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The OTHER "I Am Legend" ending
March 6, 2008 6:49 AM   Subscribe

Many reviewers complained about the ending of Will Smith blockbuster I Am Legend. Turns out they shot a second ending.
posted by rednikki (82 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
How about a breakdown of what that second ending consists of for those behind firewalls that say "GAMING sites not allowed"?
posted by Senator at 6:53 AM on March 6, 2008


I strongly prefer the second ending, as does everyone else in the house. It holds to the movie a lot better, in that Will Smith's character was being blind and missing details about the zombies.
posted by stoneegg21 at 6:54 AM on March 6, 2008


How about a breakdown of what that second ending consists of for those behind firewalls that say "GAMING sites not allowed"?

Will Smith gets it on with a hot zombie chick and pisses off his mom. He sleeps with one little zombie and his mom got scared. She said, "You're movin' with your auntie and uncle in bel Air."

You know how the rest goes....
posted by chillmost at 7:02 AM on March 6, 2008 [8 favorites]


I never saw the movie, but I did read the book and this looks like it was more faithful to that. And also more interesting.
posted by DU at 7:02 AM on March 6, 2008


Eh, sorry, I prefer the original ending.

*spoilers*

I think the original ending fits Neville's blindness to the zombies better, and demonstrates how the point is not so much about how the zombies are becoming human-like (hammed up in the romantic zombie love in the alternate) but about how Neville has been losing his humanity. He is driven by his mission just as much as the zombies are driven by their animalistic urges. The original ending still leaves in place the zombie romance subplot, but doesn't play it up in such a cheesy manner. Instead, you have Neville realizing just what the effects of the plague have been on him.

I wish there was an alternate ending where Sam didn't die :(
posted by papakwanz at 7:04 AM on March 6, 2008


Ok, so zombies are mean and everything but DANG they're in great shape!
Those abs? To die for! I would totally be a babe-magnet.
Except for ripping them apart and stuff after we made out.
posted by Dizzy at 7:07 AM on March 6, 2008


The alternate ending begins when Smith locks himself behind the plexiglas doors in the lab as the zombies storm in. The head zombie (the one who was stalking him and tried to trap him) storms in and smashes his head against the glass as in the first ending. But then he smears his greasy hands on the glass in the crude shape of a butterfly. Smith notices the butterfly, and looks at the zombie patient he was experimenting on. He turns her over to reveal a butterfly tattoo. He removes the vaccine IV, and wheels her out. The zombies surround him. He inject zombie girl patient with the virus, and she is restored to full zombitude, at which point head zombie and her engage in what passes for zombie kisses and physical affection. Smith backs away and the zombies let him live, after he and they notice his wall of polaroids of all the zombie patients he experimented on and killed.

Next scene, he and that girl drive out of new york in the sunrise smiling contentedly. Love conquers all, and I get my money back.

It's amazing to me that they can spend $100 million on a film and not know how it's going to end before they start shooting. A love interest between the two zombies? Why not, it has as much support in the story leading up to it as the happy village in the other ending. Ugh, what a bland, superficial movie that was.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:09 AM on March 6, 2008


The alternate ending: Will Smith has captured a female zombie for experimentation. When the head bad zombie has led the horde into Smith's basement, Big Bad starts to bang on the glass that separates Will Smith, his lady friend, and her son from the zombies. Big Bad intentionally smears the glass with his blood, painting a crude butterfly. Will Smith recognizes that the butterfly appears on the clothes of the zombie test subject, opens the door, and returns the zombie test subject to the Big Bad. Big Bad and test subject nuzzle for a second, then all the zombies leave Smith alone. Smith and his human friends then drive north to look for new survivors while we hear the new broadcast - Smith's lady friend telling people that there's hope and that Smith and crew are driving north. So all the zombies wanted was their Big Bad's girlfriend back.

It's an interesting ending, but I like that Smith dies in the original. Also, I doubt that the zombies would be so forgiving. If someone had kidnapped your honey and taken her to his secret lair for medical experimentation, I would think you'd want some revenge, particularly if you're a bloodthirsty zombie with impulse control issues. Also, Smith has a wall in his basement with photographs of dead zombie test subjects. The zombies can see this, and the wall is surely proof to the zombies that Smith's a monster.
posted by factory123 at 7:10 AM on March 6, 2008


Beaten to the punch!
posted by factory123 at 7:11 AM on March 6, 2008


I did not like this ending much, but maybe that's because it seemed artificially happy. On the other hand, I did wonder why the whole "I kidnapped your zombie girlfriend for science" thing was dangled in the theatrical version, but then left unaddressed.

So at least this completes the gap for me by showing that I wasn't crazy to be expecting closure on that.

