I Am Legend
A Study of Dr. Robert Neville Portrayal of Seclusion in the Story, I Am Legend
I Am Legend
Dr. Robert Neville was a very isolated man through the story of I Am Legend. That never changed until the end, and even when reaching that turning point Neville still kept his emotions away from everyone. He was a firm wall that forgot how to interact with human beings due to the destructive re-engineered measles virus. I Am Legend asks serious questions about what a human could really endure during a crisis situation. It proves that in times of struggle, the enemy of man is themselves.
Isolation can be described as “the experience of being separated from others, which may be the result of being removed from others or can be a perception of being removed from a community” (goodtherapy.org). Neville was isolated, he was “removed” from others of his kind and forced to live with his pet and nobody else. After the human race died Neville only had Samantha who, even if she understood everything about Neville, could not give him the interaction humans need. Isolation can cause depression and without Samantha, Neville would have ended up down that route. Samantha allowed Neville to fight for something and someone, she gave him a sense of responsibility and companionship.
Once the story progresses we learn about specific ways that Neville keeps himself hopeful and gives himself a form of human interaction. In order to keep himself hopeful Neville is constantly speaking into a radio. He is asking for people to come to a designated location in order to provide them food and protection. This alone gives him hope that he isn’t the only one, even when he talks about how he is the last one alive he continues to speak into his radio since he doesn’t want to believe what he thinks is true.
During his routine he happens to end up in a Dvd rental store where he has mannequins posted up in every crevice of the shop. The mannequins are to give him a feeling of human interaction. He talks to all of them as if he is having a conversation, often referring to the woman in the Adult section of the store and wanting to go say “Hi”. Most people asked why he didn’t just go up to the fake woman and ask her out or why he was such a strange person for talking to these mannequins, but it wouldn’t be right to hold it against them as they probably don’t know what Isolation really is. A majority of people in class couldn’t last a day without some form of human interaction before going insane, so for them to say how strange Neville was is kind of funny and laughable. The isolation that Dr. Neville is put through is so intense that the only things keeping him emotionally sane is having an attachment with the mannequins. He knows they are mannequins hense why he doesn’t talk to the female in the back, but he doesn’t want to admit it as he might lose more of his mind. Neville never had an actual person to talk to, so in order to remember companionship he used those mannequins.
Neville was a man of honor, he was born a hero and died as one. He devoted however much life he had to finding a cure and saving humanity. He didn’t care the costs, he didn’t mind protecting it, the cure was his everything after the death of his family. Neville used the cure as a scapegoat, escaping his feeling in a way that can be noted as “correct”. The outbreak caused Dr.Neville to turn into a stone, emotionless man that only showed any form of weakness to Samantha as it was the last person that he could portray that too. Neville was a man of family, but when they died his priorities shifted into a worker with nothing to lose and barely anything to live for.
Neville was smart enough to make a daily routine that kept him sane. He had the right amount of military training and mental stability in order to keep himself alive. His safety in life was creating a cure, protecting Samantha, and helping out however many humans he could. Neville did start to become strange and slowly mentally unstable, but in a world of no humans and genetically altered humans that have the strength of three men who wouldn’t be.
Comparing the Stories and Characters of the Day after Tomorrow and I Am Legend
Through the different genres of movies, differences and similarities can be compared. Apocalyptic movies have taken center stage when it comes entertainment over the years. Although there are many apocalyptic movies, there are also many different ways directors can approach the idea of the end of the world. “The Day After Tomorrow” (2004) and “I am Legend” (2007) have two different takes on the idea of the apocalypse. Even though, the category is one in the same, the idea is completely different between the two films. One is able to observe the similarities and differences in this genre through the way the director approached the idea of the apocalypse, the realism of the movies, and how the characters are displayed.
