I Am Legend
Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend tells the tale of Robert Neville, the sole survivor of a disease that has turned the rest of the Earth’s inhabitants into vampires. Neville spends most of his time trying to survive, even barricading himself in his own home in order to make it through the nights.
Perhaps more well-known than Matheson’s novel is the 2007 film adaptation of I Am Legend, which is directed by Francis Lawrence and stars Will Smith. The film, which received quite a bit of praise when it first came out, alters the premise of Matheson’s story. Smith still plays the sole survivor of a disease—but that disease was brought about while attempting to find a cure for cancer, and the products of the disease are less close to vampires and closer to what viewers would consider to be zombies.
But the changes made to Matheson’s original story mostly help to modernize the film and make it more relatable to 21st-century viewers. Not only does the film play off of the popularity of zombie narratives, but it showcases a society hellbent on finding a cure for cancer—something any modern-day viewer can appreciate—and it highlights the fact that humans did this to themselves.
The film still covers Neville’s lonely efforts to get by accurately, with Smith’s acting only compelling viewers to empathize with his character more. After all, anything that he stars in usually benefits from his acting skills.
The ending of the film also takes a different path than the ending of the book, focusing more heavily on Neville’s ability to find a cure and save the remainder of humanity. In the book version of I Am Legend, Neville has a much bleaker fate, as he finds himself captured by the infected humans and forced to accept that he’s the last of his kind.
Both the book and the film of I Am Legend have a powerful impact, though they’re very different from one another. Whether you prefer the novel or the film, both are certainly worth checking out.