Like our esteemed colleague, we were completely freaked out by I Am Legend. While it wasn’t really a good movie, it’s realistically unrealistic version of post-apocalyptic Manhattan–Stray lions! Six dollar-per-gallon gas prices! CGI vampires!–scared the bejesus out of us. Seriously, we still have the occasional nightmare revolving around the “last man on earth” scenario. Sadly for our sleep patterns, it was no surprise when Warner Brothers announced in September that they’d be moving ahead with another film under the Will Smith-starring I Am Legend heading–when a film makes over $500 million dollars worldwide, a franchise is born. There was just one small problem: Mr. Smith blew himself up at the end of the first movie. To get around that minor wrinkle, it was widely assumed that the second film (I Am Still Legend?) would be a prequel that filled in the gaps between the bleak vampire-filled future and the flashback scenes, which showed the height of the evacuation of Manhattan years before.
Yeah, about that… Rumors are flying all over the internets that the new film will, in fact, be a sequel. That bastion of journalistic integrity Ain’t It Cool News is reporting that the plans for a prequel have been scrapped. According to their admittedly untested source, neither Warner Brothers nor Mr. Smith liked the idea, so they’ve decided to make the new film a continuation of the first story.
OK. We’ll take all of this with a gigantic grain of salt; and honestly, we actually don’t even believe it. But it’s interesting because perhaps now everyone involved with I Am Legend realizes that the original conclusion was a much better way to end the film. Still available on YouTube, the alternate ending, which was a major selling point for the DVD, spares Mr. Smith’s life, allowing him and his new nuclear family to drive off into uncertainty. While it’s a much more open-ended affair, it works infinitely better with the tone the film had already established in its first (excellent) hour. And while the CGI vampires still look awful, they have a weirdly touching humanity about them that comes through more in the alternate seven-minute denouement.
If this new film ends up being an outright sequel, would they just pick things up with our preferred alternate version? If so, we can get behind this idea. With that ending, I Am Legend could have been a lot more than fodder for recurring nightmares. Maybe a sequel will change that. Though we’ll still watch it through the slits in our fingers as our hands cover our eyes.