Eating and Watching Movies at the Same Time (The “I Am Legend” Not-Review)

I got a chance to see I Am Legend on opening day. It was a work event that took place at Movie Tavern, one of those places where they serve you a meal while you’re watching the movie.

Before I talk about the movie, I thought I’d talk about the venue because, well, it took away from the movie-going experience. I like to watch movies with no interruptions. (That’s right guy-who-forgets-to-turn-off-cell-phone…I’m talking to you, too.) It’s all about the immersion and I can’t do that when I’m giving my order, keep looking at my plate, worrying about cutting my grilled chicken (tasty though it may be), looking for refills (stop watching the movie, hand the cup to the waiter, tell him what I’m drinking), etc. “Wait, did I just miss something on screen? Bah!” The reverse is also true – it’s hard to appreciate a meal when you’re trying to blindly shovel it in so you don’t miss the movie. The bottom line, I suppose, is that meals are much more complicated than popcorn! Each experience (eating a meal, watching a movie) takes away from the other. You would think that the two experiences would complement one another, but it turns out they don’t.

This is not a formal review of I Am Legend. There are a bazillion of those already. However, taking a cue from Peter Watts, I did think it was worthwhile to list my impressions.

*** SPOILER WARNING ***

  • Overall, the movie was bleak as bleak could be. Bravo! Not the feel-good movie of the holiday season, this.
  • The scenes of abandoned New York City streets were awesome. It was creepy simply because of its contradictory imagery: urban areas built to accommodate large populations looking like ghost towns.
  • Will Smith’s performance was top notch, especially considering he rarely had anyone to play against. (Well, except the dog.) His descent into Loony Land was well done.
  • There was lots of quiet time in the film that left time to contemplate: How would a person mentally survive such a situation? What would you do? Would you hold out for rescue? Take your own life? Try to find others?
  • The scene where Neville, in his descent to madness from loneliness, falls into his own trap was incredibly intense and, to me, one of the best scenes in the film.
  • The “scariest” scenes, as others have indicated, were the ones where the monsters were lurking nearby but off-screen.
  • When the monsters did appear, they were obviously digitally generated. Oh well.
  • The monsters in the film were a hybrid of vampire and zombie. That is, they avoided sunlight (like vampires) but could be brought back to life from the dead (like zombies) via an injection of the virus that started it all.
  • One inherent difference from the book that completely changed the tone of the film was that, in the book, Neville spent his time killing the vampires, but in the movie, Will Smith was a military scientist who sought to save the vampire/zombies.
  • In-movie product placement was more rampant than the virus and a little distracting.
  • I am not aware of what the originally filmed ending was, but the one that was in the film – a seemingly last-minute attempt to introduce hope in a sea of despair – totally ruined the mood. In my mind, the real ending was much darker and made for a better story.

Overall, it was a very good film. Don’t go expecting to see a faithful adaptation of the book – something you should never do anyway – but check it out if you can.

Final rating:

16 thoughts on “Eating and Watching Movies at the Same Time (The “I Am Legend” Not-Review)”

  1. After going to several of these movie/dinner places, I thought I’d counter some of John’s sentiments since me and the wife generally enjoy going. I will say that the couple I have been to have thought out the experience and take your order before the show starts. They didn’t always get me my food before the show began, but that was OK. They also had the theatre designed so that the wait staff could comfortably move about without tripping and without blocking your view.

    Make sure you order something that is conducive to the movie-going experience and can be safely eaten in the semi-darkness. Avoid something that’s messy. A sandwich of some kind is probably best. After all, the ability to eat sans-utensils is why it was created! I’d avoid pasta dishes for the obvious reasons, but something I have to cut up like steak probably wouldn’t be on my list either. Pizza is another good choice.

    Don’t utilize the wait staff to re-order drinks during the show. Get up and go to the counter or whever it is that handles this. This is similar to your experience at a theatre that doesn’t serve beer or regular food. If you do reorder, try to do so silently. A nod and a point often works well – as does showing the waiter your beer and demonstrating that it is empty. Of course, since you probably don’t want to be getting up and hitting the restroom during the movie, you might want to rethink that refill in any case.

    All that said, I can say that sometimes I prefer the regular movie too. If you want to really concentrate and enjoy the visuals the dinner theatre might not be the best choice.

  2. I really enjoyed the movie, too. And I guess my comments need a spoiler warning, too.

    Maybe the ending was a little pat, and the CGI wasn’t great, but those were almost incidental to the rest of the film, which was basically Will Smith’s struggle for survival and sanity. I think it’s very important that we don’t see (or even learn about) the creatures until well into the movie.

    But a question: *did* he fall into his own trap? I had the distinct feeling that the one vampire/zombie/mutant who appeared smarter than the others — who exposed itself to sunlight, was leading the charge at the end, etc. — set the same trap he’d seen Smith set before. Fred the mannequin was a trap set for *Smith*. Otherwise, it seemed like they found him very quickly. I think Smith was far gone enough to maybe think Fred was real, but not to have forgotten that he’d moved him.

    Overall, I thought it was a terrific movie.

  3. After reading the Gary Westfahl review, I’ll wait until it comes out on DVD (if nothing else, I can count on the ability to turn off all cellphones in my house). Why do I get a feeling that the Vincent Price version will remain the most faithful to the book?