(This is still a bad ending, though.)
posted by rokusan at 7:15 AM on March 6, 2008


Well the new ending sounds just as crap as the original ending. Why not just stick to what happens in the book? (That'd be too easy?)
posted by chunking express at 7:16 AM on March 6, 2008


One of my favorite Onion headlines ever -
Will Smith: The Black Man Everyone At Work Can Agree On.
posted by isopraxis at 7:18 AM on March 6, 2008


Is there an ending that makes the CGI decent?
posted by geoff. at 7:19 AM on March 6, 2008 [6 favorites]


rokusan -- I didn't think it was left unaddressed. They didn't try to tie it all up in a neat little package in the original ending, like this alternative ending did, but I think it was still pretty clear that Alpha Zombie was after Neville in particular for kidnapping his Zombie Woman. The original ending pointed out the dark similarities between AZ and Neville -- their driven nature, their violence, their hatred for the other -- whereas the alternate seemed to tell us that Zombies need love too.
posted by papakwanz at 7:20 AM on March 6, 2008


It's amazing to me that they can spend $100 million on a film and not know how it's going to end before they start shooting.

I know that feeling, but after working in LA for awhile I came to understand. It's hard to come to grips with this, if you're a rational person (or worse, a literate one) but it's true nonetheless: the quality of a story is maybe 5% of what makes people see or enjoy movies. If you are making a film, famous stars, special effects, cheap gags and so on are worth more in a cost/benefit, risk/reward way.

On average, a bad story with Will Smith and great fx will make 10x the money as a good story with a no-name actor and cheap effects.

Hollywood knows this, and accurately treats story as if it's worth that much. They're.... "correct" to do so.
posted by rokusan at 7:21 AM on March 6, 2008 [4 favorites]


You're right, papakwanz, it was sort-of-there, and I didn't need such a tidy ending as this one, that's for sure... but while the girlfriend-issue may have been "pretty clear" to the viewer, I wanted the character Neville to face/realize his own (fatal) flaw/mistake, himself, at some point... and I didn't see that.

Or maybe I just don't remember it. That was last year! :)
posted by rokusan at 7:24 AM on March 6, 2008


As someone who was disappointed with the ending because it was exactly opposite Matheson's ending, I like this version much better. It's cryptic, though. The absence of a Ruth character makes the title almost entirely unexplained. And as comments in this thread have already demonstrated, this truer-to-the-book display of zombie emotions is totally out of character and doesn't make sense to the average viewer.
posted by Plutor at 7:29 AM on March 6, 2008


The second ending would have been better if they had killed Will, for kiling all the others, while still letting the girl and kid live.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:43 AM on March 6, 2008


There's a third ending where Will Smith audits the zombies, and it turns out their thetans were just really pissed off about some suppressed pain. Then he defeats Xenu in a fistfight.
posted by mullingitover at 7:48 AM on March 6, 2008 [4 favorites]


On average, a bad story with Will Smith and great fx will make 10x the money as a good story with a no-name actor and cheap effects.

But this is a dumb. One would think the most money of all, evar, would come from a movie with Will Smith, great FX, AND a great story. And if the story's irrelevant anyway, then why fuck around with it?

(Full disclosure: I actually liked I Am Legend much more than I expected to, given that it only vaguely adapts the book it's based on, mostly because Smith played the hell out of that part in the first half of the movie. It's practically a silent film for about an hour, and you don't even notice -- that's impressive stuff. Unfortunately, I think the movie kinda falls apart in the last reel, and this ending is no improvement. And the creature FX, frankly, are damn cheesy in any incarnation.)
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:52 AM on March 6, 2008


The alternate ending doesn't match the bit earlier where he notes that the zombies have lost all human-like behaviour...

Did enjoy the film though, think the original ending is better, although I totally didn't get the link between the head zombie and his girlfriend...
posted by jontyjago at 8:07 AM on March 6, 2008


I also like that the new ending adds a bit of the original story's complications, but it's still pretty unsatisfying. Really, my overall complaint is that they called this movie "I Am Legend". It has very little to do with the Matheson story. Why not call it "Will Smith Fights The Cancer Zombies" and make "I am Legend" next year, with Russell Crowe?
posted by PinkMolly at 8:10 AM on March 6, 2008


I was annoyed about the original ending because Neville dies totally unnecessarily. I mean, I don't mind his character dying in general, I'd just like it to be for a purpose. He could have crawled into the oven thing with the others, waited until the plexiglass broke, tossed the grenade, and shut the door. The effect would have been exactly the same, except he would have survived.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 8:11 AM on March 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


I liked the part where Arnold Schwarzenegger decided not to be in it.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:27 AM on March 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


Weird they spent so much time on CGI-ombies before deciding to shoot a different ending.
posted by John Shaft at 8:30 AM on March 6, 2008


