Films and their Production Contexts
Boris Sagal’s ‘The Omega Man’ and ‘I Am Legend’ directed by Francis Lawrence are science fiction films based on the 1954 horror fiction novel ‘I Am Legend’ by Richard Matheson about a worldwide apocalypse, due to disease, where one man believes he is the only survivor. As with most films based on books, the story has been changed and adapted for screenplay and the audience of the time, but also characters and the way they are represented are changed, this is often influenced by politics and social attitudes.
The Omega Man
Set in 1977, two years after biological warfare between China and Russia kills most of the world’s population, The Omega Man ...view middle of the document...
This shows that a seemingly normal person could turn into a dark, evil character and this concept would have more of an effect on the audience than the vampiric creatures of the original novel. The name ‘The Family’ and Matthias’ character show similarities to the Charles Manson family. During the late 60s and early 70s the term ‘family’ had an eerie quality about it after the LaBianca murders of 1969, this connection and likeliness was sure to scare the audience of the time and get them speculating.
Race is very prominent in The Omega Man, especially in the relationship between Neville and Rosalind Cash’s character Lisa. Their interracial relationship pushed boundaries, as the civil rights movement had not long finished in the US when the film was released. It is clear that Lisa was made to reflect the black power movement with her afro hairstyle and no-nonsense, fast talking attitude. She also appears as a strong, independent woman and her character opposes the ‘Man’s World’ attitude of the time. There are also undercurrents of racial tension within the film as Matthias’ african-american sidekick bears a grudge against Neville because he dislikes the fact that he lives ‘high in the light while we rot’ ‘we’ being the rest of ‘The Family’. This would have been the attitude of many black people in the 50s and 60s and reflects the anti-white attitude of a young Malcolm X. He then goes on to to describe Neville’s lifestyle as ‘honky paradise’.
Religious imagery is clear in Neville’s death scene where he gives the other survivors the vaccine and falls in the fountain with his arms outstretched in a crucifix, Jesus-like manner. This shows Neville as a hero and once again this fits in with Heston’s heroic manly persona.
I Am Legend
I Am Legend is a 2007 film directed by Francis Lawrence set in post apocalyptic New York City in 2009. A man made virus, created to cure cancer mutates into a lethal strain which infects humans and some animals.
Will Smith was cast to play the main character and ‘last man on Earth’ Robert Neville, this is because Smith is a very popular and successful actor and his status would increase ticket sales. Unlike the previous films based on Matheson’s novel, Neville is played by an African-American actor, this may be because attitudes towards black actors in Hollywood has changed and the audience who watch films has become a lot more diverse since the 60s and 70s.
Neville in ‘I Am Legend’ shows a lot more...