I Am the Last Omega Man on Earth: A Franchise in Review

Most people don’t know that 2007’s I Am Legend was actually the third film adaptation of Richard Matheson’s  classic horror book.  All three versions are different in many ways: the leading man, the blood-thirsty monsters, and even the ending.  Here, I will review each of them, pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of both, and ultimately revealing which I believe to be the best film.

The Last Man on Earth (1964)

This classic horror flick has Vincent Price as Dr. Robert Morgan.  Price’s character is particularly haunted by memories of an old colleague who has fallen prey to the world-wide disease.  Unlike the two later performances of Charlton Heston and Will Smith, Price presents himself more as a scientist than a survival expert.  Not to say that Morgan doesn’t have some good ideas.  But his methods are usually more crude and primitive than bearing a machine gun (he uses a hammer to drive stakes into the chests of the monsters).  The creatures of The Last Man are identical to the traditional depiction of a zombie; they still wear their human clothes, their faces are hideous, and they walk slowly in pursuit of their prey.  I was surprised how entertaining this all was though.  It may have been a little corny, but if you enjoy Matheson’s story enough, you may really enjoy it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Omega Man (1971)

However much I love Vincent Price, I do believe that Charlton Heston has the role down much better.  Heston brings more confidence, and it becomes obvious that his chances of surviving should be a lot better than Price’s.  But there’s a catch: this time the murderous creatures are more of a cult than a horde of zombies.  They set traps for the doctor and constantly attempt to convert Heston to their side.  Because I have a sweet tooth for zombie pictures, the human-like intelligence of the monsters made the film less satisfying.  Even with Heston’s performance, I prefer The Last Man to this remake.

 

 

 

 

I Am Legend (2007)

It’s easy to see why I enjoyed this one: dumb-witted zombies, great suspense, an intense leading performance.  For once, I think that Mathson’s story gets the credit that it deserves here.  Smith’s determination and physicality are excellent for the part and the addition of a partner for our hero (a German Shepherd) was a nice idea.  The agility of the monsters also gives us a better sense of danger.  This is by far the darkest and most action-packed film of the franchise, bringing us closer to the doctor’s world than ever before.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conclusion:

Best Film: I Am Legend

Runner-Up: The Last Man on Earth

Best Leading Man: Charlton Heston, The Omega Man

Runner-Up: Will Smith, I Am Legend

Best Zombies: I Am Legend 

Runner-Up: The Last Man on Earth