This alternate ending may have been better if had included a voice over of Will Smith at the end (instead of the girl) talking about some possible regret he might have felt for becoming the monster to them or something along those lines. Oh, and he probably shouldn't have gotten out of there without a strong punch from the big bad boyfriend.
posted by inconsequentialist at 8:35 AM on March 6, 2008


From the "ending" link:

The more devastating problem with I Am Legend, however, is the ending. I’m not going to get into spoiler territory here, so I’ll just say this: somewhere along the line in the development process, it seems that they decided to: A) Completely disregard Matheson’s novel and the themes and points therein; and B) Blow their entire budget on their big end-of-act-II chase scene and shoot multiple endings to cover for the fact that they don’t have a third act. In every previous draft of this script (I’ve read ones by Mark Protosevich, John Logan, and currently-credited Akiva Goldsman) this film had a great twist at the end of Act II, a twist derived from Matheson’s novel that completely changes the way we see and understand Neville’s plight. It was the key to the script, without this revelation we were simply watching a man fight the inevitable.

I've heard similarly cryptic references to key plot twists in the original novel that made this a more coherent story. As I don't have the original on hand and I don't really feel like tracking down abandoned drafts of the shooting script, can anyone fill me in on what these twists were? I liked I Am Legend for what it was - a reasonably intelligent and only mildly incoherent Hollywood popcorn flick - but then I'm a sucker for dystopic stuff. And so I'm curious what a more faithful and meaty version would've contained.

Anyone?
posted by gompa at 8:38 AM on March 6, 2008


I prefer the original. The movie had such a bleak tone that to end on a high note with everyone getting away unharmed would have done it a disservice.

Will's character was damaged; he had become more and more unhinged, as the first three fourths of the movie took great pains to detail, and it would have been a complete waste to in the final moments suggest that, "Oh, look the zombies care for one another, I guess I can move on with my life". That he remained blind to their motivation was a more interesting choice.

Besides, his sacrifice in the original brings closure to what his character had become.

And it gives reason for title.
posted by quin at 8:39 AM on March 6, 2008


jontyjago: "The alternate ending doesn't match the bit earlier where he notes that the zombies have lost all human-like behaviour..."

I saw that scene and thought "Wow, that shows how much of a lab-nerd he is. That was clearly human-like behavior." The alternate ending shows him learning something new.
posted by Plutor at 8:52 AM on March 6, 2008


Wow, I didn't see any zombie romance subplot in the theatrical release at all, am I just blind?
posted by Skorgu at 8:52 AM on March 6, 2008


The alternate ending doesn't match the bit earlier where he notes that the zombies have lost all human-like behaviour...

On the contrary, it matches it perfectly, Smith's character misjudges the zombies behaviour because he has become so damaged by his experiences. Your mistake was to rely on the narrator.
posted by biffa at 8:53 AM on March 6, 2008 [2 favorites]


kittens for breakfast wrote:
But this is a dumb. One would think the most money of all, evar, would come from a movie with Will Smith, great FX, AND a great story. And if the story's irrelevant anyway, then why fuck around with it?
In the initial phases of planning I Am Legend, there was a strong drive to get Johnny Depp in to be the head zombie and to make a story that was more faithful to Matheson's original, where zombies actually have coherent, articulate thoughts and aren't just feral.

But then Johnny Depp committed to doing Sweeney Todd and the producers, for lack of imagination on an alternate, let the standard Hollywood calculus take over and decided to replace 'Depp star power appeal' with 'big boom special FX appeal'.
posted by bl1nk at 8:55 AM on March 6, 2008


gompa: I'm guessing it's the nature of Neville's girlfriend. In the book some of the vampires have "come out the other side", and are trying to rebuild some kind of society. They can't do this with a lone nutcase running around killing them, so they set up a cute fem vampire to be "rescued" and taken home by him, and she ultimately betrays him to the others. He's their bogeyman (hence "I am Legend"), and they basically put him on trial for mass murder.
posted by Leon at 9:03 AM on March 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


The unused ending tacked on to the existing movie just seems weird. If there had been more shots that these zombies are not totally inhuman that the audience was privy to, but that Will Smith overlooks, then maybe the ending would make sense. But as it is, we've been told and shown that the zombies are completely inhuman for the whole movie. To have it end like this seems very "and then it was all a dream" crap that 4th-graders pull when they don't know how to end a story.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:05 AM on March 6, 2008


Original plot twist for those who wanted to know:

The woman that saves Neville is a vampire (they`re vampires, not zombies, in the book). she plays human to get closer to him. There are two kinds of vampires, the semi-mindless ones that try to break into his house every night, and ones that are still intelligent and have their own nighttime society. Neville doesn`t know this and when he goes vampire hunting during the day he kills both types while they are asleep. he`s eventually captured by the smart ones and imprisoned to be executed. When he sees their reaction to them, and realizes he`s the last of his kind and every day this entire society goes to sleep fearing that he`d kill them, he sees that they`re now the norm and he`s the monster. Hence the title ``I Am Legend`` something the movie had nothing to do with. There were little hints it might go in that direction but the third act just made it Will Smith fights zombies. Which is fine. But why name a movie after a book if you take out the entire reason the book is titled what it`s titled.
posted by thecjm at 9:06 AM on March 6, 2008 [5 favorites]


gompa: In the book, the infected were less, screaming roaring monsters, and more coherent evil things trying to call the hero out of his house at night so they could eat him or whatever, and instead of trying to experiment on and cure them, he was basically walking around all day putting stakes through them and dragging them into the sunlight.