“The Day After Tomorrow”, was directed by Roland Emmerich. He approached the ‘end of the world’ idea by using the concept of Global Warming, going through stages of hail, intense storming, flooding, snow, then eventually leading to an ice age. At first, the effects were minor; no one took note of the dangers that were in the future. The Government became involved as the progression became more aggressive; trying to keep everyone calm they attempted to fix the situation on their own. Eventually, it became clear that nothing could be done. The citizens had to make their own decisions on whether to stay where they were or follow everyone else who decided Mexico would be the safest place for the time being. It was up to seventeen year old Sam Hall (Jake Gyllenhaal) to calm the people in New York as they waited the tragedy out in a local library. Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid) ventures through the fatal, danger some struggle to retrieve his son. Once reached, the unrecognizable New York City was just a pile of snow. However, some of mankind was retrieved, and the climate shift slowly returned to normality which saved a portion of humanity. “I am Legend” has a different take, directed by Francis Lawrence, Robert Neville (Will Smith) is the one man left in the world, as he thinks. Once the cure for cancer was discovered, life was perfect, until an infection broke out and began spreading, infecting anyone. The Government became involved trying to evacuate anyone who was not infected. The outbreak of this disease eventually, plagued the entire country turning innocent humans into these savage mutants. Neville spends most of his time hunting these mis-creations with his one companion, Sam, his dog. He constantly tests different medicines on mutated rats to try to find a cure. Once he gets into a dangerous, life threatening situation, he was saved by Anna (Alice Braga) thinking she was alone in this as well with her son Ethan (Charlie Tahan) they meet and discover that there is hope. Anna explains to Robert about the life of humanity in a different area, but he is hesitant and stubborn about the idea of leaving. Tragedy takes place when their house becomes intruded by the savages and the only way to save themselves is to destroy the house. Robert vastly decides to give Anna the cure and lets her and Ethan escape while he stayed behind. These movies have similar endings considering they both have hope for humanity and are able to reconstruct the world.
Depending on the director is whether or not they decide to make the movies realistic. Both of these movies have some sense of realism to them. The Day After Tomorrow, expresses the idea of Global Warming, which from some perspectives is in action today. Whether or not global warming ever gets to the point where the world would experience an ice age is not determined. However, the movie is not completely unrealistic there have been instances where weather has affected the world drastically. “I am legend” may be a little less realistic. Although, there are some realistic points throughout the movie, such as the cure for cancer; even though, that has not has not yet been discovered, it may be in the future. Determining if the cure turns people into mutants is less realistic. Some studies believe there could be a zombie apocalypse sometime in the future which relates back to the mutants in the movie. Both the movies combined have some sense of realism to them, whether they are completely accurate is irrational. The pair is based purely on entertainment.
The characters through both movies have some similar actions, but for the main part they remain different. Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid) in the Day after Tomorrow was very dedicated to his work, most the time he would put his work over his son Sam Hall (Jake Gyllenhaal). When Jack realized the danger that his son was in, he risked his own life to travel across the country to be with him. Sam was standing up to be the leader while waiting upon his dad to come for him. Jack changed through the movie knowing that his family goes before anything, rather than his work. Both characters showed strength, leadership, and dedication. Robert Neville (Will Smith) in I am Legend, was the opposite with his family. His work was very important to him, but he would always put his family before anyone else. Once his family died he kept them around in spirit. It is clear once Anna (Alice Braga) and Ethan (Charlie Tahan) came into the picture he took care of them as well as he could, he treated them as his family. At the end he put their lives before his own. Robert’s character proclaimed strength, humbleness, and gratitude similar to the characters in the day after tomorrow.
It is clear even if movies are in the same genre they can have different ideas on how to express it. The way the director see’s the idea is how they will interpret it. No matter how different the plots are, if they are in the same genre they will share some type of similarities. One is able to view these similarities and differences through the director’s view of the apocalypse, the realism of the movies, and how the characters are displayed.
Robert Neville’s Display of Solitude as Depicted in His Book, I Am Legend
We are all completely different people when alone. Being alone allows us to dig deep into ourselves without distraction of outside life–for some of us it’s a renewing and positive experience, and for the rest of us it’s degrading and negative. The people from the latter can connect to I Am Legend (novel)’s Robert Neville, in the sense that loneliness isn’t very enlightening. Because of this, it goes without saying that Neville pretty much represents the darker, less stable, and monstrous side of the human population.
Isolation doesn’t fair well for quite a few of us. We’ve seen or read comical stories about how people deserted on an island go wonky and start talking to plants, but that’s far from Neville’s situation. Technically, he’s surrounded by people. Even more technically, none of them are alive. Despite the fact that the people around him are vampires, he still treats some of them like people. At least, one of them–Ben Cortman.
