Thursday, March 6, 2008

I Am Legend: The Bad Star Trek Episode Ending

I finally chased down the alternate ending to I Am Legend that everyone has been raving about, and by everyone I mean Bad Astronomy, Pharyngula, and the Portland Mercury. That's everyone, right?

For the moment, it can be seen on google video and I've embedded it below, but I don't know how well that will work since it seems to be the subject of an ongoing game of copyright whack-a-mole. Good luck on that game of whack-a-mole, studio!


It seems I didn't hate the ending shown in theaters as much as, you know, everyone, because I don't like this alternate ending. I don't like it at all. I don't like it because it falls prey to a common pitfall of sci-fi/horror, and especially of lesser Star Trek episodes, in which an intractable situation and/or an implacable enemy is overcome by a deus ex machina no more sophisticated than a little blunt-force trauma.

Specifically, this reminds me of the elaborate build-up of the Borg of Star Trek TNG fame: their hive mind, their indifference to suffering, their willingness to appropriate any technology, their utter disdain for reason, etc., which is defeated, in the end, by punching and phaser blasts. The much cliff-hung viewer is left to ask: they could have just kickboxed their way out of this all along?

And so this new ending to I Am Legend strikes me. Suddenly, after two hours of dramatic escalation hinging on the utter mercilessness of the zombies, it turns out Will Smith just needs to talk to them in a calm voice and show them he has a real cure. Suddenly they'll stop writhing and attacking and chewing through drywall long enough to listen? And they can understand what's said? Whuh? This makes no sense.

I don't like it. I like the cinematic ending much better. It's bleaker and truer to the preceding two hours of plot and characterization.

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