The Real Reason We Never Got To See I Am Legend 2

I Am Legend, the 2007 film starring Will Smith and based on the classic novel by Richard Matheson, was a huge hit. Box Office Mojo relates that it raked in nearly $600 million worldwide, which, as Deadline reported, led to Warner Brothers to announce that a sequel was in the works. Which, why not? Every mildly successful film gets a sequel these days — sometimes lots of sequels, slowly drilling their way down to streaming services and video-on-demand. Sometimes they make sequels a decade or more after the original film. There are no rules, apparently.

Yet here we are, more than a decade later, and there's never been a sequel to I Am Legend. Will Smith is still a huge star, and the fact that (spoiler alert) his character died at the end of the original isn't really a heavy lift for Hollywood — there are any number of ways to could resurrect his character (it's a zombie movie, after all, even if the mutants in it are technically not zombies). Or make a prequel. Even if Smith isn't interested, a sequel with new characters would work just as well.

So in a universe where someone thinks spending $95 million on Cats is a good idea, why won't someone make a sequel to I Am Legend already? There are two primary reasons.

No one's had a good idea

According to the original film's director, Francis Lawrence (pictured above), there just hasn't been a good idea. He told Screen Rant that while you can certainly come up with ways to bring back Robert Neville (Will Smith's character), none of the ideas for doing so appealed to him or to Smith himself, so none of the sequel ideas have gotten off the ground, especially since as long as Smith is interested, no one's making a sequel without him.

As for a prequel, they've kicked around those ideas, too, but Lawrence doesn't think the idea works because it would have to be a radically different film. If you recall, in the original film (spoiler alert) a cure for cancer results in widespread mutations that turn humans into mindless, zombie-like killing machines, and Robert Neville works on a cure, believing he's the last human alive. A prequel, Lawrence said, would basically be similar to Contagion and other films about an outbreak of a deadly disease and the fall of society, and no one has any interest in making that film.

It's not 2007 any more

There's probably another, unspoken reason there hasn't been a sequel to I Am Legend: Zombies just aren't as hot as they used to be. As noted by The Hollywood Reporter, the 21st century zombie renaissance was kicked off in 2002 with the release of 28 Days Later. Zombies have been popular since their mainstream introduction in the late 1960s with Night of the Living Dead, but the modern update offered by the 2002 film made them fresh and exciting again, and led directly to the 2007 production of I Am Legend, tweaking the novel's thoughtful vampires into mindless zombie-like mutants.

But there really hasn't been a wildly popular zombie film in several years, and even The Walking Dead franchise on television, while still popular, isn't quite the juggernaut it once was. The only two Zombie films that made any sort of splash in 2020 are both modest South Korean productions: #Alive, made for a modest $6.14 million, and Peninsula, the sequel to 2016's Train to Busan, made for $16 million. Both were modest hits, but their budget and ticket sales make it clear that the age of big-budget zombie films is pretty much over. At least, for now.

Without the promise of making a half-billion dollars at the worldwide box office, the chances that anyone's going to meet Will Smith's price and then invest an additional $100 million or more into a production are pretty slim. All those special effects ain't cheap.