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I Am Legend: A Look Back

Robert J. Sodaro is an American born writer, editor, and digital graphic artist, who loves writing about comics, movies, and literature.

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 Am Legend is a 2007 American post-apocalyptic action thriller film[4] loosely based on the 1954 novel of the same name by Richard Matheson.

Am Legend is a 2007 American post-apocalyptic action thriller film[4] loosely based on the 1954 novel of the same name by Richard Matheson.

A look back

With the release of this 2007 film, we got our third cinematic look at Richard Matheson’s seminal 1954 sci-fi post-apocalyptic horror story about a global pandemic and the world it leaves behind. Before we get to our thoughts on this film, we’d like to mention that we read the book back in high school, saw the film Omega Man, and have a vague memory of having seen the film The Last Man on Earth (it’s first cinematic interpretation). We’ve also seen the horrid 2007 I am Omega knockoff (spare yourself), and (later on will (force ourselves to) watch 2017 The Alpha Omega Man (which we don’t expect to be much better, but hey, someone has to take one for the team). Also, we’d like to mention that we understand that George Romero wanted to adapt Matheson’s book into film, but couldn’t secure the rights, so he turned the vampires into zombies and then wrote and developed The Night of the Living Dead into film.

I am Legend Trailer

Up to date!

Okay, all of that out of the way, let’s look at Will Smith’s turn as Matheson’s Dr. Robert Neville (a film we initially saw back in ‘17, and then recently re-watched on Amazon Prime).

All alone in Manhattan

A professor and his dog.

A professor and his dog.

The story thus far

As the film opens up, we are treated to a televised interview with a Dr. Krippen (Emma Thompson) who is talking about her great discovery, wherein she has apparently genetically altered the measles virus so that it attacks cancer cells, so as to cure the patients. She goes on to explain that all of the cancer patients which she has treated have fully recovered. The scene then shifts to three years later, where New York City has become an empty and desolate place, devoid of all human life. Foliage covers roads and buildings, abandoned cars line the highways and the city is silent.

Trying to find a cure

Dr. Neville looking for a cure to the virus.

Dr. Neville looking for a cure to the virus.

Searching for a cure

This is followed by Robert Neville (Will Smith) who is driving through the deserted city accompanied by his dog, Sam, chasing a herd of deer running through midtown that they are hunting. As the film progresses, we come to understand that he is a scientist who was unable to stop the spread of the terrible man-made virus. Somehow (we never actually find out why) we learn that Neville is naturally immune to the virus and believes himself to be the last human survivor in perhaps the entire world. He has “Sheltered in Place” in his NYC brownstone (which he has fortified to within an inch of its life) for the past three years. During this time, he has faithfully sent out daily radio messages, desperate to find any other survivors who might be out there.

Searching the city

Hunting deer in Manhattan.

Hunting deer in Manhattan.

They walk again at night

Needless to say, he is not actually alone. The city (in fact the world) is now populated by mutated victims of the plague who now lurk in the shadows — watching Neville's every move — waiting for him to make a final, fatal mistake, so that they can seek revenge on him for eradicating their kind while he attempts to find a cure. Neville sees himself as perhaps mankind’s last, best hope, and is driven by one remaining mission: find a way to reverse the effects of the virus using his own immune blood. Unfortunately, he understands that not only is he outnumbered, but that he is quickly running out of time.

Vampires, not zombies

They want to eat more than your brains.

They want to eat more than your brains.

A day in the life

We spend a bit of time learning who Neville is, why he is driven to remain in place and strive for a cure, and to learn his routines. He hunts, he shoots golf balls from the deck of a Naval ship in the harbor, he hangs out at the South Street Seaport waiting (hoping) for someone to hear his messages. Still, perhaps the most telling thing about Dr. Neville is the fact that he frequents a video store that he has populated with mannequins and talks to them as if they were real — including one that he seems unnaturally attracted to. Needless to say, it is safe to safe to say that Dr. Neville has spent far too much time all alone and is (perhaps) starting to lose it.

