Habitually, my wife ridicules me for my inability to shut off my brain and enjoy a movie. I have a tendency to point out flaws in films (both logical and technical) that is largely due to my decade-long career as a sound technician in the motion picture industry. The rest of my critical attitude is rooted in an upbringing that highly valued critical thinking, especially when it came to the media.
I went to see “I Am Legend” the other night. A lesser critic than I could easily poke at the logic of this film to the point that there where more holes than not. I was, however, able to hold my tongue throughout the screening, and found it more than moderately enjoyable on the whole. I can reduce my thoughts on this film to the observation that it is really nothing more than an American version of “28 Days/Weeks Later”, the first of which I enjoyed much more. There are, however, a few issues that I feel compelled to address.
By quirk of fate, I happened to watch “I Am Legend” in the middle of a month long visit to Brazil in a movie theatre in Sao Paulo, surrounded by locals and seated next to my Brazilian sister-in-law. At the point in the movie when the late-coming heroine states that she was stationed on a ship out of Sao Paulo, everyone in the theatre looked around quizzically. I am STUNNED that this glaring error of geography made its way through the entire process of producing this script. Sao Paulo, a city whose greater area boasts a population of some 26 million people, sits atop the Brazilian plateau at an altitude of 760 meters (2500 feet) and is 70 kilometers (43.5 miles and approximately an hour and a half drive) from the coast and the nearest drop of sea-water. It doesn’t take much more than a casual glance at a map to notice this. Come on! The port city of Santos is just down off the plateau from Sao Paulo, and Rio De Janeiro is only a few hours drive to the north and sits obviously on the coast. Did anyone even LOOK at a map? I’m not sure if this is the result of pure laziness, or whether it is due to the misinformed arrogance that I find in so many Americans. I say this with impunity as an (often embarrassed) American myself.
Shortly after, when the good doctor gives the name of his daughter, Marley, half of the people in the theatre smiled and nodded, saying, “Ah, Bob Marley.” under their breath. Now, I know that the fact that the girl was named after Bob Marley was more than hinted at from the start of the movie, but, the fact is that reggae music is a bit of a national past-time in Brazil, and Bob Marley is VERY well known here, even among young people. When she goes on to claim complete ignorance, the people in the theatre were completely confused. It is next to inconceivable that a Brazilian girl from Sao Paulo, who knows Damien Marley, would not also be completely aware that his father was the legendary godfather of reggae music, Bob Marley. I’m not sure what to make of this beyond a general lack of knowledge and research in to the culture of one of the only TWO major characters in the entire film. Welcome to Hollywood.
I am further stunned to realize that Alice Braga, who plays the Brazilian heroine, is actually a Brazilian actress born in Sao Paulo herself. How the hell did this happen? Did Alice realize what was going on? Did she say anything? Did anyone listen to her? Originally, I thought this was just another example of typical lack of attention to detail concerning the world outside of the United States that continues to reinforce international scorn directed at the U.S.A. Now, I’m not so sure, and that’s even worse.