Despite being a Highly educated Scientist Dr. Neville would not have lasted 10 minutes in a post-apocalyptic world
You may be wondering why I am reviewing a 3 year old movie that has been discussed on just about every survival forum out there. Well, I have a couple reasons and the main one being about 99% of the people talking about this movie on survival forums were only criticizing it and not adding any explanations or “what I would do” to the many Urban Survival FAIL!’s in it.
And don’t get me wrong, their are a ton of things to complain about in this movie from an Urban Survivalist point of view. But what I want to do in this review is not only point out the FAIL!'s, but try to explain why those mistakes were in the movie and also what I would have done in the same situation.
A Quick Primer on I am Legend: This film is loosely based on the book of the same name written by Richard Matheson. It is basically a post-apocalyptic flick where the world’s population had been virtually wiped out by a virus that has only left behind vampire like humans called the “dark seekers”.
The only uninfected (he is immune) survivor in New York is Dr. Robert Neville, a famous and wealthy Army virologist. The movie revolves around him trying to discover a cure wile attempting to avoid the dark seekers at night, while at the same time his sanity is slowly slipping due to years of isolation.
Dr. Neville Only Carries a Small Folding Knife
In the movie the only knife you see Dr. Neville use or carry is a benchmade automatic knife. Now pretty much anyone in either an Urban or Wilderness (Central Park is an overgrown forest in the movie) survival situation would carry a fixed blade knife.
Dr. Neville may be an Army soldier but he is not a combat arms guy, he is a world famous Army scientist and a high ranking officer. It is doubtful if a famous pre-madonna Army officer had ever attended any Army wilderness survival training. He probably chose the benchmade folder because a folding pocket knife seems like a good blade choice to an untrained person.
What I would Do:
I would carry a good fixed blade knife that could do double duty as a combat knife and utility knife. My first choice would be a Marine Ka-Bar style knife with a leather sheath, not a kydex one (no more plastic factories so you have to choose stuff that lasts and is easy to repair). I may still carry a folding knife clipped to my poket for back-up, but I wouldn’t use it as my primary.
Dr. Neville Doesn’t Carry Extra M-4 Mags, leaves his pistol in his car and pretty much doesn’t use any tactical gear at all
This one sort of perplexes me, even if he did spend his entire military career in an office he would have still received some basic weapons training. And if he gets stuck outdoors after sunset he would have to shoot his way through the Dark Seekers, even an idiot could figure that it would take some solid gear and more than 30 rounds to do that.
After spending 3 years all alone and doing the same thing every day complacency has set in. That combined with the obvious fact that Dr. Neville is slowly loosing his damn mind - he now just leaves his extra magazines in his car or stuffs them in the bottom of his bag.
I have actually seen this before with guys that work in guard towers in the Middle East for years. They get in the tower and throw all of their magazines, body armor and gear on the floor because it is heavy and nothing had ever happened in the past where they needed it.
What I would Do:
Hell you guys already know the answer to this one; chest harness, 12 magazines, frags, pistol and FAK (first aid kit). Shit, I would probably keep a flamethrower and a few rocket launchers at arms reach just because I could.
I would not wear body armor because I wouldn’t have to worry about other humans shooting me and the Dark Seekers don’t carry guns or knives.
Dr. Neville Drives a mustang sports car and civilian SUV when the city is filled with APC’s and armored cars
If he gets caught outside at night the Dark Seekers will tear a normal car or SUV apart (and that actually does happen to him). In New York City there are dozens of agency’s and private citizens that used armored SUV’s (Secret Service, DSS, NYPD, Gangster Rappers, and so on). And that’s not even counting all of the armored military hummers and APC’s abandoned around the city.
Well, in the movie he only gets caught outside after dark twice, one time in a snare (something that has never happened before) and the other time he did it on purpose. He also keeps a religious like schedule when it comes to heading back home way before dark. So this is a combination of him never accidently being caught outside after dark and complacency again. He probably just felt it wasn’t necessary to drive an APC because he “always” gets home before dark.