Neville swears he’s gonna kill Cortman one day. He “looks” for him during the day. But evidence proves that he wasn’t really looking; Cortman was hiding in the chimney of his own house, discovered by the group of living vampires. Further proving my point, Neville asks himself “Why hadn’t he looked more carefully? He couldn’t fight the sick apprehension he felt at the thought of Cortman’s being killed by these brutal strangers. Objectively, it was pointless, but he could not repress the feeling. Cortman was not theirs to put to rest” (Matheson, 148). When he says “it was pointless”, it’s apparent that he means “it’s pointless to put myself in denial”. Neville knew that it’s likely that Cortman was hiding out somewhere in his own home. It’s impossible not to make the connection: Neville decided to bury his wife instead of burn her, and when she came back as a vampire, she walked up to the front door of their home. The simple fact that Vampires are aware of their past life to some degree (Even the little things, like Cortman’s “Come out Neville!” Ultimatums. He knows his friend’s name still.) should be a big sign that Neville needs to look in Cortman’s home. But instead, he claims to look in any space a human body can climb into, and suffers the results of his denial by seeing Cortman killed by strangers. Neville likely chose to keep Cortman “alive” because he had the last connection to his personal life: Neville and Cortman carpooled to work in the morning just after he said goodbye to Kathy and Virginia. Put yourself in the same scenario; would you really want to let go of your past entirely? All the memories and everything you miss? Quite possibly, the only living memorabilia of what your life used to be?
If you said yes–even Neville knew “it wouldn’t be that easy”
Speaking of things that aren’t easy to do, Neville struggles with companionship throughout the novel. No duh, says the reader of this essay, don’t you remember the fact that, he was, like, alone? Well, yes, he was alone, but not the whole time. Twice, he comes across possible companions: the dog, and Ruth. What’s interesting about this, though, is the way he reacts to seeing them, individually. With the dog, Neville pursued it shortly, but then decided to take the approach of gaining its trust by leaving it food. But the dog brings on his deep thoughts: “[Neville] had clung to the hope that someday he would find someone like himself–a man, a woman, a child, it didn’t matter… Loneliness he still felt. Sometimes he had indulged in daydreams about finding someone” (Matheson, 90-91). Even though he has the possibility of having a dog to keep him company, he still wants another human being to associate himself with. I don’t blame him. It’s kind of hard to relate to a dog. Even though he’s still interacting with another living being, he still dreams of a day that he finds a human companion. Which likely explains his caveman-like-instinct of “NEVILLE KEEP WOMAN!!” When he sees Ruth for the first time, chasing after her, pinning her down, and bringing her home against her will. He dreamed so much that the very moment he saw someone like him, his first thought was to capture her at any expense necessary. Matheson likely used the two events to enhance the timeline of loneliness–the fact that the longer he’s isolated, the more extreme he is likely to react when presented with an issue that includes the presence of another person. Neville’s reactions to the dog show that he had a more stable mindset earlier on, thinking before he acted. Neville’s reactions to Ruth show that he unstable, and didn’t choose to think before acting upon things. He also had to cope with the fact that he lost the dog. Neville was so excited when he saw the dog was alive. And then as soon as he brings it in, it dies. It quite possibly could have been the last living thing he would have come into contact with. When one hasn’t seen another living being in months, even years, it’s reasonable that Neville would react the way he did to Ruth. The instability just all piles up until it shows its ugly face.
In the end, Neville finally realizes how much of a monster he is in his moment of catharsis. What he realizes in specific is that “To [the living vampires] he was some terrible scourge… even worse than the disease they had come to live with. He was an invisible specter who had left for evidence the bloodless bodies of their loved ones. And he understood what they felt and did not hate them” (Matheson, 159). This is Neville’s catharsis because he’s ultimately realized what he had been doing–killing the vampires–was not right. He had no awareness of the fact that there were “living vampires”. He assumed they were all dead and bloodthirsty, before he met the living vampires. But still, what reason did he have to kill them? He was safe in his home, which he only needed to stay in at night. During the day, the vampires had not been a threat. He had no reason to kill them, other than the fact that it kind of pleased him to. This is why he says he understands why he is getting executed, and why he even had been captured. This is why he didn’t fight his death sentence. That very moment, he realizes that the vampires are not the monsters; he is.
Neville was no hero. When we think of legends, we typically think of heroes. Neville was a pretty messed up individual, to say the least. During his time alone, he never really did any good, not even to himself. And he still came out to be a legend–I mean, it’s not often you become the monsters you’ve been fighting all these years.
