Akiva Goldsman is behind some pretty well-loved scripts, including "Practical Magic," "A Beautiful Mind," and the post-apocalypse flick, "I Am Legend." The 2007 adaptation of Richard Matheson's famous book of the same name was a massive success, taking in over $585 million worldwide at the box office. Goldsman inked a first-look deal with Warner Bros. and announced a handful of new projects to celebrate. One of those films is a sequel to "I Am Legend," with Michael B. Jordan joining Will Smith in the leading roles.
The first film takes place after a plague destroys all of humanity, turning folks that somehow survive into Darkseekers, vampiric, cannibalistic mutants that must avoid sunlight. Smith plays U.S. Army virologist Dr. Robert Neville, who lives an isolated life in a deserted Manhattan with his beloved German Shepard, Sam. Neville believes to be the only human left alive and spends most of his time desperately looking for resources to potentially develop a cure.
"I'm obsessed with 'The Last of Us,' where we see the world just post-apocalypse but also after a 20-30-year lapse," Goldsman told Deadline. "You see how the earth reclaims the world, and there's something beautiful in the question of, as man steps away from being the primary tenant, what happens?"
Matheson's novel has been adapted multiple times, including the 1971 film "I Am Omega Man" and the mockbuster "I Am Omega" released the same year as "I Am Legend." But the latter deviated heavily from the source material, boasting an ending that has been hotly debated for over 15 years. The neverending discourse surrounding the film's controversial ending is perhaps why Goldsman announced the "I Am Legend" sequel will completely disregard the ending of the original film.
The Ending Of I Am Legend
In the 2007 version of "I Am Legend," Dr. Neville does manage to create a cure and successfully passes the cure to a survivor named Anna (Alice Braga) and a young boy named Ethan (Charlie Tahan), and hides them in a coal chute in the back of the lab after a group of Darkseekers tracks them all down. The Darkseeker alpha male breaks through the glass of the lab, and realizing that the cure is more important than anything else, Neville sacrifices himself, killing the Darkseekers in the process, by unleashing a grenade. The cure, Anna, and Ethan are able to make it out to safety because of his sacrifice and pass the cure off to the military stationed at a survivor's camp, so a balance on Earth could ultimately be restored.
To put it kindly, the ending of this adaptation of "I Am Legend" is a pretty basic interpretation of a Hollywood hero's ending. Neville is a flawed character with seemingly nothing left to live for who gives up his life to save the rest of the world, a means of somehow atoning for the mistakes he feels he's made in his life. The individualist actions of one man were enough to completely change the course of humanity, which sounds great on paper but is ultimately a gutless ending compared to the intention of Richard Matheson's original novel. Fortunately, "I Am Legend" did film an alternate ending a lot closer to the source material, which seems to be the route Akiva Goldsman is going to take with the upcoming sequel.
The Intended Ending
Francis Lawrence directed Akiva Goldsman's script for "I Am Legend," and originally intended to capture the bleak essence of Richard Matheson's novel. In this take, the infected (aka "vampires") weren't terrifying monsters, but closely resembled humans. There's a good chance they would have looked similar to the vampires in the 2009 film "Daybreak" starring Ethan Hawke. Lawrence had originally planned that Dr. Neville would have a romantic relationship with one of the infected, who would eventually reveal herself to be a spy sent by the other Darkseekers to investigate him. After all, Dr. Neville has been killing a lot of Darkseekers over the years, including her husband.
Dr. Neville is captured by the Darkseekers, realizing that he is going to be executed. As he is held hostage, he looks out to the Darkseekers and realizes that for their society, it is he that is the dangerous, scary monster. Rather than wait around to be killed, Neville then decides to take his own life by ingesting a fast-acting poison. Now, instead of becoming a legend for "saving humanity" like in the film's theatrical ending, his legacy will be that of a cautionary tale for this legion of vampires. In the same way that humans were brought up to fear, other, and warn against vampires, Dr. Neville will be the human that threatened to destroy the Darkseekers.
In his quest to find a cure, he became a thing of fear. Was this an apocalypse, or was this an evolutionary step forward that left humans in the dust? It's certainly not the optimistic ending the 2007 film provided, and the actual filmed alternate ending wasn't much happier.
The Alternate Ending
In the alternate (and original) ending filmed for "I Am Legend," everything is the same until the climax. As Neville works to see if the cure is effective, the Alpha Male pushes himself up against the glass door. He makes a butterfly pattern on the glass with his hands, which resembles a butterfly tattoo on the neck of Neville's patient. It is then that he realizes the so-called "creatures" aren't monsters, but a new form of society. Instead of killing the Darkseekers or trying to cure his subject, he removes her IV and watches as she turns back into a Darkseeker. Neville guides her back to the Alpha Male, tearfully apologizing for what he's done. He looks at the photos of all of his failed experiments, realizing that he has become the monster in the eyes of this group.
The Alpha Male screams at him but gives a look of discernment before leaving with his group. Neville, Anna, and Ethan leave New York City and head toward a safe zone in Vermont. There's no way to know if Neville's cure was effective, but the three are hopeful that they are not alone in the world. Unfortunately, test audiences hated the ending, so the creative team went back to the drawing board and concocted the ending that eventually made it to theaters.
Why I Am Legend 2 Is Ignoring The Original Ending
Akiva Goldsman told Deadline that "I Am Legend 2" will take place decades after the first film, and follow the film's original, alternate ending. In keeping with the themes of "The Last of Us," Goldsman wants to explore what the world would look like with the Darkseekers maintaining their own society, and Mother Earth taking back what was once hers. "That will be especially visual in New York," Goldsman said. "I don't know if they'll climb up to the Empire State Building, but the possibilities are endless."
Goldsman added that the story would "trace back to the original Matheson book, and the alternate ending as opposed to the released ending in the original film." While the ending may have been a bit too extreme for 2007 audiences, it's clear by the success of shows like "The Last of Us" or "Station Eleven", as well as experiencing a legitimate pandemic, that viewers are ready for a more Matheson ending. "What Matheson was talking about was that man's time on the planet as the dominant species had come to an end," said Goldsman. "That's a really interesting thing we're going to get to explore. There will be a little more fidelity to the original text."
There is no anticipated release date for "I Am Legend 2," but the new ending is certainly something to get excited about.
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The post How I Am Legend 2 Will Ignore the First Movie's Ending appeared first on /Film.