*spoilers for the book*

The twist at the end being that not all the infected people turned into evil monsters, they just got very light sensitive or something. The girl that he meets turns out to be one of the infected trying to trick him, so they have him punished for basically mass murdering a bunch of innocent people.

The "I am Legend", was about how he'd killed so many of them that he was now their equivalent of what legendary monsters are to us.
posted by emperor.seamus at 9:08 AM on March 6, 2008 [5 favorites]


You're right, papakwanz, it was sort-of-there, and I didn't need such a tidy ending as this one, that's for sure... but while the girlfriend-issue may have been "pretty clear" to the viewer,

The girlfriend issue was completely and totally unknown to this viewer. At best the story supported that Boss Zombie hated Smith because he was hunting them but nothing in the film portrayed them as having any emotions beyond what you'd find in a wild animal. They were displayed at ever turn as ravenous savage beasts, with Boss Zombie beiong portrayed as more of a higher level predator. At then end, I simply thought Boss Zombie was just trying to get through the glass to kill him.

In particular, the smashing of his head against the glass seemed to symbolize that they were completely savage and utterly without thought.

And while I usually try to notice subtle details in setting, cinematography or dialogue, when the opening sequence is little more than an advertisement for Ford and the post-collapse New York is littered with product placement advertising, the filmmakers lose the credibility to add details subtle they want me to focus on. He drives a shiny new Shelby Mustang in the beginning of the film, but never again? His vehicle of choice is a Ford Expedition? The woman and the boy drive to the village in shiny new Ford Escape? Are the car models symbolic "They escape to the village, get it?" I'm surprised Will smith didn't show his dog his new Converse sneakers, "vintage 2004!"

I feel no shame for missing the semiotics of zombie romance amidst the advertising clutter. You want us to watch for clues, don't clutter our vision with ads.
posted by Pastabagel at 9:09 AM on March 6, 2008 [3 favorites]


beaten to it. woe.
posted by emperor.seamus at 9:09 AM on March 6, 2008


Thanks, gang. If you combined the two plot threads (Smith's character as well-meaning experimenter and only occasional killer alongside the existence of a semi-functional infected society) that would indeed be a much more interesting and thematically complex movie. But then it wouldn't have a grenade explosion, I guess. And the kids loves them some grenade explosions.
posted by gompa at 9:12 AM on March 6, 2008


And for everybody who didn`t see the zombie are smarter than Neville thought, How the hell did they set a elaborate trap for him, complete with a mannequin, hidden spikes, dogs, and the same pulley system he`d been using to snare them if they were just the mindless zombies he though they were.
posted by thecjm at 9:13 AM on March 6, 2008


This ain't no Blade Runner.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:15 AM on March 6, 2008 [2 favorites]


The girlfriend issue was completely and totally unknown to this viewer.

Maybe it's a conceit, but I like to think I didn't need need the guy sitting behind me who said "Oh, sheeeeit, don't go stealin' the zombie missus, crazy-Will-Smith!"

I swear, word for word.
posted by rokusan at 9:19 AM on March 6, 2008 [8 favorites]


cjm, I came to the conclusion (foolishly, in hindsight, maybe) that the trap was one previously set by Neville that he forgot about due, in part, to losing his sanity. Not being familiar with the book, I didn't get a lot of inclinations during the movie that the zombie/vampires were anything more than feral, but I could have just been distracted by the annoying-ass teenagers nearby.
posted by srw12 at 9:21 AM on March 6, 2008


srw12 the entire group I was with interpreted it that way as well.
posted by Skorgu at 9:34 AM on March 6, 2008


cjm, I came to the conclusion (foolishly, in hindsight, maybe) that the trap was one previously set by Neville that he forgot about due, in part, to losing his sanity.

