Face-Off: 28 Days Later vs. I Am Legend

Last week's Face-Off column had two previous July 4th weekend's most explosive "event" releases battling it out, and most of you agreed that INDEPENDENCE DAY deserved the salute over ARMAGEDDON.

This weekend brings the sequel DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, in which a simian flu has devastated humanity. Let's take a look at another couple of movies that involve virus outbreaks with frightening results that do a number on mankind: 28 DAYS LATER and I AM LEGEND.

(Please note: Face Off is an opinion column. We're not using any actual science to prove or disprove anything. It's just for fun.)
Cillian Murphy is bicycle courier Jim, who awakens from a coma in a London hospital to find the city is deserted except for ferocious infected people. Along with a handful of survivors, he tries to reach the purported safety of a military blockade outside Manchester
Will Smith is US Army scientist Robert Neville, who roams desolate post-apocalypse Manhattan by day seeking supplies and survivors, and seals himself inside at night desperately working on a cure to the global outbreak (which he’s immune to)
Naomie Harris, Brendan Gleeson, Christopher Eccleston, Noah Huntley, Luke Mably, Megan Burns
Alice Braga, Charlie Tahan, Willow Smith, Salli Richardson, and Sam the German Shepherd
Danny Boyle, who also directed SUNSHINE, TRAINSPOTTING, THE BEACH, SHALLOW GRAVE, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE and 127 HOURS, plus the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony and a stage production of Frankenstein starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller
Francis Lawrence, who also directed CONSTANTINE, WATER FOR ELEPHANTS, THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE and upcoming MOCKINGJAY (parts 1 and 2), plus a whole ton of music videos and commercials
London and outskirts
New York City

(Not to imply that NYC is a "better" city than London, we just get to see more of an eerily uninhabited modern metropolis in this movie)
Animal activists trying to release lab chimps inadvertently unleash "Rage", a scientifically fabricated attempt to suppress aggression that went horribly wrong, creating a contagion that is rapidly transmitted through bites and blood
The Krippin Virus, a genetically altered measles strain that was intended to cure cancer, but instead swiftly overcame the entire planet with a seemingly incurable disease mutation. (On the upside, the virus was created by classy lady Emma Thompson)
Red-eyed flesh-eating lunatics who (even when on fire) instinctively and relentlessly pursue any uninfected humans
Savagely hostile darkness-seekers, known for blood-drinking, heavy breathing and enhanced physical abilities. Unfortunately portrayed by rubbery CGI
Nothing manmade – but the infected all starve to death after several weeks
Neville figures out a treatment for the virus just before handing it off to fellow immune survivor Anna (Braga) and then blowing himself up with a grenade. Anna brings the theoretical cure to a survivor colony in Vermont

(In the more profound alternate ending, Neville discovers the infected are far more intelligent than he realized, and returns his captured subject to their leader before completing her cure)
$82.7 million worldwide
$585.3 million worldwide
Another outbreak of Rage occurred after a few months in the lesser follow-up 28 WEEKS LATER, and a comic from Boom! Studios featured further stories of Naomie Harris' character Selena
A prequel and sequel with Will Smith have both been discussed, but nothing has materialized
Although I AM LEGEND carries the name of Richard Matheson's classic horror novel unlike previous adaptations THE OMEGA MAN and THE LAST MAN ON EARTH, it deviates from the source material at least as much as those versions, and not necessarily for the better (with a particularly tenuous Bob Marley connection to the title).

I AM LEGEND is admittedly a superior-looking movie and features some of Will Smith's best acting work, but the more realistic rage-infected maniacs and near-immediate infection of 28 DAYS LATER are more satisfyingly terrifying, creating a palpable panic whenever they appear to menace our main characters. Smith gives an affecting demonstration of human isolation, but Boyle's movie offers a more interesting exploration of how society quickly devolves when faced with a catastrophic event.

Agree? Disagree? Which do you prefer?



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