The Harmful Rays of the Moral Vacuum

The Harmful Rays of the Moral Vacuum
Please be advised that for your safety you must exit this blog on foot, calmly and quickly.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

"The Omega Man" and "I am Legend": A comparison

This past weekend, my darling wife felt like watching the 2007 film adaptation of Richard Matheson's classic 1954 sci-fi horror novel, I Am Legend.  Unfortunately, it wasn't available on Netflix's instant streaming service.  Being a bad movie buff, I already had the 1971 version, The Omega Man, in my instant queue.  So we were forced to resort to that version.
The Omega Man stars the venerable Charlton Heston as Dr. Robert Neville, the hero portrayed by Will Smith in the 2007 version.  While the 2007 version offers true moments of terrifying suspense, The Omega Man does not.  What it offers instead is a laughable group of villains, and a goofy early 70s score that makes each scene sillier than the last.

The key difference between the two films is that whereas Will Smith is forced to contend with a group of bloodthirsty and ruthless cannibal zombies rendered beyond all reason by a virus,  Charlton Heston instead faces off against what amounts to a cult advocating a back to the earth movement. 

The group in the Heston film is afflicted with a virus, as in the Smith film.  But instead of being robbed of their human characteristics, they instead become extremely photosensitive and start walking around in robes like medieval peasants (except with aviator sunglasses).  They are led by a charismatic former news anchorman who convinces them that society is being punished for an overabundance of technology.  Right.

They are also acutely aware of Robert Neville, the one man who has not been appropriately "punished" for the ills of society, and who continues to make use of forbidden technology in his quest to cure the virus that turned everyone into Medieval Times cast members.  Led by the former newsman, they attack his fortified house nightly with such weapons as a flame throwing catapult.  All this as the newsman delivers stilted anti-technology screeds in what I believe to be a faux English accent.  I cannot possibly convey how silly this film is.

I wound up walking to Blockbuster to buy the Will Smith version with a new appreciation for how genuinely intense that version is.  There are real moments of fright as Smith evades zombies (sans robes and designer eyewear), and none of the silliness of the Heston version.

Side note: I decided to buy the movie at Blockbuster because I cannot justify paying $5 to rent it when I already have Netflix.  However, the used copy of the movie I found was $14.99.  A new copy at Best Buy is cheaper than that.  They were having a special (two $14.99 used movies for $20), but there was another tier of movies that were regularly $8, which were selling 5 for $20.  I found it strange that I am Legend was in the higher price tier.  In order to make it economically feasible, I was forced to leave the store with a used copy of Crank 2: High Voltage, a film which sadly lacks the gravitas of the original.

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