This is what I concluded after the fact, when the scene still didn't make any particular sense by the end of the film. Either that or the trap was the remaining vestige of some scrapped plot thread.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:37 AM on March 6, 2008


I was just surprised that apparently Brazilians have never heard of Bob Marley, and must rely on Will Smith to teach them about the singer. I was also surprised that Brazil's evacuation plan in dealing with a zombie epidemic is to put a few dozen people on a boat and send them to Connecticut. What the fuck is wrong with Brazil?
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:52 AM on March 6, 2008


Having seen all three versions of this movie (Vincent Price, Charleton Heston, Wil Smith), and having seen them all die in the end I was not so disappointed as the people behind me. I did prefer the Vincent Price ending where he was basically crucified and his last words were They don't know me or they don't know what they've done. The main character had to die being that he was the savior that these zombie/vampires had misunderstood.
posted by Gungho at 9:54 AM on March 6, 2008


cjm, I came to the conclusion (foolishly, in hindsight, maybe) that the trap was one previously set by Neville that he forgot about due, in part, to losing his sanity.

Yes, that's what I thought, too. Especially since there was a mannequin there that he had talked to previously. How would the zombie have known about that?
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:59 AM on March 6, 2008


When I first saw the alternate ending I thought it was much better, but in hindsight I think that came from the amazement that an alternate ending exists at all—I thought the whole "studio interference changes the movie" thing was such an artistic cliche nowadays that it didn't actually happen any more. So to see a second ending with the same production values was a shock. I guess the idea of a do-over seemed better than the one we actually got, though.

Elements I did like: it's a pretty tense ending up until the point the zombies leave. After that, I still liked the concept of everyone driving to Maine like it was a big ol' camping trip, because that also fixes a major problem with the original ending—it leaves open the question of whether anyone else is still alive, because we never see them make it to Maine. But after giving it some thought, I think I like what I'd imagined from the alternate ending better than what it actually was.

Maybe it's because the picture was too small, but there was a moment where I thought the zombie woman had died. Obviously, as retribution, the zombies would've then killed the human woman and son, thus bringing everything back to the central point: Neville is alone, will always be alone, and will die knowing that he destroyed every chance he had at something resembling human companionship. As for the road trip ending, it's obviously a hopeful one, and in some sense unearned—I guess the storyline reason would be that without any need to cure the zombies (who have cured themselves with LURVE) there's no reason for him to stay in NYC, but how does this change his central viewpoint that a) everyone is dead, and b) NYC is safer than the crappy little truck that will no doubt be attacked in the woods somewhere?

P.S. The trap fits the theme of the movie far better if it's Neville's. His weakening grip on sanity costs him his dog—adding a planned zombie ambush into the mix makes that point weaker, I think.
posted by chrominance at 10:15 AM on March 6, 2008


The Vincent Price ending.
posted by EarBucket at 10:21 AM on March 6, 2008


Having never read the book, I still saw the zombie-girlfriend connection and loved the fact that Neville couldn't see it. He was disappointed that the dude displayed a disregard for his own self-preservation and took that to mean he was becoming less human. When confronted with the loss of a loved one, how is that not human?

Haven't watched the alternate ending, but I'm not really interested. Didn't really care for the original ending either ("Thank God for Vermont!").
posted by ODiV at 10:22 AM on March 6, 2008


You know what makes for convincing cgi? stretchy mouths. every time.
posted by shmegegge at 10:32 AM on March 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is so strange; I thought it was patently obvious in the film that Smith's character was wrong about the zombies not exhibiting any human-like behavior and that this was, in fact, the theme of the movie. The reason he didn't see that zombies exhibiting human-like behavior was because he, himself, had stopped exhibiting most human-like behavior and was becoming more and more like the zombies.

I don't really understand how people missed the whole point of the movie; Did you not see the Alpha Zombie deliberately step into the sunlight to try and get to Smith after he had captured the female zombie? Did you not see Smith's bewilderment at this?

What about the bit where the alpha zombie moved one of Smith's mannequins in a (successful) attempt to lure him into an ambush?

What about... well you get the idea.

That's what the movie was about Both endings sucked, though, and were a betrayal of what came before. Until the big-budget explosion chase bit I thought this was a pretty decent movie (if not much like the novel), but it completely fell apart in the last 15 minutes. Completely.
posted by Justinian at 10:49 AM on March 6, 2008


I don't really understand how people missed the whole point of the movie

Just because a movie monster makes a trap doesn't mean that it possesses human-like emotions or reasoning. Just because a monster might consider going into the daylight to try and attack what is clearly the one uninfected guy in Manhattan who keeps killing all his friends doesn't mean that we should all know that when he starts going all psycho at the end, it's not because he's a monster, it's because he luuuuurves his girlfriend.

Movie monsters are quite often ridiculously smart. That doesn't mean they're human.
posted by 23skidoo at 11:04 AM on March 6, 2008


Did you not see the Alpha Zombie deliberately step into the sunlight to try and get to Smith after he had captured the female zombie? Did you not see Smith's bewilderment at this?

