I Am Legend Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

The meaning of the ending of the film “I am Legend” in its theatrical version (there is another one – the director’s version) gives a slightly different interpretation compared to the novel based on which the picture was shot. This caused dissatisfaction among fans of the original source and raised questions from those who had not read the book. Let’s try to explain both versions of the film’s ending by analyzing each.

Country : USA

Genre : Drama, Thriller, Fantasy, Action

Year of production : 2007

Director : Francis Lawrence

Cast : Will Smith, Alice Braga, Sally Richardson-Whitfield

tagline : “The last man on earth is not alone”

Awards : MTV Channel Award – 2008 and Saturn-2008 for Best Actor, MTV Russia Channel Award – 2009 for Best Foreign Film

The plot of the film and both endings

The cure for cancer caused a global catastrophe, causing a virus that killed ninety percent of the people on Earth. Three years later, New York City was completely empty. Only one person lives here. His name is Robert Neville. Before the epidemic, he was a military virologist. Now he roams the streets, hunting deer, in the absence of people freely grazing in the city, collecting food left in the houses and conducting experiments on animals, trying to create a vaccine against the virus.

Will SmithWill Smith played the role of Robert Neville. Frame from the film.

Robert tries to contact other people via radio, but to no avail. And yet he is not the only survivor in the city – many of those who were once people have turned into bloodthirsty monsters. They go out into the streets only at night, because ultraviolet radiation is deadly for them.

In parallel, the audience is shown a series of flashbacks telling how the disaster happened and how the hero lost his family. His wife and young daughter died trying to get out of New York by helicopter.

Now Robert’s only companion is the shepherd Sam (a diminutive of Samantha), which was given to him by his daughter before her death. For a lonely hero, this dog is the closest creature, but communication with her is not enough to not feel lonely. Therefore, Robert is “friends” with the mannequins in the store, trying to have fun, depicting ordinary life.

One day, he discovers a lair of vampire monsters and sets up a trap to capture one of them. The idea succeeds, and the captured female is in Robert’s laboratory. A virologist tests a prototype vaccine on her, but the monster cannot be turned back into a human.

Alice BragaThe role of Anna was played by Alice Braga. Frame from the film.

Vampires, whom Robert believed to be unencumbered by intelligence, unexpectedly ambushed him using his own technology. The man was caught in a snare and hung unconscious in it for a long time, waking up by the alarm clock set on his watch just before sunset. Robert barely got out of the trap and survived, but the mutant dogs, guided by the insidious vampire, wounded Sam. She gets infected with a virus. Robert tries to save her with his serum, but to no avail. The owner has to kill the pet.

This becomes the last straw for Robert. In a suicidal impulse, he drives out in his car to crush the monsters and almost becomes their victim. But a certain woman saves him with the help of a searchlight and takes him home. It turns out that she heard a radio message and came to the embankment, which Robert indicated as the place where he waits for possible survivors every day at a certain time.

The woman’s name is Anna and she came with her son. Robert needs time to get used to people – their appearance is a shock to him. Anna says she’s on her way to a survivor colony in Vermont. Robert does not believe in the existence of such a place. Having adapted a little to communication, the man turns on the guest album of his favorite musician Bob Marley called “Legend”. Robert and Anna also argue about God. The woman considers their meeting a divine providence.

When night falls, Robert realizes that Anna, in her rush to save him, unwittingly showed the monsters the way to his house. And now the vampires have surrounded them. The heroes manage to repulse the first wave of attacking mutants, but the second one, together with their leader, breaks into the house. People lock themselves in the laboratory, where it suddenly turns out that the vaccine still worked and the vampire woman is gradually turning into a human.

devastated cityFrame from the film.

Final theatrical version

At the end of the theatrical version of the film, Robert gives Anna a vial of vaccine and hides her and the child in a hiding place outside the door, telling her not to leave until dawn. He himself rushes towards the leader trying to break into the laboratory and, with the help of a grenade, carries out an explosion, thus sacrificing himself. After the incident, Anna and the child manage to get to the colony of survivors in Vermont. She gives them the vaccine. Her voice-over says that for a new generation of people, Robert’s story will become a legend.

Director’s cut final

At the end of the director’s cut, the main character, also in the laboratory, shouts to the attacking monsters that he has found a cure and can cure them. Robert sees that the leader of the vampires draws on the glass a butterfly, which he saw in the form of a tattoo on the shoulder of the female test subject.

Then the man opens the door and hands over the captive to the leader of the monsters. It turns out that the female and the leader are close and have deep feelings for each other. The leader roars and orders the vampires to leave. People remain intact – the three of them leave the city.

What book is the movie based on?