The Challenge of Survival in The Road and I Am Legend
When exploring the challenges and toils of survival, we can easily make a series of comparisons between the design of Francis Lawrence’s and Cormac McCarthy’s post apocalyptic worlds in I Am Legend and The Road, respectively. Both plots involve the main character as one of very few people left in this world, and each protagonist would do anything to protect his companions. While both Lawrence’s film and McCarthy’s novel build internal conflicts within the main character, Robert, the protagonist in I Am Legend, also has to deal with the Zombies, whereas The Man faces his conflict of world around him. This difference is highlighted in the building of each of the characters, with Lawrence’s survivalist being strong and well prepared from any threat. McCarthy chooses to introduce The Man in a weak, dying state, with minimal supplies to share between himself and his son. This contrast however is also representative of the difference in setting between the two stories, with Robert Neville fortifying himself within an abundantly stocked New York City, and The Man and his son wandering down long stretches of barren highway. The final main contrast exists in each storyteller’s interpretation of the meaning behind a gun, with Lawrence using a gun for killing; meanwhile, to McCarthy, the gun is symbolic of hope.
Lawrence first characterises Robert Neville with mise-en-scene by using an overhead shot of his car driving through the city, directly following a series of establishing shots showing the abandoned cityscape. As the audience see him speeding through the abandoned cityscape, the sound of the powerful engine fades in. Finally the audience see a medium shot of him in the car, allowing the audience to see him as a survival hardened man complete with jeans, combat boots, leather jacket and assault rifle by his side. Lawrence’s treatment makes the viewers believe that Robert is a man who is well equipped. This depiction results in the audience’s initial impression being that he is a strong, admirable and supposedly unbreakable character. Lawrence’s use of mise-en-scene, particularly costuming and props, conveys this message to the audience. The audience see the well worn leather jacket, and the strong, bright, high-key and natural lighting. Such visuals are paired with the bright red muscle car, heavily contrasting with the bleakness of the city. Shots are routinely shot from a low angle when Robert is in frame, giving the sense of power and control radiating from him. The shots are also generally still and stable, either statically placed on Robert or tracking his car as he slides it through the streets. Once again highlighting the supposed control and purposefulness that Lawrence suggests is needed to last with the challenges of survival. Alternatively, McCarthy develops a protagonist that is described as weak, sick, and ultimately set to die; creating the dark, depressed theme that resonates throughout the novel. First indications come from the imagery presented as a bloody cough from The Man, who has been carrying a huge load as well as pushing the trolley up a mountain side for the sake of his own son getting to see the beachside. As a result, the reader feels highly sympathetic for The Man, who is obviously not equipped to take on the challenges of survival as effectively as Robert is.
I Am Legend features establishing shots of New York City which is normally a busy, highly populated city covered in concrete. However, Lawrence’s city shows green growth intertwined between all the dense skyscraper buildings. This shot then follows with shots of cars rusting away and with plants growing through them, littered through the middle of the street. This visual in turn causes the audience to instantly recognise the fact that the city has been abandoned for some time and that the occupants have left in a chaotic manner. The final shot in the initial establishing shot collection is an overhead of a single red car driving through the city, weaving between the trashed cars. This is a powerful shot used by Lawrence, not only in building audience interest but also in the development of this central survival theme. It clearly highlights just how alone the driver of the vehicle is, in a city that is normally overflowing with people. Opposing this landscape is McCarthy’s barren, empty and unpopulated land that peels off from either side of the highway. Throughout the novel there are only a few times to stock up the minimal supplies they have on them via the service centres and small towns that are placed off to the sides of the highway, “..stood in the road and glassed the plain down there where the shape of a city stood in the grayness…”, They have no car, no military backpacks or gear and they have no quick way to move about or escape – serving to make survival more challenging. This contrast is reflective of the the conflict that each character faces with Robert facing other whereas The Man faces the environment around him.
Moreover, both McCarthy and Lawrence use the recurring symbol of the gun. Lawrence shows guns as being something to be on the offensive with, means of war and mass killing, as highlighted in both the actions of the protagonist as well as the weapons themselves. Robert has cupboards full of automatic, high powered weapons and powerful explosives which he uses to fuel war, with the hunting and slaughter of zombies that he comes across. Conversely, McCarthy makes note that The Man has only a pistol with two bullets in it, representative of desperate hope; one is for him and one is for his son. The gun is therefore seen as being something for defensiveness, ad it represents hope for them because when the bullets are gone, it is all over for The Man and his child.
Despite differences in medium, both McCarthy and Lawrence effectively demonstrate and explore the challenges and toils of survival in a post apocalyptic world by using very similar techniques. For example, the symbolism of a simple gun, the carefully designed characterisation, and role of the setting are crucial to both narratives. While still creating contrasts between the way the survivalist go about surviving, The Road and I Am Legend show how men in desperate situations are not above caring and protecting those around them.