Tag Archives: i am legend

On the Bookshelf XXV

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Our Culture, What’s Left of It by Theodore Dalrymple
“Holy epic essays, Batman!” This book is tremendous. It’s going to be required reading for each of my kids before they leave the house. (What’s that? Of course I don’t have kids yet. Just planning ahead here.)
Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child by Anthony Esolen
One of the finest books I’ve ever read – which is why I’m reading it again. I figure it deserves that kind of attention at least once a year. You can check out the review I wrote awhile back, but you’d be better off just buying the book and reading it yourself. Everybody should. If I had my way, everybody would.
Collected Works by Arthur Machen
Lovecraft led me here, and for that I am truly grateful. Machen is a genius.
The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought by Marlynne Robinson
“Whether rescuing Calvinism and its creator Jean Cauvin from the repressive ‘puritan’ stereotype, or considering how the McGuffey readers were inspired by Midwestern abolitionists, or the divide between the Bible and Darwinism, Robinson repeatedly sends her reader back to the primary texts that are central to the development of American culture but little read or acknowledged today.” I’m on binge here with this kind of thing, in case you haven’t noticed. First Bradbury, then Dalrymple, now Robinson. And it ain’t even February yet, so my brain my very well go blooie.
I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
Loved the story the first time through, and wanted to visit it a second time. If you enjoy sophisticated science fiction, tales of the apocalypse, or just long for the days when vampires used to be scary, this book is a gem.

What’s on your bookshelf right now?

Top 10 Favorite Film Scores


Inception – Hans Zimmer
Hans Zimmer has written many outstanding film scores in his career, but in my opinion, Inception is his finest: a vivid, imaginative, and throughly entrancing musical soundscape that is every bit as brilliant as the movie it accompanies. Even more amazing is the fact that Zimmer crafted the entire thing without seeing one single frame of the film. He just read the script.
Dream Is Collapsing
Mombasa

The Bourne Supremacy – John Powell
One of the best soundtracks the espionage genre has ever produced. Marked by Powell’s signature fusion of electronics and traditional orchestra, this one has it all: intelligence, emotion, creativity, and adrenaline-soaked action. It’s awesomeness in MP3 format.
Goa
Bim Bam Smash

Gladiator – Hans Zimmer
“My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius…” *cough* Sorry, couldn’t resist. It’s only one of the greatest movie lines ever – but I digress. Not only does this score create an enduring backdrop for director Ridley Scott’s Roman epic, it also lends itself extremely well to independent listening. From its glorious battle music to its more poignant moments, this one is a winner all the way.
The Battle
Honor Him

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Book Review: I Am Legend

Robert Neville is the last man on earth. But he’s not alone.

An unstoppable plague has devastated the world’s population, killing millions and transforming the survivors into ravenous night-walkers, thirsty for blood. No one is left unscathed. No man, no woman, no child.

Except for Robert Neville.

Miraculously immune to the plague, Neville is a hunter-gatherer by day – stalking the undead as they sleep, and collecting any useful supplies he can get his hands on. By night, he barricades himself in his house, hoping for dawn. His chances of surviving this murderous new world grow smaller by the hour, and he knows it’s only a matter of time before they catch him. Or drive him insane. Whichever happens first.

Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend is another book I became acquainted with via film. Francis Lawrence’s 2007 version (starring Will Smith) impressed me a great deal with its tautly-crafted story, complex themes, and profound biblical imagery. It also got a fair amount of flack from fans of the novel, who dismissed it as “yet another Hollywood adaption run amuck.”

I’ve experienced both now – the movie and the book. And though they differ from one another quite a bit, I can honestly say I have a deep appreciation for both. I appreciate the movie for its sophisticated rumination on grace, faith, and redemption. I appreciate the book for its intriguing scientific-backdrop, gripping psychological study, and for the clever (and grimly ironic) nature of its conclusion.

Matheson drops us straight into the heart of the story with one of the best opening lines I’ve had the pleasure of reading:

On those cloudy days, Robert Neville was never sure when sunset came, and sometimes they were in the streets before he could get back.

The uncertainty of survival – and hints to the dreadful consequences of a single misstep on Neville’s part – are both ominously present in that sentence. And as we read on, we feel a perversely compelling certainty that this story can’t have a “happily ever after” sort of ending.

It doesn’t. I won’t spoil the finale for you; suffice it to say, it’s pretty bleak. Not hopeless per se, but not exactly hopeful, either. It does, however, prove fitting within the story’s (already bleak) context – and you’ll never look at the title the same way again.

As the tale progresses, Matheson – through the character of Neville – establishes a fairly plausible scientific explanation for the vampires’ existence. I thoroughly enjoyed that part, and if that sort of stuff interests you, I’m sure you’ll find it fascinating.