The problem is that it's equally if not more plausible that that was just a dumb zombie. I'd have to go over the movie again, I only saw it once when it first came out but I never had an inkling that that was a subtext the movie was trying to present.
posted by Skorgu at 11:48 AM on March 6, 2008


The problem is that it's equally if not more plausible that that was just a dumb zombie.

I disagree; Smith's character is portrayed in the scene as very surprised that the zombie came out into the sunlight. He almost makes the connection at that point but is distracted and never comes back to it.
posted by Justinian at 11:55 AM on March 6, 2008


Love makes you do stupid things.

It's interesting reading about these alternate interpretations of the film. I'm always amazed when I see a film with a friend and find out, talking afterwards, that we both took completely different meanings away.

*snif*, takes me back to my intro to mass media course.
posted by ODiV at 11:59 AM on March 6, 2008


Smith's character is portrayed in the scene as very surprised that the zombie came out into the sunlight.

He wouldn't have been surprised at an idiot zombie? Or potentially worried that the zombies were becoming less photosensitive (my second thought)? The film certainly could have put more emphasis on the fact that it was a unique reaction to taking a zombie for study, we only see the one capture in the film IIRC.

To be clear, I'm not disagreeing that that was the intended message of the film, in hindsight it's pretty obvious. I just think they did a pretty piss-poor job of it.
posted by Skorgu at 12:05 PM on March 6, 2008


What about the bit where the alpha zombie moved one of Smith's mannequins in a (successful) attempt to lure him into an ambush?

Like others above, I thought it was just a trap that Will Smith had set himself earlier, and forgotten about b/c he was going crazy. Count me among the book-was-better crowd.
posted by inigo2 at 12:05 PM on March 6, 2008


This ending is worse if only for the fact that it highlights how distracting the fake-ass CGI zombies were.
posted by Mikey-San at 12:09 PM on March 6, 2008


Is the Old Yeller scene in the book?
posted by operalass at 12:34 PM on March 6, 2008


This discussion has turned out to be fascinating if only because it reveals how different people watch movies. Great Mefi discussion.

I don't really understand how people missed the whole point of the movie; Did you not see the Alpha Zombie deliberately step into the sunlight to try and get to Smith after he had captured the female zombie? Did you not see Smith's bewilderment at this?

I noticed all of this, and I thought it was simply an acknowledgment that a zombie was the alpha of the others, and that their will to hunt (high predator behavior) in the absence of food may start to overcome their survival instincts, meaning that the conceit that they don't come out in sunlight may not continue to operate through the rest of the movie. Therefore, smith and the viewer, would need to be on the lookout for zombies in the daytime as well, rather than casually hitting golf balls without a care in the world.

The trap the zombies set was interesting, and for me was where the movie began to fall apart. The head zombie clearly set the trap by bringing a mannequin over (even if he used an existing trap set up by smith), but that simply revealed that Boss Zombie had been stalking him and saw him enter the video store (how else would he know that smith talked to the mannequin). (again a highly sophisticated predator). Furthermore, I think there may be a continuity problem here - didn't smith enter the video store before he captured the girl, implying that Boss Zombie had already been watching him? (I might be wrong about this).

The fact that the zombie he captured was female made me think at the time that ultimately he would cure her and she would become his love interest, only to have the cure kill her. But again, I saw no clue that she was Boss Zombie's love interest. Other people did obviously, so different strokes for different folks, I guess.
posted by Pastabagel at 1:13 PM on March 6, 2008


Re-watching the Vincent Price ending, I am struck by how Soviet the social vampires are. And the b/w photography has that Red Scare Era feel to it, too. "They're afraid of me!" Another plea to conquer fear and understand one another. This was probably one of those subversive movies foisted on America by Hollywood Commies, meant to warp children into a com-symp mindset.
Also, wasn't there a made-for-TV version of I Am Legend that was very close to the book? (No, I don't mean the Charlton Heston thing. This was b/w, done maybe 1959 or so for Playhouse 90 or something similar.)
posted by CCBC at 1:15 PM on March 6, 2008


Furthermore, I think there may be a continuity problem here

I think the big problem is that Neville would probably never have entered the video store at night, so there isn't any real plausible way (unless I'm totally overlooking something) his actions there could have been observed by the zombies at all.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 1:46 PM on March 6, 2008


SPF 50?
posted by ODiV at 1:50 PM on March 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


Is the Old Yeller scene in the book?

It's a bit different in the book, here are scans from the comic adaptation.
posted by Tenuki at 2:18 PM on March 6, 2008


So basically we're never going to get a decent adaptation of the book?
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:29 PM on March 6, 2008


I can't believe the "Sam" plot twist isn't getting more discussion. I mean, for most of the movie he calls the dog Sam, and everybody think it's a male. And then he finally calls her "Samantha" and the viewer is all like NO WAY.
posted by Rhaomi at 2:32 PM on March 6, 2008


I was just surprised that apparently Brazilians have never heard of Bob Marley, and must rely on Will Smith to teach them about the singer

I'm surprised that anyone would think that "the greatest album ever made" was a greatest hits compilation.
posted by Bonzai at 2:58 PM on March 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


So basically we're never going to get a decent adaptation of the book?