What I would Do:
I would drive an armored hummer and have an APC or two maintained just in case. But I do understand why he drove the mustang, you have to admit it would be bad-ass to drive a brand new Shelby Cobra Mustang 80 miles an hour over New York City sidewalks, I know I couldn’t resist doing that.
Hell, I would be driving tanks through shopping malls and shooting mounds of gold Rolexes with an UZI wile barbecuing lion cubs over stacks of burning 100 dollar bills.
Dr. Neville lives in a family townhouse in a city overrun by Dark seekers – and that is his only home
He lives in an unhardened relativity unsecure townhouse and he doesn’t have any secure safehouses in the city in case he gets caught outside after dark. Of all the places to live with thousands of monsters running around at night, a house probably isn’t the best choice. He did add some steel shutters, UV lights and IED’s to secure and defend his home. But it would have been better just to live somewhere that was already hardened and was easier to defend.
He also doesn’t have any safehouses in the city, so if he gets caught outside after dark he is basically screwed unless he can make it back to his house.
This is an easy one, the townhouse he lives in is the home where he lived with his deceased wife and daughter. His mind is obviously starting to wander at this point so staying physically connected to the one thing from his life before the world ended comforts him.
What I would Do:
I would live in one of the city’s underground emergency management centers that were set up after 911. These are 5 foot thick bomb shelters with state of the art surveillance systems, food storage rooms, housing, bio-chem filtered air and fire suppression systems already set up.
I would also prepare all of the other centers so I could change living locations at will along with pre-positioning tanks and APC’s to use as mobile safehouses all around the city just incase I wasn’t able to make it back to my bunker before dark.
Dr. Neville carries an M-4 despite the fact it isn’t combat effective against mutable contacts with the dark seekers
Every time he shoots a Dark Seeker with his M-4 it doesn’t do shit, I don’t believe he kills a single one with his M-4 ever. In a city filled with guns he would have his choice of rifles so why would he continue to use an ineffective weapon?
Like I said before Dr. Neville is a scientist and not a warrior, so the only weapon training he has had was with an Army issue M-4. He uses that weapon probably because it is the only rifle he knows how to use. It is also a pretty light and easy to walk around with rifle so he has also chosen it for convenience.
There is also nothing to indicate that he has been involved in any armed confrontations with the Dark Seekers before (a fact shown by how scared he is in the warehouse) so he may not even know the M-4 is a poor choice.
What I would Do:
I would carry a 12 gauge magazine fed shotgun, keep an M60 Mk 43 Mod 1 in my car and maybe an enclosed turret with a 50. cal browning on the roof. The reason I would choose a 12 gauge magazine fed shotgun is because every time Dr. Neville uses his M-4 on a Dark Seeker he is only a few feet away from one. It is hard to beat the massive amount of damage a shotgun can do at point blank range.
I would also keep a flamethrower close by because I love flamethrowers.
Things in the movie that are so dumb they don’t have any explanation
-He uses a grenade and it explodes like a nuclear bomb
When a hand grenade goes off it does not make a massive fireball
-He runs generators inside his house
This would kill you in about 1 hour
-He runs his generators at night and the Dark Seekers do not hear it
I have no explanation for this
-He doesn’t have any porn in his house
No way he could hold out for 3 years all alone
-He isn’t an alcoholic
Your entire family is killed in front of your eyes and then every other person on the planet dies except for the cannibal vampires that own the night - so you now live in a city filled with booze and you are not drunk 24-7? Sorry, I call BS on that one. To be fair, in the original book he is an alcoholic.
Well folks, besides the complaints about this movie from an Urban Survivalists point of view I really like this movie. It is part of the permanent DVD collection to the DV Adventurers Library.
What would you guys have done in the same situations if you were in Dr. Neville’s shoes?
James G is a Veteran Civilian Contractor who has worked in the Middle East and Southeast Asia for way too long. He spends his off time in his homes in Indonesia and Virginia getting drunk, shooting guns and writing poorly written articles.