    Immediate turn-off: The mention that some of the same team that “jazzed up” “I, Robot” was involved here. The horror! The horror!

    :O

  4. >> question: *did* he fall into his own trap?

    Hmmm…now I’m wondering…They did take those extra seconds for the close-up of the long-jowled vampire-zombie leaser, so maybe yes.

    If so, too bad — I thought it was a great way of showing the effect of the character’s prolonged loneliness. He forgot (or chose to forget) that he moved the mannequin in the hopes that it was real. As for the monsters showing up so fast, I just figured in was in a part of the city where they frequent.

  5. No, he didn’t fall into his own trap. The infected used his own idea against him and set a trap of their own. I don’t see how anyone could have thought he’d stepped into one of his own traps.

  6. I’m a firm believer that the trap was set as Fred has described but I don’t think that takes away from John’s points that the character’s descent into near madness is illustrated in his reaction to “Fred” appearing where he is not expected. The fact that he doesn’t realize it could be a trap is evidence enough. After ~3 years (~1000 days I think he says in his log right?) I’m afraid I’d be much more gone than he was. He does a great job of surviving and sticking to daily routines.

    I thought the film was excellent. Not out of the park but it was solid as far as films go. Sure, parts could have been done better. Sure, there are a few questions that remain concerning the plot. Yet it was thoroughly entertaining for me.

    I did not like the food+movie setup. At the University of Alabama there was a food and beverage serving theater called “The Pitcher Show” that would screen old, foreign, and cult classic films. It was a blast to walk across campus to catch a Godzilla/The Wall/Hitchcock/Rocky Horror screening with gobs of nachos and the seemingly never empty pitcher of beer. People ate, drank, smoked, and talked throughout the films. Fun, but certainly not an ideal theater experience. I didn’t enjoy the Movie Tavern’s setup. Just not enough immersion for me. We were given a set plate of chicken, mashed potatoes, and veggies. I thought it was pretty bad. The beer was good. :-)

  7. IIRC, the book ends with society pretty much reversing itself. The book starts with him hunting the “vampires”, trying to save civilization. But the “vampires” become civilization. So he has become the evil monster in their “civilization”, so they end up hunting him.

    But, I haven’t read the book since 1978-ish…time to dip into RM’s works again! Lots of classic stuff by that guy.

  8. Bah, with a title of “Eating and Watching Movies at the Same Time…” I thought John was going to tell us about how he eats movies!! What a total letdown!! :-@

  9. The original ending was fantastic and the main character definitely bordered on the line of insane for a good portion of the book. I am going to try to see this movie before we head out of town for the break, but I highly recommend reading the book since it is well written and short :) I think that should get those folks that are backlogged (snicker) with other stuff to pick it up as a sort of transition read…

  10. As for Smith falling into the Trap with Fred, It would seem more likely that there was another living person in the city that set the trap. At least logic wise. Realistically even if he had been able to cure the infected they would have severe brain damage from the high body temp. they sustained while infected. So Technically even a cured zombie wouldn’t have been smart enough to set a trap like that much less an infected one. However some of the zombies did exibit some signs of intelligence such as running from him when he had a gun and destroying the lights when they attacked his home, however unlikely that would actually be. So it was probably the writers intent that the zombie did in fact set the trap. Though I would still say it was more plausible that someone else was living in the city and set it.

    Too many plot holes exist to truly say that the zombie set the trap. Another one for example. Its highly unlikely that they would have ever seen Smith interacting with Fred since it is in the day that he goes to the store and doubtful they would have been looking out a window getting burned by the sun watching him.

    Ahh well the movie was still good even with that goof up.

  11. ok when Neville falls into the trap he shoots Fred… I feel that he is at a stage in his life where he has a loss in focus… it was his birthday… he keeps dreaming of the last time he sees the most important people in life.. his family and hes thinks hes alone…

    *NOTE* towards the end of the movie Neville is in the lab when Anna brings him a cup of coffee and shes looking at a wall full of infected people that Neville has studied and tested more then fifty easy….

    he walked into his own trap that he set to catch the infected…but at that point he was losing his mind and was in a blank state..sort of like when his watch alarm went off when he was giving his dog Sam a bath…. anyways the only thing to snap him out of that state… was the sound of his own boobie trap taking a hold of his leg… I truly feel that he moved Fred in order to change his routine and try to make some one notices his loneliness…

  12. I think it was the infected who set the trap because there was no tarp used in that trap. Why would Neville set the trap without a tarp to cover the infected from the sun? Even if one of the infected got trapped, Neville wouldn’t go out in the dark to check it. He would come the next day to check and if he didn’t use a tarp, the infected would’ve died long ago.

  13. OK. Fred set the trap himself. He couldn’t stand Will Smith’s one sided communication anymore.

    Actually, it must have been the dark seeker that set the trap. As goofy as that might sound from a writing standpoint, it is the only plausible explanation. Here’s why:

    –The Dark Seeker was waiting there with the dogs in wait, showing he had planned the event.

    –Will Smith didn’t set the trap himself. #1, if Will Smith had set the trap, it would have been in a building or other dark place. #2, If he had set the trap, the trap would have included a tarp being used to cover the DS.

    The only plausible explanation is the DS was gaining intelligence enough to set the trap. Don’t know how he got the means to drive a nail into concrete, utilize a weight/pulley system with the car,etc… but he apparently had the intelligence to do it.

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