Back in 2007, Will Smith starred in the sci-fi thriller I am Legend.
Although based on Richard Matheson’s 1954 novel of the same name, the film diverges widely from the source material. The blockbuster explores a post-apocalyptic world in which a vaccine designed to cure cancer morphed into a virus that quickly ravaged most of humanity.
The infected who managed to survive the virus mutated into nocturnal, vampiric/zombie-like creatures dubbed the “Darkseekers." Military virologist Robert Neville (Smith), one of the very few humans immune to the virus, is left stranded in New York with his dog, desperately searching for a cure.
In March of 2022, it was announced that an I Am Legend sequel is in development. Will Smith is set to reprise his role, with Michael B. Jordan (of Marvel’s Killmonger fame) also starring.
This news surprised some viewers, given that in I Am Legend's theatrical ending, Smith’s character heroically sacrifices himself to protect the cure for the virus. But the special edition DVD (released in 2008), features an alternate ending, one that was truer to the spirit of the book. In this conclusion, Dr. Neville survives and leaves New York for the colony of humans in Vermont, bringing with him a new appreciation for the bonds between the Darkseekers.
This alternate ending creates lots of avenues which could be explored in the I Am Legend II movie. Below, we explore different routes the I Am Legend sequel could take.
Anna and Ethan’s story of faith
Anna and Ethan are two characters who appear in the latter half of the original movie. After surviving an outbreak aboard a Red Cross evacuation vessel, they find and save Robert and inform him of a survivor’s colony in Bethel, Vermont.
Robert, who has already lost his family and spent three years in search of a cure, is reluctant to join them on the journey. But Anna believes that everything happens for a reason, and that God sent her to find Robert—in fact, if she hadn't appeared at the right moment, he would have been killed by the Darkseekers.
Anna's steadfast faith eventually inspires Robert. In the theatrical ending he hands her the cure, hides her and Ethan in a coal chute, and seemingly gives up his own life so they can survive a Darkseeker attack and take the vial to the colony. The final scene shows the pair successfully delivering the cure.
But after Robert's death, how did Anna and Ethan survive long enough to deliver the cure to Vermont?
In the penultimate scene of the theatrical release, Robert’s home is almost completely surrounded by Darkseekers, and it's unlikely that all of them died in the blast. In an earlier scene we also saw Darkseekers risk the scorching sun to come out during daytime, so it's possible that Anna and Ethan wouldn't even be safe during daytime on their journey from New York to Vermont.
With her as the main character, the sequel could focus on the relevance of God and religion in a post-apocalyptic world by placing Anna and Ethan on a journey that tests their faith in the face of adversity as they struggle to reach the colony.
The community of Darkseekers
The sequel could also view the world through the perspective of the Darkseekers.
Although they're introduced to viewers in the first film as senseless cannibals, driven only by hunger and survival instincts, it's later revealed that they're not as mindless as previously thought. Just as Robert sets a snare trap to capture a female Darkseeker and experiment upon her, the Darkseekers too set a trap for him the next day using his mannequin friend “Fred” as bait. This suggests that the Darkseekers are actually intelligent creatures who care for their own kind.
This is in keeping with the film’s alternate ending, in which the Darkseekers launch an attack on Robert's home, not to kill him but to rescue the female he has kidnapped.
Thus, the sequel could potentially focus on the Darkseekers as a new sapient species evolved from humans, trying to come to a truce or understanding with the survivors at the colony and living side-by-side in an interdependent existence. Or the film could give the Darkseekers greater agency and complexity by exploring the hierarchies, power struggles, and rivalries within the community.
Robert Neville as the "living" legend
Given that Smith is set to reprise his role in the sequel, rumors are rife as to how his character may return since he canonically “dies” in the film.
Of course, the production team may retcon the original ending in favor of the alternate one, or they may reveal that Robert somehow survived the blast. Having lost his family, the sequel could posit a romance between him and Anna, and give him a second chance at a normal life.
In Anna’s words, Robert’s efforts to save humanity effectively turned him into a “legend." Yet the cure came at the cost of countless lives, including those of helpless animals and many Darkseekers.
The film could hold Robert Neville accountable for those deaths, delving into topical issues such as the ethics of animal experimentation and genetic cloning. Robert is far from a perfect human, and being hailed as a “legend” by the survivors while being reviled by the Darkseekers could be the source of an interesting conflict.
The sequel could also explore the consequences of being put on a pedestal—as a living “legend” among the community of human survivors, Robert may have a difficult time living up to his reputation and the expectations of those around him.
Sequel still under wraps
While the script of the I am Legend sequel is still shrouded in mystery, it is known that Akiva Goldsman (who also wrote the original screenplay with Mark Protosevich) is involved.
In an interview with Deadline, producer Jon Mone said, “It's an unbelievably cool idea, an idea that made [Smith] and Akiva believe that it was worth telling another story. It's based on the minds of Will, Akiva, and Michael B. Jordan who came up with an incredible angle for how you can continue that story.”
Regardless of the angle the sequel takes, audiences can hope that the upcoming film will emphasize themes of isolation and community, which are more relevant than ever during our real-world pandemic. It is the bonds with fellow humans (or other creatures) that ultimately sustain us and keep us going—and I Am Legend II is perfectly-poised to explore those connections.
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