Most interesting (for me, at least) was “watching” Neville cope with his aloneness. For years, his thoughts have been his only company. No contact with another living being whatsoever. That, combined with the constant threat of violence and death, has begun to take its toll.

To further complicate matters, the vampires that hunt him aren’t just any vampires – they were once his friends and neighbors. And they still recognize him, even in their crazed, plague-ridden state. When darkness falls, they surround his house and call to him: “Come out, Neville! Come out!” Night after night after bloody night. That’ll mess with your head…

Neville’s cynicism and outright despair are not surprising, but I couldn’t help but wonder how a man with faith in God might respond differently under the same circumstances. Neville has nothing outside of himself to turn to, because he believes there isn’t any such thing. There’s just him. And the vampires. And the certainty of a dark and lonely end.

Yet what might a Christian say to this? Psalm 121:

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: He that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand. The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: He shall preserve thy soul. The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

Do I recommend I Am Legend? Yes. It’s not particularly fun reading, but it is engaging and thought-provoking, and will give rise to plenty of interesting discussion. I should add that it’s not a book for younger readers: aside from the disturbing premise, it also has several scenes of violence, a smattering of language, and some sexual themes.

On the Bookshelf V

The Wages of Spin by Carl Trueman
Critical writings on historical and contemporary evangelicalism. It took me all of five pages to decide that Carl Trueman is one of my favorite writers. No joke. I’m simultaneously loving this guy and feeling very small next to his brilliance. I mean, seriously – if I could write non-fiction like Trueman and write fiction like Cormac McCarthy, I’d be set.
Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
The second installment of Enderverse, and a winner of the Hugo and Nebula awards. It’s quite a bit different from the first book, Ender’s Game, but it’s every bit as interesting and provocative. Card has a gift for ambitious, detailed world building (or out-of-this-world building, if you will), and his characters and scenarios are always fascinating. It’s not difficult to see why he’s regarded as a classic Sci-Fi author.
Modern Times by Paul Johnson
I was a bit daunted by the length of this one at first (it’s 800 pages), but the fact that it’s authored by Paul Johnson helped me overcome my hesitation. That, and the fact that I really had no choice in the matter – it’s required reading for school. At any rate, I’m glad I started it: it’s brilliantly written and consistently challenging. Dashed interesting, too.
I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
A classic and oft lauded post-apocalyptic vampire tale. The 2007 film is one of my favorite Sci-Fi flicks, but I avoided the book until now because I’d heard questionable things about it. A very good friend recently recommended it, however, so I decided to give it a go. I picked up a copy at Barnes & Nobles the other day, and as soon as I finish up some of my other reads, I plan to start it. Can’t wait.
The Fort by Bernard Cornwell
A novel of the Revolutionary War. Cornwell is a prolific author, highly respected and generally regarded as one of the best  historical-fiction writers working today. I haven’t read anything else by him yet, but I figured this would be a good place to start. He also wrote a novel about the Battle of Agincourt which I’d love to check out. “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers…”
Outlaw Platoon by Sean Parnell
“In combat, men measure up. Or don’t. There are no second chances.” The story of 10th Mountain Division’s stand in the violent, rugged mountains of Afghanistan. I’m almost done with it and have been very impressed thus far. There’s a lot of profanity (you have been warned), but it’s a remarkable look at leadership, brotherhood-in-arms, and the messiness of modern warfare.

What’s on your bookshelf right now?

Great Guy Movies (Pt. III)


Flags of Our Fathers (2006), [R]
Based on the book by James Bradley, Flags of Our Fathers is an artistically-masterful reconstruction of the events surrounding Joe Rosenthal’s famous snapshot (which quickly became a symbol of America’s triumph and indestructible spirit). Those expecting a straight-up war-actioner will be disappointed; but if you can appreciate a complex and emotionally nuanced military drama, I’ve little doubt you will find it a deeply satisfying experience – a sobering meditation on sacrifice, valor, the hellishness of war, and the nature of heroism vs. celebrity-ism.

Warrior (2011), [PG-13]
A masterpiece. Set in the violent world of mixed martial arts, Gavin O’Conner’s Warrior isn’t just another dime-a-dozen fight movie: it’s a profound and fiercely moving story about forgiveness, reconciliation, and redemption. The action is gripping, the performances are stunning, and the emotional payoff is nothing short of extraordinary. It’s the best film of it’s kind since Cinderella Man, and if you haven’t seen it, you must. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Act of Valor (2012), [R]
An intense, roller-coaster of a movie. Featuring a fact-based story, stunningly authentic combat sequences, and a cast headed by honest-to-goodness Navy SEALs, Act of Valor is a rousing and patriotic tribute to the guys who risk their lives for their country and for each other. What the soldiers lack in Oscar-worthy acting chops, they more than make up for in pure genuineness. It’s rather awe-inspiring to see them onscreen; knowing that, for them, firefights and HALO jumps aren’t just Hollywood 8×10 glossy – they do this stuff for a living. The film isn’t perfect, of course, but it’s a welcome antidote to the cynicism that pervades liberal Hollywood: telling us, and rightly so, that the heroes who fight on our front-lines should be honored as such. There’s nothing “glamorous” or “fun” about what these soldiers do – but you sure respect the heck out of ‘em for doing it.

