are the stories content, narrative structure, and the overall design of the film. By playing these roles, the director collaborates with other members of the film such as the director of photography (Nelmes, 2012). In essence, the director decides aspects such as costumes, lighting and music, and consults with the relevant professionals in the film team to make the features a reality.

The film’s cinematographer is Andrew Lesnie, and like the director, he played a significant role in the overall film design process. Cinematography refers to a language of film that serves to pass the ideas, emotions as well as relationships to the viewers through photographing (Mamer, 2008). The primary role of the cinematographer in the overall design process is to translate the director’s vision to the screen. After going through the directors visions, the cinematographer decides on the uses of light and shadow in the film, the use of color palette and movement. These aspects are all present in the film “I am Legend,” and this underscores the critical role of cinematographers in overall design process.

Additionally, the film’s main actors and actresses are Will Smith, Alice Braga, Emm Thompson, Willow Smith and Charlie Ethan. The role of this diverse cast was to interpret their characters, and then perform them in the film. More often than not, the interpretation of their character is based on personal experiences (Mamer, 2008). The cast of “I am Legend” had to discuss their role with the director, and then the cinematographer would inform them on how portray it so as to achieve a desired outcome which is the director’s vision. The cast is chosen based on their ability to portray a given character. Will Smith was chosen to play Dr. Robert Neville, and his award-winning performance was as a result of how the film was organized in terms of design. In general, the director, cinematographer and the cast, work collaboratively in the overall design process of a film.

“I am Legend,” was released in 2007, and it is a blockbuster film. According to Nelmes (2012), a blockbuster film refers to a movie that takes a significant budget to produce, and casts big film stars. “I am Legend” fits this definition as it took a budget of $159 and casting of stars such as Will Smith to be a success. The director of the film settled on three genres, that is, thriller, science fiction and drama. Nelmes notes that a thriller leaves viewers with feeling such as suspense and anticipation of what is about to happen, and “I am Legend” reveals these aspects. In terms of science fiction, “I am Legend” is purely a speculative film that portray imaginative concepts that are entirely futuristic. The dramatic genre in the film results from the conflicts that the characters in the film face.


I am legend revolves around the story of Dr. Robert Neville portrayed by Will Smith. Dr. Neville who is a former army officer doubles up as a virologist. He is the only survivor of man-made plague that has modified human beings hence he cannot trust anyone. The plague has turned the entire human population save for Dr. Smith into blood thirsty creatures. Neville sets out on a quest to find a cure for the infected. He experiments with rats that are infected, and at the same time tries to locate uninfected survivors. His continued experimentation finally leads him to find a cure drawn from his own blood. Neville finally capture one of the infected, and tries to treat her. Nevertheless, the treatment offers no significant success, and Neville begins to doubt his cure.

Dr. Neville decides to capture another infected person, but this time his strategy fails, and he is almost trapped by the infected persons. He is attacked by infected dogs, but with the help of ‘Sam’ his dog they manage to kill all of them. However, his dog is bitten and this implies that she is also infected; these circumstances force Dr. Neville to kill the dog, and attack the infected persons in the night. However, he almost loses his life during the battle with the infected, but is saved by immune survivors, Anna portrayed by Alice Braga and Ethan portrayed by Charlie Ethan. Ann and Ethan inform him that they are from Maryland where they travelled from after getting messages from his broadcast. Continued treatments on the infected person finally works, but they are attacked by the rest of the infected population. Realizing that time in not on his side, Dr. Neville draws blood from the infected person who he has treated and gives it to Anna. He proceeds to activate a grenade that kills him and the infected hence saving Anna and Ethan.

Aesthetic Choices

The technique and design employed in the film “I am Legend” enable the director to portray the overarching narrative and theme of the film. The director combines three aspects of lighting such as low-key, high-key and three-point lighting. In the first few minutes of the film, the director uses high-key lighting to portray the destruction of the plague. Neville looks down on New York City, and the only things he can see are abandoned cars and buildings. The director uses this type of lighting to reveal that although it is morning, there is no sign of human life, and Neville is the only survivor. The other scenes in the film where low key lighting is used include where Neville is hunting a deer, but the lion beats him. Further, high key lighting is also used when Neville is on top of a building shooting golf balls.

At the same time, the film also utilizes low-key lighting to bring out the dramatic and sci-fi genres. The director combines flashlights, headlights along with work lights to employ the low-key lighting. For example, when Neville’s dog runs into an abandoned building, he uses a flashlight to find her. Besides the areas where the dark-seekers live are dark the use of low-key lighting. The use of the three-point lighting is also present in the scene where Neville and his dog are in a cave and are about to be attacked by a dark-seeker. In this case, the viewers’ cannot see the entire body of Neville, his dog, and the dark-seeker due to traditional lighting. In essence, the combination of these three types of lighting helps the director in portraying the various themes in the film.

