I Am Legend Ending, Explained
‘I Am Legend’ is a post-apocalyptic thriller film directed by Francis Lawrence. The screenplay was written by Akiva Goldsman and Mark Protosevich. The film is an adaptation of the novel of the same name written by Richard Matheson. The film stars Will Smith (‘Bad Boys’), Alice Braga (‘Queen of the South’), and Charlie Tahan in the lead roles.
The film follows the story of Dr. Robert Neville, who is trying to find the cure for a deadly virus that has pushed humanity to the brink of extinction. The story deals with the themes of hope and faith through the struggles of its protagonist, who is the last living human in New York. As the film draws towards its conclusion, it delivers an epic moment of heroism. The ending leaves you wondering about the reasons behind Neville’s actions in the final moments of the film. SPOILERS AHEAD.
I Am Legend Plot Synopsis
The film introduces us to Dr. Robert Neville, a U. S Army virologist and humankind’s last hope. A few years ago, a deadly virus, intended to be the cure for cancer, wiped out almost all humanity, either killing people or turning them into horribly mutated creatures known as the “Darkseekers.” Neville lives in a deserted Manhattan along with his companion pet dog, Sam. He lives a routine life and conducts experiments in a laboratory in the basement of his highly fortified house to find a cure for the virus responsible for humanity’s dire fate.
He has carved out many activities around the city that help him cope with the enormous responsibility of saving humanity that lies on his shoulders. He is motivated in his quest by the loss of his family, who died in the aftermath of the virus outbreak. Neville continues looking for traces of humanity by sending out a radio broadcast. How Neville navigates the challenges of living in isolation and manages to find a cure for the virus makes up for the rest of the story.
I Am Legend Ending: Does Neville Find the Cure?
Near the end of the film, Neville, Anna, and Ethan are forced to hideout in the basement when the Darkseekers invade Neville’s home. Neville realizes that his most recent treatment has taken effect, and the female Darkseeker shows signs of being cured. An alpha male Darkseeker breaks the glass partition protecting the group from the Darkseekers.
Neville draws out a vial of blood from the female and hands it to Anna. He then proceeds to kill the Darkseekers with a grenade and sacrifices himself in the process to ensure that Anna and Ethan can escape with the cure. His sacrifice isn’t in vain, as in the last scene, we see Anna and Ethan arrive at the settlement of survivors in Vermont and hand the cure to military officers. In the end, Anna narrates that Neville’s cure saved humanity from extinction, and he is regarded as a legend amongst humankind.
Through flashbacks, we understand how Neville lost his family and how he promised his daughter, Marley, that he would make the monsters disappear. Neville’s motivation behind persisting to find the cure is that he can be at peace with the loss of his loved ones and fulfill his promise. Sam’s death drives Neville to revenge, and he almost throws away years of research and hard work. His persistence is tested, but ultimately, he realizes that his duty is not only towards his family but all of humankind.
Thus, after finding the cure, he makes the ultimate sacrifice to ensure Anna will safely deliver that cure. This act of heroism brings his journey to a full circle. It establishes Neville as the titular legend who saved humanity from the brink of extinction without giving up even in moments of despair. Neville’s story makes us realize the importance of hope and persistence.
What Is the Significance of the Butterfly?
Neville is a man of science, and after the death of his family, he has lost whatever little faith he had in God. On the other hand, Anna is a devoted Christian and believes in “God’s plan.” When she tells Neville that she and Ethan are on their way to a survivors settlement in Vermont, Neville angrily tells her that no such place exists. Anna believes that her receiving his broadcast and arriving when Neville desperately needed help is all part of God’s plan. Neville refuses to believe her and says there is no such thing as God. All these moments stand to show how Neville has lost all hope and faith little by little over the three years he has spent in isolation.
However, at the end of the film, Neville’s perspective has changed, and this change is connected to smart and prominent pieces of foreshadowing throughout the film. In flashbacks, we see that Marley likes to join her hands so that they appear like a butterfly. In the opening scenes where Neville and Sam are driving around the city, we can see a butterfly poster on a building. While hunting a deer, Neville and Sam come across a butterfly that briefly flies in front of them. All these scenes seem irrelevant until the very end of the film.
In the end, the Darkseeker alpha is smashing the glass partition standing between the Darkseekers and humans. The glass begins to crack, and a butterfly pattern forms out of the cracks. At this very moment, Neville sees that Anna also has a butterfly tattoo on her neck. All the butterfly references were actually omens (and foreshadowing) of a pivotal moment in Neville’s story. Neville realizes that this no coincidence and that it is indeed a moment of divine intervention.
His faith in God is restored. Neville believes that it is indeed all part of God’s plan, and there must be a settlement of survivors, as Anna says. He also realizes that the only way to ensure the cure is delivered safely is by making the ultimate sacrifice which allows Anna and Ethan to escape with the cure. Thus, Neville puts all his faith in God’s plan and sacrifices himself. His faith is rewarded as Anna does deliver the cure and humankind is saved at last.
What is the Alternate Ending?
An alternate ending (also known as the director’s cut ending) that was initially intended to be the original ending but was cut due to negative reactions from test audiences has also been released. In this version of the ending, Neville notices a butterfly tattoo on the back of the female Darkseeker’s shoulder while experimenting on her. Later, when the Darkseekers, lead by the alpha, attack the trio, and they hide behind the protective glass partition, the alpha smears the shape of the butterfly tattoo on the glass (which resembles the one on the female’s shoulder).
Believing there is some connection between the two, Neville takes a leap of faith and returns the female to the alpha. The alpha and the female show traces of human emotions after reuniting. Neville realizes that he has been wrong about the Darsekeers being incapable of thinking or feeling and expresses remorse for experimenting on and killing them for years. The alpha leaves with the female and his pack. The next morning, Neville accompanies Anna and Ethan in their search for the colony of survivors. He has seemingly left his research behind. The film ends with Anna broadcasting a hopeful message for any human survivors who may be out there.
This version of the ending completely changes the meaning of the film and how we perceive Neville’s character. In stark contrast to the original ending, which depicts Neville as a legend and savior of humankind, the alternate ending depicts him as a faltering human being. The original ending serves as the end to the journey of Neville’s character, while the alternate version serves as a new beginning.