After having seen I Am Legend at the premiere in New York City, I was thoroughly satisfied with the film. It had an elegant ending that left viewers with an explanation, if even a typical Hollywood one.
When the DVD release announcement was made, with the news that an alternate ending would be included, I was anxious to see the “controversial” ending. I had heard that the movie’s original ending was extremely different from the original Richard Matheson novel, so I picked up the book.
For those that don’t know the ending of the Matheson novel, and don’t mind me spoiling it, Show Spoilers
Neville realizes he is now the outsider, the abnormal one. The creatures fear him and hate him. Rightfully so, since he’s been hunting and killing them every day since the world ended. He accepts that he has become a legend, and that they must kill him, because he is no longer the way humans are supposed to be. This is a new species, one where he is the one that’s out of the ordinary.
The ending of the book intrigued me, mainly because I think Will Smith would have done a fantastic job with it. This isn’t the ending that the filmmakers made as the alternate ending, but it has similar themes.
The alternate ending is detailed below, behind spoiler hiders. Read on if you have seen the alternate ending, or don’t mind heavy spoilers.
When Neville, Anna, and Ethan barricade themselves behind the Plexiglass in Neville’s lab, we see the alternate ending. After realizing the creature has been cured, Neville doesn’t send Anna and Ethan away with the cure to find the colony of healthy people in Vermont, nor does he grab an old Army grenade and take as many creatures with him as he goes.
While watching the Alpha Male creature’s actions, he realizes that in taking a creature for his studies, he was intruding on their society. It’s a similar concept to that from the book – that the creatures are existing as they should, and Neville is interfering. The Alpha Male (played by Dash Mihok of Romeo & Juliet) hunted Neville down, not to kill him and satisfy his basic instincts, but to rescue one of his own. Contrary to Neville’s assumptions, the creatures have not completely devolved and lost all human traits.
Neville calmly opens the Plexiglass doors and rolls the subject out into the destroyed lab full of creatures. The Alpha Male screams at his subordinates, and while they hiss and growl at Neville, they do not harm him as he retrieves the injection to revive his subject. After reviving her, the test creature and the Alpha Male have a tender moment, showing that the creatures are still capable of love. The creatures take their rescued hive member back, and leave Neville, Anna, and Ethan unharmed.
The creatures weren’t after Neville to kill him and eat him. All they wanted was to take back what he stole from them. They go back to their existence as a new kind of society, a variety of the human species, while Neville, Anna, and Ethan start out on the road to Vermont.
The alternate ending has points that I prefer to the original, such as the fact that the creatures can still think, plan, and love. I also enjoy the open-ended feel to it. Rather than show the viewers that Anna and Ethan arrive at a colony in Vermont, and that the world will eventually be okay, all we know is that Neville and his new friends head towards Vermont, leaving the creatures behind to live their lives.
What did you think of the alternate ending of I Am Legend? Did you prefer it over the original ending?