My guess would be no.

I haven't seen the new one, but I saw Omega Man a few years back and read the book early last year. So when I first heard they were doing the movie with Will Smith I immediatly knew it was going to be flawed.

I just don't think Will-Smith-working-out-with-his-shirt-off is going to measure up to the drunken-bastard-Neville from the book.

Also I heard the screenplay was based off of the Omega Man movie and not actually the book.
posted by P.o.B. at 3:38 PM on March 6, 2008


I'm surprised that anyone would think that "the greatest album ever made" was a greatest hits compilation.

Yeah, that was funny, but isn't that one of the best selling albums of all time? Probably a lot of people think it's the greatest.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 3:44 PM on March 6, 2008


(warning - possible spoilers)
“Why not just stick to what happens in the book? (That'd be too easy?)”

It does seem like in any film that’s not a real heavyweight (The Departed, say) there’s no real tragedy. I mean the book is just one downer after another with Neville on the edge all the time, broken in psyche, and as soon as he stabilized - bam - he gets it again.
The book was one of the few instances I felt any real fear for the main character. Neville blows getting back to the house before sundown and the vampires are everywhere and I’m thinking “There’s no way he’s going to make this.” I can’t think of any other work (offhand) where I’ve thought the same. But Matheson sets us up for nearly anything happening (such as the death, or dismemberment, or serious injury of the main character) by allowing really tragic events to occur to Neville.

The film, well, ok it was smart to wire the car line (why waste all the batteries and gas vapor) but it’s irritating that every main character is in superb shape, is tactically trained, is a brilliant ‘x’-ist and is incredibly resistant to mental stress in all forms, etc. etc. etc.
I liked the fact that (in the book) Neville was just some dude. Had to keep getting the same kind of car because that’s all he knew how to fix, learned by failure (picked up a microscope, smashed the microscope, had to go to the library to pick up a book on microscopes, got a new, actually useful, microscope) and so forth.

Something more faithful (gompa) would have had him being alone from the start, mired in constant depression, not driving these fantastic cars all over the place, constantly hounded by vampires at night such that he has to drown them out with noise and booze and sleeping pills, intermixed with the horrors of the day - slaughtering vampires, staking them, etc. with horrific effects (writhing or turning to dust) finding the dog, going through a long arduous process of befrending it, only to have it die on him...
...you know the scene in the film where Smith is mainfestly at his absolute nadir emotionally and he screams “DIE!” and starts running over zombies? *That* was Neville. Neville starts there.
His cause is and always was absolutely hopeless because he really was the last man on Earth. And he kills them because otherwise they’d mass up enough to kill him. He does it only because he has to. He investigates and discovers that vampirism is caused by a bacteria. He looks for a cure, finds a serum to innoculate uninfected humans, but not cure the infected - which seems to be everyone. So he keeps killing them.

And it would have been interesting on film to watch him oscillate between dispair and madness. “The Quiet Earth” had a bit of that.
Something doesn’t have to mirror the book to be true to it. The film “One Flew Over the Coocoo’s Nest” is nothing like the book in exposition, but is very much true to it in the sense that the themes and emotional truths are the same. I mean I really feel it when Billy Pilgrim strikes the ground with his fist in the film. That sharp emotional edge (and the impending horror of the big nurse) is derived from the book.

In addition to thecjm’s nice summary, it should have ended with Smith in a tower taking cyanide. There are so many film references they could have drawn from that the book plays to - Dracula in his castle, Frankenstein being surrounded by villagers with pitchforks - etc. etc. - where the monster and the human are inverted and the human is hunted down by a monster society and is their bogeyman even though they derive pleasure from killing and he does it only because he feels he must.
(Surely Matheson saw the peasants feeling their power in numbers in pursuit of the monster, how the mob subsumed them and they became blind to the tragedy of the monster - only makes sense to invert the monster and the human to point up the monstrousity of that power whether weilded by a human or vampire mob)
In addition to the revelation that he is (inadvertantly) a real monster because he accepts the dispair and never realizes - and it’s a poigniant moment in the book - bacteria mutates.

Instead - everyone is self-sacrificing and loves each other - it was all just a misunderstanding. But ooh! ‘splosions. Gah.
And I agree with Pastabagel, all the visual cues were off, intentionaly misleading or superfluous. I mean I even yelled at the screen - oh, sheeeeit, don't go stealin' the zombie missus, crazy-Will-Smith! but nothing happened.

“On average, a bad story with Will Smith and great fx will make 10x the money as a good story with a no-name actor and cheap effects.”