Additionally, the film also utilizes the technique of sound throughout. The use of sound includes aspects such as words, sound effects, as well as music. The film utilizes sound to create a specific mood among the viewers. For example, when the film starts the director combines sound effects and music to create suspense among the viewers as they do not know what to Neville will find in the city. Further, the use of music in the film also helps the director in creating emotions. For example, When Neville is forced to kill his dog since she has been infected; the director decides to use music to create the emotion. Moreover, the composition of frame in the film is also effective. For example, the director uses the extreme long shot to achieve the composition of the frame. When Neville arrives in the streets of Manhattan, the director uses the composition of frame to portray the devastating effects of the plague (Mercado, 2013). In general, mise en scèn of “I am Legend” is effective in portraying the themes in the film.

Social/Personal Impact

The highly distinct version of I am Legend provokes significant questions regarding personal identity politics. It is evident that Robert Neville is the only person alive after an engineered catastrophy that devours on humanity. Notably, in Matheson’s novel that was authored as well as set in a civil right period, Neville, who is demonstrated as a middle-class white man, evokes the specter of chaotic race relations in his musings regarding the monster. According to Golub and Hayton (2017), the adaptations of I am Legend encompass the complexities regarding representation. There is a common assumption that Matheson’s text demonstrated an important cultural chord when it was authored, and it continues to prove the same. The 1954 novel, as well as the 2007 film, reflect current anxieties that revolve around racial relations that are suitable for periods in the lead-up to the civil rights movement as well as the aftermath of the 9/11 events.

To understand the issue of race relations, it is relevant to acknowledge the fact that Matheson’s novel was narrated from the perspective of able bodies, a middle class white individual who got rid of vampires. The last chapters note point put that the vampires have far more cognitive ability than the main character had perceived. The vampires viewed the man as a perpetrator of genocide. In Francis Lawrence’s 2007 film, the narrative inquiries regarding race relations are altered through its demonstration of the central character. The main character is played by Will Smith who is an African-American and the vampires are similar to voracious aliens.

Further, Francis Lawrence’s I am a Legend (2007), changes Matheson’s antihero into a scientist whose masculinity can solely save the human race. Notably, these acknowledge the global gender roles through the transformation of the only surviving man on Earth from an individual whose masculinity is no longer viable into an action hero. Notably, the action hero’s sense of manhood is not attached to getting a privileged position in racial as well as a class hierarchy but to his personal characters of resilience, survival instincts as well as strength. In the film, Captain Robert Neville, an Army physician, is played by an actor who has developed a name for himself as an action hero, Will Smith. Therefore, the film demonstrates ultimate levels of masculinity through self-sacrifice so that others may live. Matheson’s novel on the other hand, Neville’s monstrosity is inextricably related to his traditional sense of masculinity. Notably, the contemporary society has influenced the film positively, despite the man being the central character, his role is justified. Unlike the traditional societies where men assumed various roles through their gender, in the film Neville does not rely on his masculinity but rather his skills.

Conclusively, demonstrates the issue of race relations while ignoring the traditional sense of masculinity. The main character demonstrates the ultimate level of masculinity through self-sacrifice. Directed by Francis Lawrence, the film is set in New York City, and it demonstrates the aftermath of a tragic virus that wiped out 90 percent of humanity while turning the survivors into zombies. Aspects of lighting including low key, high key as well as the three point lighting are employed in the film. A clear analysis of the film ensures that one learns how aspects learned in class can be applied practically. Moreover, the movie can help the viewers to interpret themes in different movies thus gaining a deeper understanding of films. Ultimately, in the film, science saves humanity.


Through this film analysis, I have gained significant aspects that have supplemented what was already learned in class. One of the primary aspects I have gained is that director can combine various genres in one film, and still maintain the central theme. Additionally, I have also learned about the combination of different lights and sounds to portray themes in film. After this film analysis, I will not be watching movies in the same way, as I will be doing this critically. I will now be watching with the aim of identifying central themes and identifying how the director employs various film techniques. Through such viewing, I can identify the strong and weak aspects of a film.

Film theory and criticism have enabled me to interpret the meaning of a number of movies. Firstly, theory and criticism help one interpret films by avoiding face value assumptions. Theory provides concepts that enable one to critically assess if the director uses design and technique in the way they are supposed. In general, the theories provide one with guidance on how to go about film analysis so as to provide a reliable critique.

My understanding of how movies are related to society has been changed by this social. I have learned that social and political trends can inspire filmmakers to create films. Moreover I have learned that movies can be used to address challenges that are present in the modern society. Additionally, I have also learned that movies can influence people to undertake positive change for a better tomorrow. The skills I have developed during this course that I can apply in my profession include creative thinking as this can enable me come up with great film idea. I have also gained the skill of film making whereby I now know the process followed.


Golub, A., & Hayton, H. R. (Eds.). (2017). Teaching about Monsters: Essays on Teaching What Scares Us. McFarland.

Lawrence, F. (Director). (2007). I Am Legend trailer. [Video file]. Retrieved from

Mamer, B. (2008). Film Production Technique: Creating the Accomplished Image (5th ed). Nelson Education.

Mercado, G. (2011). The filmmaker's eye: Learning (and breaking) the rules of cinematic composition. Taylor & Francis.

Nelmes, J. (Ed.). (2012). Introduction to film studies. Routledge.

July 20, 2022

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