I mentioned the similarities are limited. Here they are:
- Robert Neville is the name of the main character.
- Neville believes he is the last living human.
- Neville lives in his reinforced house.
- There is a dog.
- There are creatures.
In the movie, Robert Neville was an accomplished virologist with the U.S. Army prior to all hell breaking loose. This is extremely convenient considering he is probably the last fully human person on the planet. He has a collection of rats and lab equipment in his basement to help him find a cure. The book Robert Neville worked at a factory and was good with repair projects around the house. He was not a scientist, but he was curious and determined to discover what kind of pathogen caused him to lose so much. He found a microscope and took books from the library.
Both the book and movie spend a lot of time in the character’s head. You are shown the effect of isolation on Neville as he struggles to cope with the loss of everyone he knew. Both Robert Nevilles had a family and lost them, although the method of loss was very different.
I do not care to watch an animal getting hurt, even if it’s clearly fiction. Just ask my husband. I think I ranted about the dog in I Am Legend for two weeks after we left the theater. Now I know to avoid movies with a prominently featured canine. To watch a supposedly cherished family pet and movie Neville's only source of normalcy get infected because its owner was an idiot was tough. The book has a dog, but the poor thing was scraping by in the world on its own before Neville tried to befriend it. Spoiler: Things don’t end well for the book dog, but it isn't a consequence of Neville's neglect.
via Wikimedia Commons
The book was explicitly about vampires. In Matheson’s story, the vampires were the result of a pathogen rather than some kind of magical transfer, although they did have an irrational fear of religions symbols. The disease spread like wildfire, the creatures only moved about at night, and there were variations in how the disease manifested. He killed them with stakes and exposure to sunlight. Most were animalistic, but not all. When I watched the movie, the progression of the illness that wiped out the vast majority of the planet was explained as a vaccine gone wrong, mutating into a pathogen. Had I read the book before the movie, I would have wondered if the infected were vampires when it became clear they were sensitive to UV rays. Because a pathogen was in the mix and their intelligence was severely limited, I assumed they were zombies.
I enjoyed the book. The book’s ending was intriguing and completely different than the movie. Despite Will Smith’s impressive acting, I will never watch the movie again. I don’t care to watch what happens to the dog, and Neville’s heroic end in the movie was an illogical waste.
Have you seen the movie and read the book? How did the movie measure up for you? Which version did you prefer?