The Book of Eli (2010), [R]
Even when the world ends, the Word of God goes on. The Book of Eli may not be for everyone, due to it’s brutal and often unsettling nature; it does, however, offer something that the vast majority of movies do not: a strong Christian worldview. The Bible is acknowledged as the precious and powerful Book that it is, and stirring themes of faith, sacrifice, and redemption abound. Washington gives a terrific performance as the determined hero, and the Hughes Brothers inject the proceedings with intense pacing and brilliant cinematography. Of course, the film is not a perfect – and it shouldn’t be regarded as a comprehensive, Gospel-tract view of the Christian faith. In the end, though, the pros far outweigh the cons. I hope we see more movies like it.

District 9 (2009), [R]
As a rule, films with abundant strong language do not make it onto my list of recommended movies. But I’m going to make an exception here, for the simple reason that District 9 is an exceptional movie. Harsh and brutal though it is, Neill Blomkamp’s envisioning of the “alien vs. human” scenario offers an intensely powerful story of redemption and self-sacrifice; by proxy, it is also a thoughtful exploration of mass persecution, segregation, and genocide. The premise is brilliantly conceived and executed, the technical details are stunning, and Sharlto Copley’s performance is one of the best I’ve ever seen. In short, District 9 is a combination of potent allegory, ambitious sci-fi action, and emotionally-wrenching drama – and the result is nothing short of breathtaking. In the words of one critic, this is “science fiction as it was meant to be: intelligent and challenging.”

The Next Three Days (2010), [PG-13]
Tightly-crafted, highly suspenseful, and boasting a powerful performance by Russell Crowe, The Next Three Days is a thought-provoking crime thriller that asks, “How far would you go to save someone you love? What lines would you cross to get there?”. From a Christian perspective, the answers given are not all the right ones, but there’s plenty of weighty stuff to chew on nonetheless. It was also refreshing to see family and marriage portrayed as eminently precious things, things to be fought for, not given up on. If only that view were more prevalent in today’s society.

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), [PG-13]
A refreshingly unapologetic pro-American thrill ride. You don’t wanna miss this one. It boasts fine acting, superb visual effects, a dash of humor, plenty of imaginative action, and a slick retro vibe with sci-fi gizmos galore. Best of all, Steve Rogers makes for a hero who is genuinely heroic through and through. There’s no doubt about it: Captain America is the best movie of 2011, and possibly one of the greatest superhero films ever made. To quote another critic, “Hating on Captain America just isn’t American. Go ahead and move to Canada; I’m sure they have some magical Mountie who’s thwarting evil loggers.”

13 Assassins (2010), [R]
There’s one brief scene of non-sexual nudity (easily skipped), but on the whole, this movie is a deeply stirring tale of courage and sacrifice. It’s about good men taking a stand for justice even when the odds are stacked against them. The story is intelligently told, exceptionally well-paced, and executed with a dazzling panache, and the acting is top-notch from the entire cast. But my review wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the climactic battle sequence: a masterful 45-minute ordeal of gritty sword-slashing mayhem. The choreography is nothing short of jaw-dropping. To quote another critic, “Does Guinness World Records have an entry for longest on-screen fight? If it doesn’t, Takashi Miike’s 13 Assassins just set it. And if a record actually exists, Miike’s film just broke it.”

I Am Legend (2007), [PG-13]
I’ve seen this one multiple times, and after each viewing, I always reach the same conclusion: I Am Legend truly is an under-appreciated gem in the realm of science fiction. The story may be grim, but it’s also exceptionally beautiful, and overflowing with profound biblical themes. Director Lawrence’s computer-generated rendering of a decaying Manhatten, NY is extraordinary and Will Smith carries the entire film on his shoulders, turning in one of the finest performances of his career as the lonely but determined Neville.

Win Win (2011), [R]
A dramedy of the highest order, with genuine humor and pathos. It’s about love, forgiveness, and life; about making mistakes, owning up to them, and doing the right thing the next time around. It also presents a superb picture of how subtly we often justify our own self-interest by telling ourselves that we’re just “doing the right thing.” The script is brilliant, the characters are quirky and believable, and the cast is flawless. Do yourself a favor and check it out – it’s a winner all the way.

Read part one and part two of this list. And if you’ve got any recommendations of your own, be my guest and leave a comment – whether you’re a guy or a gal!