Since Richard Matheson’s publication of I Am Legend in 1954, the gripping story of Robert Neville has been adapted to film on three separate occasions. First was “The Last Man On Earth” in 1964, then came “The Omega Man” in 1971, and most recently was “I Am Legend” starring Will Smith in 2007. Any fan of Matheson’s novel will remind you how each film has criminally moved further and further away from its classic source material. It is a canonical masterpiece in the science fiction genre that simply has not been granted the adaptation it deserves. Unfortunately, it seems as if Warner Bros. Entertainment seeks to continue this trend by molding “I Am Legend” into a new franchise.
The cruel reality is this: Hollywood is gradually closing its doors on original stories. The reason for this is simple; sequels, prequels, and adaptations simply sell more tickets. Just take into account that back in 1981, 7 out of 10 of the year’s highest grossing films were original stories. In 2011, however, 0 out of the 10 films consisted of fresh material. I’m not trying to claim that films that fall under these categories are all money-grabs, just look at Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy or Peter Jackson’s Oscar-winning adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. However, the second I heard the news about an “I Am Legend” reboot, I could not help but assume that this is bound to be a safe project that leads to a sub-par result that will still undoubtedly make a silly amount of money.
Speaking of money, Will Smith’s 2007 remake of “I Am Legend” made $585,349,010 worldwide on a $150 million budget (even with terrible CGI and an even worse ending). I understand how a reboot can add an interesting new take on a beloved story, but only waiting seven years since the previous interpretation seems ridiculous. Just to clear things up, this is not a continuation of the 2007 film, but a completely new reboot that will not include Will (or Jaden) Smith. This sort of rushed exploitation seems to be a common theme nowadays. For instance, in 2013 Spike Lee made a remake of the highly praised 2003 film Oldboy. Unsurprisingly, it was a box office bomb, having one of the weakest Thanksgiving openings of all-time while also receiving poor reviews. On the other hand, remakes can certainly be done well, as with the Coen Brother’s ten time Oscar-nominated film True Grit (2009). This was made forty-one years after the original, and I will be the first to admit that I walked into the theater without any knowledge of it being a remake. That is the way it should be.
Despite all of the flak I have expressed towards reboot, the story behind the screenplay is extremely uplifting for any film student or writer who is convinced that their screenplay has no shot at getting picked up. An ordinary man named Gary Graham was working at a Apple store in midtown Manhattan when he posted his spec script, A Garden at the End of the World, on the Black List website This got him the attention of manager Brooklyn Weaver, and after several bids, Warner Bros. acquired the script. The script itself is describied as a sci-fi version of John Wayne’s “The Searchers”. That sounds like an interesting premise, but the problem here is that no one is asking for a version of “The Searcher’s” out of a film attached to I Am Legend source material. People are asking for a genuine adaptation of the book.
Without giving away any spoilers, the conclusion of the book is quite honestly one of my favorite moments in literature. It truly separates the novel from others in the sci-fi genre, and defines Neville as the “legend” that the title suggests. How is it that out of three adaptations, not one has attempted to capture the essence of what makes the novel so great? As far as I can see, the new film will once again strangely steer clear of the whole point of Matheson’s work. It will most likely replicate what made the 2007 remake financially successful by exchanging the meaningful message of the novel for a visually appealing vampire killing-fest. Ultimately, even if this franchise ends up producing entertaining films, I feel as though I will still be left disappointed.
By Harrison Jeffs