This is one of those movies that I was genuinely excited for, but ended up disappointing me. Not a huge disappointment, but it still didn't quite make the cut for me. But the end of the world is one of my favorite subjects, so it's also very hard to gain my appreciation. Especially with zombie-like creatures involved.
I'll talk first about the good things. Will Smith's acting, as always, is stellar. It's a heavy burden to basically carry a movie solo, especially one that is so high budget. But even down to his interactions with his dog, Sam, and a mannequin, Fred, he somehow managed to connect and translate it (especially during a later scene in a video store). They tapped into something I feel is crucial and that is, people who are alone for long periods of time are not necessarily the sanest. Social interaction is a huge part of what makes us human and deprived of that, we become scarily close to animals - living only by habit and instinct. I like how they showed Smith's character as desperately holding on to parts of himself (talking with mannequins, setting the table for himself, etc.), but they also added another dimension and alluded to his growing loss of control.
Another good thing is the visual effects of New York as post-apocalyptic, which are very well done. I loved the long, sweeping shots of what is basically a wasteland. The dog as a supporting role, by the way, was an excellent choice. Not only does it add some depth and uniqueness to what could have been another end of the world flick, but the way they did it was really just fantastic. I know in past movies based off the same book they've had more people survive and I really liked they took this one a different route. And finally, I liked that they used score music sparingly and relied on the character's obsession with Bob Marley, although that did get out of hand towards the end.
Now the bad things. First, I really thought they should've kept the so-called "dark seekers" (zombie like creatures) actually in the dark. The anticipation and seeing them sparingly was actually much better than when they were out and about (the screaming sequences were way too much). That is largely because the special effects done to create them was sub-par and there were some plot points that just didn't sit right with me (a creature creating a mastermind trap to catch the last scientist on earth that can save the planet ... come on). The scares that did happen were too predictable, although I do think if the attacks had been more vicious, there would have been vast improvement. The introduction of two characters with a half an hour left in the film also didn't sit well with me, particularly because the way they finished the film with those two was over the top and cliched. And the narration at the end had me rolling my eyes.
That being said, you can't go into this movie looking for 28 Days Later (because that movie is one of the best zombie flicks ever). For one thing, the dark seekers aren't zombies, although they do eat people/everything. Plus, the movie's PG-13 rating does hamper the storyline because it doesn't allow for more shocking moments. I would've liked to see a flashback of the initial outbreak and the streets of New York running with blood (melodramatic, I know), but that would have likely called for an R rating. Also, the one thing I did not want to happen in this movie happened (I won't say what, because that's a spoiler) ... and it really did break my heart a little. It's the one thing I can't stand happening in movies and after that, it was hard for me to genuinely like the film. I don't think it was bad, but I'll never be able to watch it again.
Another thing that annoyed me is that the trailer sort of leads you to believe this movie is going to be in the horror genre. It really isn't and it's being billed as sci-fi, although I don't think it's quite that either. It's a weird sort of mix of the two, with drama thrown in, so I'm really not sure what to call it. And there's also a fair amount of higher budget action scenes added in as well. I was expecting it to be more creepy than it was and I think it had potential for that, but just didn't live up to it. They may also have done that to attract a wider audience.
Overall, I think the movie is worth a look, although you can probably wait until it comes out on DVD and not miss anything. Will Smith's acting alone is a reason to see it, but again, you aren't missing out by not seeing it on the big screen. Then again, f you're not a horror fan/film geek who thinks post-apocalyptic movies have to be nearly perfect to warrant an A, you'll probably enjoy it more than I did.