To see a Hollywood film adaptation play fast and loose with its own source material, showing a glaring lack of respect for an author’s intent, is something we see on a daily basis—hell, M. Night Shyamalan just butchered the meaning of Paul Tremblay’s horror novel in Knock at the Cabin a few weeks ago. It’s a little bit less common, though, to see a long-delayed film sequel elect to simply ignore the ending of the previous film it’s sequelizing. But that’s apparently exactly what we’re going to see in the just-announced sequel to 2007’s I Am Legend from Warner Bros. Can we call this one I 2 Am Legend?
Instead of following the theatrical ending that was seen by millions in theaters and at home—in which Will Smith’s character Dr. Robert Neville sacrifices himself and dies—the film will instead reportedly turn its alternate ending seen only in DVD extras into the canonical ending of the first film. In that ending, Neville not only survives, but he reaches a more peaceful understanding with the vampire-like “Darkseeker” creatures, realizing that he has been the one terrorizing them.
This ending is actually closer in spirit to the original 1954 novel by author Richard Matheson, though it still doesn’t go nearly as far as Matheson’s story, which sees Neville actually put on trial by the intelligent “monsters” for crimes against their society. That kind of moral gray area is so often lost in Hollywood translation, which resulted in the 2007 ending that cast Smith as more of a traditional hero. The decision to change that ending now, some 16 years later, seems to suggest that the studio is admitting they got it wrong. That, and they just want Smith’s character alive in the sequel, where he’ll reportedly be joined by Michael B. Jordan. The same story has likewise been adapted in two other, not particularly faithful films: 1964’s The Last Man on Earth with Vincent Price, and 1971’s The Omega Man with Charlton Heston.
Producer Akiva Goldsman makes the inevitable Last of Us comparison in hyping the new film:
“This will start a few decades later than the first,” he said in a statement. “I’m obsessed with The Last of Us, where we see the world just post-apocalypse but also after a 20-30-year lapse. You see how the earth reclaims the world, and there’s something beautiful in the question of, as man steps away from being the primary tenant, what happens? That will be especially visual in New York. I don’t know if they’ll climb up to the empire state building, but the possibilities are endless. We trace back to the original Matheson book, and the alternate ending as opposed to the released ending in the original film. What Matheson was talking about was that man’s time on the planet as the dominant species had come to an end. That’s a really interesting thing we’re going to get to explore. There will be a little more fidelity to the original text.”
We’ll bring you more info on this long-delayed sequel as it arrives.