Easter Eggs You Missed In I Am Legend

There's a lot going on in "I Am Legend." Francis Lawrence's 2007 blend of action and horror is loosely based on Richard Matheson's 1954 novel of the same title, and while the story still follows the last man alive in New York, Neville (played by Will Smith), amid a global outbreak that turns humans into vampiric monsters, the film deviates heavily from Matheson's book. With over 50 years between the novel and Warner Bros.' adaptation, there are bound to be some updates and hidden treats found on the big screen. And with a sequel announced, we've been revisiting the original and tracking down all of these tiny details. 

Some elements are explicitly meant to be picked up by the viewer; butterflies are a repeating motif and a divine symbol throughout the 101-minute runtime. But some gems aren't picked up until a second, third, or fourth viewing of the movie. To save everyone the trouble of watching that scene with the dog again, here are some of those Easter eggs that might have gone unnoticed.

Writing's on the wall

Post-apocalyptic movies are goldmines for predictions. In the nooks and crannies of civilization's ruins, a hawkeyed viewer can unravel more of the story. This is different from straight-up exposition like John Krasinski's incredible 2018 creature feature "A Quiet Place." Krasinski's movie delivered information about those creatures to its audience via a now-infamous scribbled whiteboard in the opening moments of the film, but "I Am Legend" dispenses tips more gingerly. 

Early in the movie, a news report is shown featuring Dr. Alice Krippin (played by an uncredited Emma Thompson) discussing a recent scientific breakthrough: a measles virus genetically-altered to treat cancer. But a glance downward at the ticker tape scrolling across the screen references some future events, including the news that NBA legend Shaquille O'Neal would be retiring from the sport "at the end of 2010." Turns out, Shaq really did retire after 19 years of pro basketball in the 2010-2011 season, just one season later than predicted.

A Dog Day Afternoon

The movie is not without its silent whiteboard information. During Neville's foraging excursions throughout the abandoned city, a newspaper bulletin on a cabinet alerts readers that infected dogs aren't as intensely averse to the daylight as the dawning race of humanoid Darkseekers. "Infected dogs can come out at dusk," the notice reads, along with a photo of the feral dogs and a call to stay in the light. It's a nifty bit of foreshadowing that precedes an infected dog attack (unleashed by the infected humans) on Neville and his dog Sam later in the film. It's an emotionally devastating moment; the duo survive the attack, but Sam is bitten in the mayhem, and her human companion knows that the countdown to her transformation has already begun. 

An inside joke

German filmmaker Wolfgang Petersen, known for works like "Das Boot" and "The Perfect Storm," was set to begin production on "Batman vs. Superman" in 2003, with a script co-written by Akiva Goldsman and Andrew Kevin Walker. The project underwent delays and eventually the studio nixed it altogether after failed talks about continuing franchises for each of the fictional superheroes. While Warner Bros. would release "Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice" in 2016, it had a different creative team, without Goldsman and Walker. Goldman, who co-wrote "I Am Legend," still got to sneak in a reference to the lost project, which is why, as Neville scavenges Times Square, a billboard for "Batman vs. Superman" is seen in the background.

Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)

There's nothing like an effective head turn from an inanimate object to rattle the spirit. The horror and thriller genres understand this intimately; when a direct look towards the camera comes from a human in these sorts of films, it conjures up the same immediate audience recoil that happens when Lars Thorwald looks at the camera in Hitchcock's "Rear Window," because it feels like we're being caught. It is twice as jarring when the turn comes from something that isn't supposed to move at all. In 2015, "Hell House, LLC"  thoroughly freaked its protagonists and its audiences out by observing, through found footage, a clown dummy moving its head and appearing to break the fourth wall. "I Am Legend" puts its lonely star Neville through the wringer, wracking him with guilt and eventually doing a number on his psyche, as extreme, sustained isolation can do.

While driving through Manhattan, Neville shows familiarity with several mannequins scattered locally, even naming a few. One orange-hooded mannequin, "Fred," is moved mysteriously from the store where he normally sits — it's unclear at this point whether Neville moved it and simply forgot due to a deteriorating mental condition, or another living person (who looks like a mannequin but also like the creatures after his blood) is out in broad daylight. But he looks closer, and Fred's head appears to turn from the left to the front, looking directly towards Neville. The making-of featurette for "I Am Legend" reveals that actor Martin Soole was made up and replaced the mannequin, in order to invite the viewer into Neville's state of mind and echo his paranoia. So yes, it's not an illusion and there's no need to call the therapist — Fred really did move.