This weekend Stefano and I watched three movies. Erm, uhm , I am a bit embarrassed to admit that we watched the new “Hulk” movie and “Iron Man.” What can I say? Mindless entertainment! 😀
But we also watched “I Am Legend” (2007). That wasn’t completely mindless. The plot, in a few words…
At the beginning of the movie, during a T.V. interview, a scientist (played by Emma Thompson) talks about her cancer treatment, a genetically modified measles virus. With a smile on her face, she admits that “yes, we have cured cancer” (or words to that effect). That got my attention, as you can imagine.
But something soon goes wrong. The modified virus mutates into a deadly airborne strain that ends up killing 90% of the world population. Of the remaining 10%, 9% are turned into light-phobic zombies and only 1% remain healthy, thanks to their natural immunity to the virus. But life is not a bowl of peaches and cream for the healthy survivors, who are hunted down by the hungry, screeching, enraged zombies at nightfall. Lovely, huh?
At any rate, by the year 2012, a U.S. Army virologist (superbly played by Will Smith) is the last human being left in New York City. The movie revolves around him, his dog, his daily experiments to find a cure for the virus, and his trips through a scary devastated Manhattan on a quest for food and supplies.
But that’s enough. I won’t spoil the movie or the end for you. Now that I think about it, I almost didn’t make it to the end. Be warned: those zombies are freaky scary. And I not easily freaked out: I have watched plenty of horrifying horror flicks in my lifetime. So why did I find this one particularly disturbing?
Well, because it made me think about the manipulation of viruses. This stuff is going on right now in laboratories around the world. I myself have written at least one post on adenovirus delivery systems (October 14, 2007). This movie brought up a lot of questions for me: are we going too far in our quest for a cure for cancer and other diseases? Are new, worse?, monsters being created in order to defeat old monsters?
Would you rather have cancer or be an angry hungry zombie? Hmmm…
Coincidentally, I came across a Science Daily article reporting on a real-life scientist, the virologist and cancer biologist Dr. Patrick Lee, who discovered that “I Am Legend” is based on his own research and development of a reovirus, a virus used to target cancer cells: http://tinyurl.com/59wx5l (interesting article, please have a look when you have a snippet of time).
Okay, sure, “I Am Legend” is science fiction, but does it really present us with an unlikely scenario, or an “impossible” scenario, as Dr. Lee declares? I wonder…