I Am Legend 2 is officially happening. The 2007 post-apocalyptic drama that starred Will Smith will be followed by a sequel more than a decade later. The film will bring back the original star alongside Black Panther and Creed star Michael B. Jordan. Rumors of the film entering active development circulated last month, and the project was officially announced last week. The original movie, I Am Legend, was a commercial success and is regarded as one of the best performances by Will Smith.
The way that story ended, no one could have speculated that the film would receive a sequel, given that [*SPOILERS – Read With Caution*] Smith’s character, Robert Neville, died. The ending was met with a severe backlash from fans and critics, as it deviated from the original ending as penned in Richard Matheson’s novel, on which the film was based. Owing to the fans’ demand, the producers released an alternate ending to the film in its DVD release edition, which did far more justice to the source material.
Now that the sequel is in development, and Will Smith is set to return, it’s a big question as to which ending the sequel film will consider as canon, and therefore, would account for the continuation of the story.
Differences in Two I Am Legend Endings
In the film I Am Legend, Robert Neville abducts a female Darkseeker to find a cure for the virus that has annihilated the global population. At the end of the film, when the alpha Darkseeker comes to rescue his abducted mate, Neville sacrifices his own life by blowing up his lab, but not before handing over his newly discovered cure to Anna (Alice Braga). When Anna reaches the survivor camp, she reiterates Robert’s efforts in developing a cure, making him a “legend.”
The ending was heavily criticized, with the main focus of the critiques shedding light on the revitalized or re-twisted essence of the term “legend” in the film. In the novel, Neville realizes how he has grown heartless towards the undead, killing them ruthlessly. He accepts his fate as he is about to be executed. As he passes away, in his last thoughts, he thinks of becoming an immortalized legend to the undead, like all boogeymen figures from the folklore are to humans.
The movie, which was only partly adapted from the novel, changed the ending to an alternate one closer to the novel’s, conveying a similar message. In the alternate ending, when alpha Darkseeker attempts to break into Robert’s lab, he reminisces the cruel experiments he conducted on Darkseekers to find a cure and realizes that he had become a true monster in the eyes of the new species that mankind created. He then releases the female and is spared by the alpha Darkseeker, leaving Robert to live with his broken conscience and the moral consequences of his actions. The ending rather changed the true essence of the term “legend.” Smith’s character eventually became the real villain, whose torture against an innocent species doesn’t account for being a legend.
What Ending Will Be Canon in I Am Legend 2?
Given that Will Smith’s character is returning for the second film, the sequel can’t happen without taking into consideration the alternate ending because his character dies in the original one. The original ending could have worked fine if Smith’s character was returning for a cameo or a major flashback sequence; however, that’s highly unlikely. Smith actually rejected the idea of a sequel and was only convinced upon hearing the script from Jordan. So, if Smith had been that thorough before signing up to I Am Legend 2, he wouldn’t have done it without being offered a substantial role alongside Michael B. Jordan.
Hence, the makers must allow for the alternate ending to be considered canon for the sequel to justify the continuation to the first film. Moreover, since most critics and fans support the alternate ending better, it would work well to make it canon and base the sequel’s story on it. The alternate ending wasn’t the perfect one either, but it’s the one that makes Will Smith’s return possible and logical. Of course, bringing him back from death in some extraordinary fashion where he survived the blast would be too much of a cliché.
Can an Alternate Ending Be Canon?
There have been instances where a studio has released alternate endings in different markets. However, no film has changed the canonical story to support a potential sequel because it significantly changes the course of the said franchises, which can be a complex decision. Take Zack Snyder’s Justice League, for example. Despite its success and more support extended its way, the film remains cul-de-sac. If the studio decides to change the ending of I Am Legend, it would be a significant change for them and a historic move for any film series or franchise.
It seems that the alternate ending becoming canon for I Am Legend can actually happen. The sequel, which Jordan and Smith will also executive produce, is being penned by Akiva Goldsman, who co-wrote the previous film’s screenplay. Given that the previous writer is coming back to pen the sequel, there could be more support to the alternate ending, and Goldsman can spin a better continuation out of it instead of the original end of the film.
For now, the story details concerning I Am Legend 2 are under wraps, but it will be an interesting aspect to justify Neville’s return and fit him with the new character that Jordan will essay. More shall be revealed as the filming for the sequel begins.