It has been sixteen years since the Will Smith vehicle I Am Legend, based on the book by Richard Matheson. The apocalyptic story follows Dr. Robert Neville as possibly the last man on Earth after a plague killed everyone or turned them into vampires. Set in 2012, it is a chilling cautionary tale. The virus that effectively ends the human race was created when Dr. Krippin discovered a cure for cancer by genetically modifying measles. Unfortunately, her virus is very contagious, and it is monstrous for everyone but the small portion of the population that is immune. Neville is immune and lives with his sweet dog Samantha. We come to know and care for these, hoping things aren’t as futile as they appear.
It’s an action-packed movie that is as gorgeous as it is bleak. Neville spends the majority of the film trying desperately to find a cure and any survivors. At the original movie’s end, Neville sacrifices himself by blowing himself and a pack of vampires up. Just before he died, he gave the cure to fellow survivor Anna(Alice Braga of Elysium and The Suicide Squad). He died so that she and her son could escape and get the treatment to the Vermont survivor’s camp.
He sacrificed himself in the hopes that Anna would be able to get the cure to safety and begin the process of saving humanity. After following Neville through the entire film, it is a gut punch that is hard to swallow. The finality of the film also shuts the door on future sequels. The book had a different, far more hopeful ending that the sequel of I Am Legend starring Will Smith and Michael B Jordan will be using as canon. By using this alternate ending, there is space for the story to continue.
What is the alternate ending?
This alternate ending was never seen in theaters but can be found on the DVD and some streaming services. It closely follows Matheson’s book. However, instead of Neville giving up his life to save others, Neville is allowed to live when he gives the vampire test subject back to the vampires. Anna, Neville, and her son go to the safe zone in Vermont to manufacture and deliver the cure. It is an ending that allows for more character growth and opportunities for stunning set pieces that can be explored in I Am Legend 2.
I Am Legend 2 should explore what it really means to be human. The vampires in the alternate ending left Neville alone when he released the female because they weren’t precisely the monsters he thought they were. They aren’t unthinking, unfeeling animals. They have created a society and hierarchy of their own, and Neville represents a threat to their lives. It could be fascinating to see if these two groups can work together instead of against each other. Some vampires may choose to be turned back into humans, while others may not. It raises a philosophical question about what is worth saving and who should make those decisions.
Filmmaker Akila Goldsman recently told Deadline that the sequel would pick up several decades after the first movie’s end and follow the book’s alternate ending. Goldsman wouldn’t say who Jordan would play but hinted that The Last Of Us was an influence. How the Earth would change after human impact is gone is intriguing. The Earth was here before we came along and will be here long after we leave. Visually and logistically, what that looks and feels like will be a fundamental focus of the film. Nature would reclaim itself and regain control over its surfaces and functions. Structures and buildings would crumble, and concrete would be covered by greenery.
What was a key theme in Matheson’s book that will be explored in I Am Legend 2?
One of the essential themes in the novel is the idea that our time is up. Like the dinosaurs before us, we are becoming obsolete as Earth’s top predators and influencers. What happens when we are no longer at the top of the food chain? How would the world look and react to the last of us that remain? Nature’s gorgeous ferocity and resilience will be on full display in the sequel, and I expect stunning set pieces that are as much a part of the story as the characters we will follow.
The idea that Neville, our protagonist throughout the film, may also be a villain is explored better in the novel. He is our hero but the boogeyman to the vampires. This concept makes the title make sense. Neville is the urban legend. he is the monster the vampires warn their children about. Neville is the thing that goes bump in the night. The vampires didn’t ask to change, but now that they have, they have adapted. They formed families and created a new world. They are humanity’s next step in evolution, and Neville threatens their survival. The idea that humans, as we know them, should probably die out and make way for the next species is intrinsic to the story.
We will have to wait to see whether Goldsman will follow this thread in I Am Legend 2. By making the alternate ending canon, however, it leaves tons of places for the story to go, and with the addition of Creed’s Michael B. Jordan, plenty of eye candy to go with the action. It sounds as if Goldsman would like to lean harder into the intellectual questions of survival and morality in the sequel.
The commitment to this tentpole and a sequel to Keanu Reeve’s Constantine by Warner Bros is encouraging though. These older IPs languished for too long and deserved fresh eyes. In addition, Goldsman’s Weed Road just signed with Warner Bros, which means the film company may be finally righting the ship after their wholesale jettisoning of many HBO Max properties. Both films are in the development stages and aren’t expected out until next year.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.