Warners Plans I Am Legend Prequel

With Will Smith to return

SPOILER WARNING! SPOILERS ABOUND!

Thought you’d seen the last of Will Smith’s Dr. Robert Neville? After all, at the end of 2007’s I Am Legend, the good doctor and former self-styled Last Man On Earth was splattered all over his lab – along with a gaggle of mutant nasties – courtesy of a self-sacrificial hand grenade.

Kaboom. Franchise? What franchise?

Yet Warner Bros. has $584,151,304 reasons to bring Neville back for another I Am Legend, and today they announced plans to do just that, with Smith, director Francis Lawrence, and producer, Akiva Goldsman all returning. How so? Are you ready to say the magic word?

Prequel.

Yes, screenwriter D. B. Weiss has been commissioned to write a script for a movie that will chronicle the last days of the population of New York as millions either succumb to the virus that wipes out mankind, or become the mutants that force Smith’s sole survivor to hole up in a reinforced Manhattan townhouse by night.

The script will be based on a detailed outline that has been worked up by Smith, Lawrence, Goldsman and Smith’s producing partner, James Lassiter. It’s not clear yet how much of the story, if anything, will be based on the Richard Matheson novel that started it all. Nor is it clear yet what the title will be: I Will Be Legend? I Am Going To Be Legend? I’m Not Legend Just Yet But Give Me Five Minutes?

We’re big fans of Smith here at Empire, but this seems like a baffling move to us. I Am Legend had its flaws, but it told the story of how Neville came to be alone in New York with admirable economy. Do we really need to have those blanks filled in? How much dramatic tension can there be in telling a story where the outcome is so pre-ordained? At least, with the Star Wars prequels, we knew the who of Anakin Skywalker’s transformation into Darth Vader, but we didn’t know the why, the how, or the where.

On the other hand, this could be a very commendable move on the part of all parties. After all, a straight-ahead sequel would have been easier to mount, albeit without Smith (who could still have appeared in flashbacks). Just introduce new survivors, pit them against a new breed of mutant and Bob’s your uncle.

But in going back and committing to telling a story that can only end with the protagonist going slowly insane, alone, in a ghostly New York City, Smith & Co. might be making a gutsy move. Could this, in fact, be the biggest feel-bad movie of all time?

As ever, readers, we want to hear from you.