Abstract: I Am Legend is a 2007 post-apocalyptic science fiction film directed by Francis Lawrence and starring Will Smith. It is the third feature film adaptation of Richard Matheson's 1954 novel of the same name, following 1964's The Last Man on Earth and 1971's The Omega Man. Smith plays virologist Robert Neville, who is immune to a man-made virus originally created to cure cancer. He works to create a remedy while defending himself against the mutated humans and other creatures created by the virus.
Warner Bros. began developing I Am Legend in 1994, and various actors and directors were attached to the project, though production was delayed due to budgetary concerns related to the script. Production began in 2006 in New York City, filming mainly on location in the city, including a $5 million scene at the Brooklyn Bridge, the most expensive scene ever filmed in the city at the time.
I Am Legend was released on December 14, 2007 in the United States and Canada, and opened to the largest ever box office (not counting for inflation) for a non-Christmas film released in the U.S. in December. The film was the seventh-highest grossing film of 2007, earning $276 million domestically and $329 million internationally, for a total of $585 million.
By September 2012, military virologist Lieutenant Colonel Robert Neville (Will Smith) is the last healthy human in New York City. In December 2009, Neville had lost his wife Zoe (Salli Richardson) and daughter Marley (Willow Smith) in a helicopter accident during a chaotic quarantine of Manhattan. A genetically-engineered variant of the measles virus created by Dr. Alice Krippin (Emma Thompson), meant as a cure for cancer, had mutated into a lethal strain. It spread throughout the world, killing 90% of humanity. The survivors became predatory, cannibalistic beings referred to as "Darkseekers" and killed those immune to the virus.
When one of his rat experiments shows a promising treatment, Neville sets a snare trap and captures an infected woman. An enraged Darkseeker alpha male attempts to rescue her, but is driven back by the sunlight. In the laboratory in his heavily fortified Washington Square Park home, Neville tries the new serum on the infected woman, seemingly without success.
The next day, after finding one of his mannequins ("Fred") out in the street in front of Grand Central Terminal, he is caught in a snare trap and passes out. He regains consciousness at dusk and frees himself, but he is attacked by a pack of infected dogs. Although Neville and Sam kill the dogs, one of the infected dogs bites Sam during the fight. Neville brings Sam home and attempts to save the dog by injecting a strain of his serum, but it is too late; a heartbroken Neville is forced to kill his only companion.
Overcome by grief and rage, Neville attacks a group of the infected on the seaport the following night with his UV-light-equipped SUV. He manages to kill several Darkseekers, but they overwhelm and nearly kill him before he is rescued by a pair of immune humans, a woman named Anna (Alice Braga) and a boy named Ethan (Charlie Tahan), who followed his radio broadcasts. Anna and Ethan take him back to his home. Anna explains that they are making their way to a survivors' camp in Bethel, Vermont. Neville disputes that such a camp exists, and expresses his doubt when Anna says God told her about it.
The following night, the alpha male leads a mob of Darkseekers in an attack on the house. Anna, who was unaware of Neville's precautions in covering his scent outside the house, inadvertently allowed the Darkseekers to follow their trail. When the Darkseekers charge the house, Neville stops the first wave of Darkseekers with claymore mines, but finds himself defenseless against the second wave. As Neville tries to find Anna and Ethan, a Darkseeker enters and attacks him. The Darkseeker retreats upstairs and begins tearing a hole in the roof so other infected can get in.
After Neville saves Anna and Ethan, they retreat into the basement laboratory. They seal themselves in a reinforced plexiglass
room with the infected woman, and they discover that Neville's
treatment is now working: the subject looks much more human. The
infected break in and the alpha male starts throwing himself against the
plexiglass, cracking the material. Realizing that the last treatment
had been successful, Neville draws a vial of the infected woman's blood
and gives it to Anna before shutting them inside a coal chute in the
back of the lab. He uses an M67 hand grenade
to wipe out the attackers at the cost of his own life. Anna and Ethan
are later seen stopping at the gated entrance to the survivors' colony,
where Anna hands over the antidote. In a voice-over, Anna claims that the survivors are Neville's legacy, as his fight for a cure became legend.
Several scenes were altered before the film's release, especially the stand-off between Neville and the infected in his laboratory. In the original ending, the alpha male makes a butterfly-shaped smear on the glass. Neville realizes that the alpha male is identifying the woman he was experimenting on by a butterfly tattoo, and that the alpha male wants her back. Neville puts his gun down and returns the infected woman. Neville and the alpha male then exchange stares; Neville apologizes to the Darkseekers; the alpha male acknowledges his apology, and the infected leave. The final shot follows Neville, Anna, and Ethan as they drive away towards Vermont with the antidote.
According to visual effects supervisor Janek Sirrs: "At that point,
Neville's — and the audience's — assumptions about the nature of these
creatures are shown to be incorrect. We see that they have actually
retained some of their humanity. There is a very important moment
between the alpha male and Neville" (Wikipedia, 2012).