Yeah. Seems so. (disclaimer: IDNWiHOLiL.A.) I think “Broadcast News” is an excellent exposition on the general interplay (and battle) of - substance and integrity vs. presentation and expediancy.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:53 PM on March 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


(BTW: Yeah, that’s right, Shubert is noise *smirk* - I collected all the music from the book. Wow, Matheson has a lot to say about Nevilles state of mind from that song list. )
posted by Smedleyman at 3:57 PM on March 6, 2008


You know what makes for convincing cgi? stretchy mouths. every time.

What you are referring to is commonly known as Mummy mouth (it should be, anyway), named after the first known usage in Brendan Fraser's finest film, The Mummy.

The bad CGI completely distracted me from the plot. How was I supposed to notice the zombie love story thing when all I could think about was the sand-face from The Mummy? Nice work, special effects guys.
posted by graventy at 4:02 PM on March 6, 2008


So right about the stretchy mouths. I saw them fillming this movie in Manhattan, and seeing all the mutant extras I was surprised to watch this clip and discover that they looked as convincing as the CyberChrist in "The Lawnmower Man"!
posted by johngoren at 4:03 PM on March 6, 2008


I preferred this new ending if only because it did away with Neville's epiphany/'rebirth' as a believer in God... or something.

But that's not the point I wanted to make. I read in a promo booklet that they originally started shooting the film with the zombies played by regular actors rather than CGI. According to the booklet, they switched to CGI to get the 'overactive adrenaline' gland effect that was hard with real actors (all the hyperventilating, etc). The aforementioned Johnny Depp departure may be the real, or another reason.

But it just pains me to think about how great this movie would have been with real actors playing the zombies.. The thing that ruined this movie for me (besides the ending) was not the crummy CGI but rather that the CGI made the zombies almost super-human. Rather than desperate, rabid humans who've lost their faculties, they were just supernatural monsters.
posted by The Wig at 5:05 PM on March 6, 2008


My overly religious friends loved the fact that the little town at the end was a city of walls centered around a church. They decided to start showing it as soon as it came out on DVD to their youth group.

Adding Christianity to a zombie movie is insanity. Christ (assuming he existed as the Bible would like us to believe) would never be able to stand watching a fictitious account of human suffering, his whole gig was caring for the suffering, not exploiting it for entertainment.
posted by M Edward at 7:13 PM on March 6, 2008


So basically we're never going to get a decent adaptation of the book?

No sh*t. Before seeing the movie, I saw the trailer, and it looked intriguing enough for me to buy the book. Which I did. Except it's not really a book. It's hardly a novella. It's a grand short story. And it sticks with you.

So when I got to the film, and saw...whatever that was, I flinched|grimaced|cringed. Hard.

The theatre showing I went to sold out. So[spoiler—wtf ever—the movie is drek] when Will Smith "kills the dog" and then [shudder] acts, and I felt as if I had paid money to be emotionally bludgeoned, I was there experiencing this bad ride with a couple of hundred others.

But glancing over to see what other people are thinking about this gratuitous and off-point Hollywood misstep (I mean, did anyone even read the book?), all these guys are freaking sobbing in the movie theatre.

Honestly, right then at that moment, I felt like I was the last person on earth.
posted by humannaire at 7:45 PM on March 6, 2008 [2 favorites]


chrominance: because that also fixes a major problem with the original ending—it leaves open the question of whether anyone else is still alive, because we never see them make it to Maine.

This just isn't true, the woman and child are shown making it to Maine and the settlement, along with a voiceover about Neville giving his life. I remember it specifically because the Maine settlement is powered by wind turbines and I keep a log of incidences of wind turbines in film and TV. (For work you see)
posted by biffa at 5:34 AM on March 8, 2008


I'm late to the thread--just finished watching the dvd of the movie. I thought it was obvious that there was zombie love prior to this ending.

but that simply revealed that Boss Zombie had been stalking him and saw him enter the video store

I can understand why people are confused by this--the same reason that Neville would be. The assumption is that this particular mannequin was used by the zombies because he spoke with it. Not so (imo). It's simply a "human", which would draw the prey. It doesn't matter that he spoke with it (the zombie wouldn't know that)--it only matters that it would draw Neville. Further, I'd say this mannequin was chosen simply because it was the most accessible. It was the only one that was outside already.
posted by dobbs at 10:36 PM on March 15, 2008


Oh, and interestingly, this alternate ending is nowhere to be found on the dvd.

And... does anyone know if that dog's been cast in anything else. She was terrific.
posted by dobbs at 10:43 PM on March 15, 2008


There were three dogs cast as "Sam," Abby, Kona, and the puppy Sam. Doesn't look like either of the adult dogs have been in anything else.
posted by Tenuki at 1:23 AM on March 16, 2008


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