Why we never got to see I Am Legend 2

I Am Legend is the 2007 film adaptation of Richard Matheson's 1954 novel of the same name, starring Will Smith and a bunch of CG zombie things called Dark Seekers. As questionable as they looked, the irresistible draw of one of Hollywood's most bankable stars ripping around post-apocalyptic New York City proved well worth the ticket price for many filmgoers, making I Am Legend the highest-grossing film of the year. It raked in over $500 million worldwide, and Warner Bros. immediately greenlit a sequel, but it never happened. Here's why. 

Will Smith never really seemed into it

Telling BBC News "I don't want to be the sequel guy," Will Smith didn't have a problem shying away from the next I Am Legend chapter while it was in development. Technically, plans called for a prequel—but Smith had already done Bad Boys II and Men in Black II at this point, which makes his statement seem like a diplomatic way of turning down the role. Even with Smith's caginess, the studio, director Francis Lawrence, and writer Akiva Goldsman set about working on a follow-up. Pressed to define his level of involvement, Smith said, "I'm not actually working on it. If it's great, I'm into it." Sounds like the script never achieved that level of greatness, because following Hancock and Seven Pounds, Smith's next project after a four-year hiatus was Men in Black III, which—if we're not mistaken—is a sequel.

About that script

Presumably, the studio's plans for a prequel over a sequel had a lot to do with the fact that Will Smith's character, Robert Neville, died at the end of the original film, which would make it a tad difficult to pick up the story where it left off. Instead, we were going to see "the final days of humanity in New York before a man-made virus caused a plague that left Smith's character the lone survivor among a mutated mob in the city." Which sounds kind of cool, except the first movie already used flashbacks to show the military quarantine of the city, Neville valiantly deciding to stay behind, and then helplessly watching as his wife and daughter die in a helicopter crash during the evacuation. That kind of covers the dramatic beats leading up to his solitary existence in the original film, plus nothing is going to trump the visuals of an eerily desolate New York City.

Okay, fine, no prequel. We'll do a sequel somehow—no, a reboot!

Roughly four years after the prequel plans hit a dead end, Warner Bros. announced yet another deal with writer Akiva Goldsman to develop a sequel. According to Deadline, "The film is not being called a prequel, which had been rumored for the past few years." With Will Smith still not on board, that presumably leaves us following supporting characters Anna and Ethan at the survivor's camp. Nobody wants to watch that, but half a billion in box office grosses don't fade easily from Hollywood's memory, so the next logical step is a reboot. At least they can sell it entirely on name recognition that way, regardless of how disconnected from the original story it might be.

And just how far might it wander from the original film? How does "a sci-fi version of The Searchers" sound? Yep, we're talking about the John Wayne Western from the 1950s that follows a posse of cowboys on a mission to get revenge and retrieve a kidnapped girl. According to Deadline again, that's where the reboot currently sits, as a "retrofitted version" of Gary Graham's script for A Garden at the End of the World that they're slapping the I Am Legend label onto because "the themes and mythology were similar." Hey, we heard you love Chipotle. Here's a bunch of Taco Bell burritos smashed into a tortilla and wrapped up in Chipotle foil. Same diff, right?

Producer and writer Akiva Goldsman said it will never happen

I Am Legend scribe and blockbuster-generator Akiva Goldsman had been the go-to guy for the sequel plans from the beginning, but even he apparently had his doubts about a new installment ever happening. He told io9, "Oh no no, [there was] never a movie. I mean, we wrote a prequel [and] a sequel," which is not only confusing, but also confirms Warner Bros. was open to any possible way to make this thing. But he also said "Then we did a sequel, that started with Neville again—and you realized that he was cloned." Oh, cool, so Neville sacrificing himself at the end of the original film didn't matter at all. He also talked about "a dark seeker elephant," because the first movie had dogs, and elephants are bigger! Ultimately, his efforts on the project fizzled, "It will never happen but we really enjoyed trying to make it happen," explained Goldman, who's moved on to projects like Transformers 7 & 8.

Zombie fatigue

Perhaps the main problem Warner Bros. has had while trying to come up with an idea that seems fresh—while still flying under the banner of an established property—is the fact that there have been approximately a gazillion zombie-related projects since 28 Days Later reignited the genre in 2002. Granted, I Am Legend was one of the more successful zombie flicks out of a solid group that includes Dawn of the Dead, Zombieland, and World War Z, but that was mostly due to its early position in the new zombie wave, as well as Will Smith's star power—both of which have significantly faded in recent years. Yes, The Walking Dead still draws solid ratings, but on the big screen, it's a different story. (For proof, see Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Or don't—no one else did.) As for Smith, he's had a string of duds that'll hopefully be snapped by Suicide Squad. Warner Bros. would be smart to just let this one go. After all…does anything really good ever come from resurrecting the dead?

Nobody could handle another scene like when Sam died

This is a completely unofficial reason for why this sequel hasn't come to fruition, but we stand by it entirely. We're talking about a general audience's inability to deal with another scene like the death of Sam, Neville's dog. While saving Neville from being torn apart by zombie dogs, she's infected by a bite. Neville's serum can't save her, and he has to strangle her before she turns in one of the most gut-wrenching moments in cinema history. It's amazing that a scene in which a dog dies trumps the emotionality of the scene in which the main character's entire family bites the dust, but that's exactly what happened there. If the sequel/reboot/ whatever-thing they're trying to make has anything that comes close to this, we're not interested—there are only so many tears a popcorn bucket can hold.