I Am Legend (4K Ultra HD) [Blu-ray]

Dr. Neville is not alone

Thankfully, Anna (Alice Braga) and her son Ethan (Charlie Tahan), show up at a critical moment in Neville’s oncoming breakdown. After Neville invades a nest of the creatures (Sam chases a deer into a building, forcing Neville to run in after him), he manages to capture one of them, only he doesn’t realize at the time that female creature he captures is actually the mate of the nest’s leader. Neville has also underestimated the intelligence of the creatures, as they utilize the same methodology to s set a trap for Neville, and almost capture him. What they do, however is merely manage to infect Sam, forcing Neville to kill his only companion — which drives him further to the edge, and thus become both reckless and careless, which leads to a confrontation on the pier, from which he is rescued by Anna and Ethan, who manage to bring him back to his Brownstone.

Company at last

Guess who's coming to breakfast.

Guess who's coming to breakfast.

A bit of character depth

Unfortunately, in doing so, the creatures learn where Neville lives, and attack the next night en masse. Prior to their assault, we get a bit more of a glimpse into Neville’s psyche as he expounds a bit on his love of Bob Marley and Marley’s dedication to peace — which gives a bit more understanding as to why Neville is doing what he does (and is actually a nice touch to the film). However, that is all short lived, as the creatures attack. Neville does his best to defend his house ad his guests from the attack, but they are easily overrun, forcing Neville, Anna and Ethen to hide out in the basement.

We all love Bob Marley

Listening to some cool Reggie.

Listening to some cool Reggie.

SPOILER ALERT START!

SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!

We are about to reveal both the ending and alternate ending of this film, if you wish to avoid knowing what we are about to reveal, skip to the end of the alert.

Actual ending

In a final confrontation between Neville and the creatures, he sets off a bomb killing everyone in his basement save for Anna and Ethen (who are hiding in a vault). The film ends with Anna and Ethen reaching a protected compound in the middle of the countryside where several human survivors live. Anna presents one of the survivors with a syringe containing the plague’s antidote while her voiceover informs that that Robert Neville has now become legend.

It all goes to s#!t!

This is the way it ends.

This is the way it ends.

The alternate ending

An alternate ending has Neville realizing that the infected female is the Alpha vampire’s mate. So, Neville opens up the chamber he has locked himself, Anna and Ethan in, and moves her outside to the Alpha. The Alpha directs other vampires not to attack Neville, picks up his mate and leaves with other vampires while Neville apologies for killing some of their number in his experiments.

I Am Legend (10/10) Movie CLIP - Alternate Ending (2007) HD

A different version

This version ends with Neville, Anna, and Ethan living together as they continue searching for other human survivors by sending messages in AM broadcasts.

A sly Easter egg

A little self-promotion never hurt.

A little self-promotion never hurt.

Missing the mark

Unfortunately, both of these endings (as well as the endings to the other film versions of this tale (to the best of my memory), miss what we learned from Matheson’s book; that the vampires weren’t so much the end of the human race, as the human race’s evolution into a new breed of creature (just as Cro-Magnon man gave way to Neanderthals and then to Homo Sapiens. Now Homo Sapiens have further evolved to vampires, making him a legend as not only the last human, but a legendary vampire killer.

END SPOILER ALERT!

END SPOILER ALERT! END SPOILER ALERT! END SPOILER ALERT! END SPOILER ALERT!

Watch the film, read the book

We actually enjoyed not only Matheson’s original ending, but this adaption of the film as well While we may very well be the only to feel thusly, we found Last Man to be a tad too gothic, and (upon reflection), Omega Man to be terribly dated. This version, we feel, best captures the mood and feel of the book we so fondly recall having read back in high school.

I Am Legend Hardcover

© 2021 Robert J Sodaro