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One of those films that for a long time seemed as though it would get some kind of sequel, prequel or continuation is 2007's I Am Legend. The film, which was based on a 1954 novel of the same name by Richard Matheson, grossed over $585 million worldwide. Despite being that successful, a sequel never materialized (yet). As far as the film's director Francis Lawrence is concerned, that was ultimately for the best. He recently spoke about the possibilities and why I Am Legend didn't need a sequel, saying:
[The studio] was really, really, really into coming up with something, and I just didn't know how to do it. I saw very quickly after the movie came out, and I went, 'People went to go see the last man on earth. We've done the last man on earth. He died at the end of the movie, we can't do it again.' But people weren't in love with him as a character. It's not Indiana Jones, like this kind of iconic character that you just want to see again and again and again.
I Am Legend felt right as a standalone movie, and Francis Lawrence hits the nail on the head as to why a continuation wouldn't really work. It is unsurprising to hear how much Warner Bros. wanted a sequel to the film; it was very successful, after all, and starred bonafide movie star Will Smith. But I think the difficulty in coming up with an interesting take is the very reason a sequel is unnecessary in the first place. As Francis Lawrence told MTV's Happy Sad Confused Podcast, it would have felt forced.
A sequel wouldn't have followed Will Smith's Robert Neville, who died in the first film, so some real narrative gymnastics would need to be performed to bring him back, and it would have felt somewhat dumb. It's a "last man on Earth" story, and without that format, it's just another version of The Walking Dead. And like Francis Lawrence said, Robert Neville is not Indiana Jones. He is not the kind of character that you want to follow again and again. He is primarily compelling because of the situation he finds himself in. Francis Lawrence also touched on the possibility of a prequel and why that wouldn't work either, saying:
It just felt forced to do a prequel. We would have been doing Contagion. And to do something that's a follow-up either doesn't have him in it, or you have to do something really dumb, which is, you know, 'Scientists have taken his DNA and reanimated him somehow!' And that would have been really dumb, and so I just kind of bowed out.
Indeed a prequel focusing on the genesis of the virus would have been just like Contagion or any other pandemic movie that has been done before. In this age of blockbusters and franchises, it is cool to hear Francis Lawrence using logical reasoning for why I Am Legend didn't spawn a sequel or prequel, and why he wouldn't be part of one. There simply wasn't a story worth telling. If only that logic governed more film industry decisions. The film stood on its own, and while Francis Lawrence would go back and change some things about I Am Legend, making a sequel or prequel isn't one of them. It would be great if more big budget fare and adaptations happened these days without the intent of extending it into a series, franchise or cinematic universe.
The 2007 I Am Legend starring Will Smith is actually only one of four film adaptations of Richard Matheson's novel. The ending was the most divisive aspect of Francis Lawrence's film in how it differed from the novel, and there is even an alternate ending available on the home video release. I imagine that eventually we'll see another modern adaptation of I Am Legend that hews closer to the source material. If Warner Bros. makes another I Am Legend, hopefully it is a full reboot instead of trying to piggyback off a ten-year-old movie. The story is an inherently compelling one and could be told very differently if done again. As for Francis Lawrence, the director is next tackling Red Sparrow, an adaptation of the spy novel by author Jason Matthews. Red Sparrow hits theaters on March 2.