''When I started in movies, I said, 'I want to be the biggest movie star in the world.' The biggest movie stars make the biggest movies, so (my producing partner James Lassiter and I) looked at the top 10 movies of all time. At that point, they were all special-effects movies. So Independence Day -- no-brainer. Men in Black -- no-brainer. I, Robot -- no-brainer.'' -- Will Smith, Entertainment Weekly, "Hollywood's 50 Smartest," Nov. 28, 2007
And that's a fairly loaded turn of phrase, because to many movie fans, 'no-brainer' better describes the scripts and direction of Independence Day, Men in Black and I, Robot than it does the decision to star in them. And before seeing I Am Legend, a third Hollywood version of Richard Matheson's 1954 book following in the footsteps of 1964's The Last Man on Earth and 1971's The Omega Man, the specter and spectacle of Smith's track record in big-budget science fiction loomed like a dark cloud. I walked into I Am Legend cautious and underwhelmed, with Smith's past genre efforts in mind; I staggered out of I Am Legend impressed and enthused and a little wrung-out after a well-executed and perfectly pitched demonstration of brute-force big-money horror-action film making. I'm hesitant to say how well I Am Legend will endure the test of time, but while you're watching it, you're caught in an iron grip, moved and manipulated and carried away by film makers who know exactly how to make you sink into our seat with dread. I shivered and tensed throughout I Am Legend, and at the end of the credits, I was dumbstruck to learn it was PG-13; it felt far more gripping and grim and upsetting than that rating would suggest.