A film with Will Smith can hardly be called an adaptation. Still, his script was written only based on the book by Richard Matheson “I am a legend.” There are three more films, each of which beats the events of the novel in its own way. These are The Last Man on Earth (1964), Omega Man (1971) and I Am a Warrior, also released in 2007 – the same year as I Am Legend. By the way, there are several short animated spin-offs based on the events of the film with Will Smith, and united by the name “I am a legend. Awakening”.

The content of the book is very different from the movie. In it, the infected did not look like monsters. According to the description, their image is closer to the classic vampires – outwardly, they did not differ too much from people. They even communicate with Robert by coming to his house. The dog in the life of the hero appears only for six days, dying as a result of wounds and exhaustion.

Robert is not a virologist, but immerses himself in disease research through books and experiments. He deliberately exterminates hundreds and even thousands of vampires, making daily raids on houses. Some of the infected united, managed to partially curb their disease and built a new civilization. They were at war with another species, driven only by animal instincts. Robert killed both of them. Therefore, he became dangerous to civilization and was caught by deceit (with the help of a vampire woman who pretended to be an ordinary person) and sentenced to death.

vaccine research laboratoryFrame from the film.

The meaning of the film I am Legend

The creators of the film “I am Legend” only partly focused on the source, telling the story with a completely different meaning. It perfectly shows the loneliness of the hero in a depopulated world. The danger in the form of vampires and the study of their nature are rather relegated to the background. We see the tragedy of Robert, his friendship with the dog and we sympathize with him, imagining ourselves in the same position. But the civilizational conflict, to which a large place is given in the novel, alas, is not reflected.

The title “I am Legend” had its own meaning in the book. In the work of Richard Matheson, there is such an idea: the main character is the last representative of the human race, who replaced the vampire race; it is he who is the monster for the new civilization. He was defeated, united, by a bunch of daredevils. Now, after death, he will become a legend for the new race, passed from mouth to mouth.

In the film, the authors try to justify the name “I am a legend” in their own way and make references to it. For example, Robert Tam is a fan of Bob Marley (Robert Nesta Marley), the world famous reggae music artist. The hero puts Anna a collection of songs “Legend”, published a few years after the death of the musician. Robert likes Bob Marley’s belief in goodness and his sense of purpose, so he tries to be the same. Although, for example, his faith in God has long been lost.

I am Legend Ending explanation

The meaning of the ending of the film “I’m Legend” in the director’s cut is presented as follows: the main character created a vaccine against a virus that turns people into monsters, and sacrificed himself so that it eventually ended up in the hands of the survivors. In the final monologue, Anna sums up: Robert’s story will become a legend.

Joanna NumataJoanna Numata played the role of the alpha woman. Frame from the film.

In this version, in the pre-final scene that takes place in the laboratory, the hero sees how the leader of the vampires breaks glass in a rage, thereby creating a pattern in the form of a butterfly. Robert recalls the words of his daughter, who tried to attract the attention of her parents by imitating a butterfly. It is at this moment that he decides on his sacrificial choice. When asked what he is doing, Robert replies: “I listen to God,” thereby making it clear that now, like Anna, he believes in divine providence.

In the director’s cut, the butterfly symbol is also present. But now it’s a tattoo on the shoulder of a female. And her image is quite consciously drawn by the leader of the vampires, followed by a touching scene of the reunion of the couple. Robert realizes that the monsters were after him because he abducted members of their species, that they (at least some of them) are quite capable of controlling themselves. This version does not explain the meaning of the title at all, but partly uses the plot twist of the original source, where vampires became quite reasonable.

Both in one and in the other presentation of the explanation of the ending there are significant disadvantages. The cinematic version plunges one into bewilderment as to why the main character did not hide with Anna and her son, having previously thrown a grenade towards the leader. After all, apparently, there was a place in the hiding place and there was no need to sacrifice oneself.

The director’s cut raises questions about the sanity of vampires. Why did they behave so differently: sometimes using remarkable intelligence, sometimes guided by purely animal instincts? Why was Robert tracked down only at the end? And, unfortunately, neither one nor the other ending somehow reveals the essence of the film in a new way and does not allow us to hope for finding a hidden meaning. Just in one case there was an attempt to justify the name, in the second – to use the philosophy of the original source.

protection against mutantsFrame from the film.


Similar films

  • “28 Days Later” (UK, 2002): the story of people fleeing from infected lunatics in a deserted London;
  • The Walking Dead (USA, 2010-2022): zombie-drama in series format, which has become a cult among fans of the genre;
  • “The Last Man on Earth” (USA, 2015-2018): an ordinary office worker becomes the last survivor on the planet – a post-apocalyptic comedy series format;
  • “After Earth” (USA, 2013): father and son find themselves on a deserted planet – fiction with Will Smith from M. Night Shyamalan;
  • World War Z (2013): A UN official as Brad Pitt saves his family from a zombie invasion;
  • Cast Away (USA, 2000): A hero stranded on a desert island and struggling to survive is a drama about loneliness from Robert Zemeckis.

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