I Am Legend 2: Canceled Because Of Will Smith?
I Am Legend 2 starring Will Smith in some capacity has finally been confirmed to be in development. Here's what we know so far.
I Am Legend 2 is officially happening. A sequel to the Will Smith mutant-zombie-kinda-vampire blockbuster from 2007 has been bandied about for years, with various concepts and scripts being considered. Will Smith apparently is not particularly fond of sequels (which, we can assume that Men in Black 3 left a sour taste in his and all of our mouths), and the theatrical release of the film had an ending in which he got blown up real good, so there was some inherent difficulty in making a new installment. Obviously, a prequel was considered, which would presumably have explored the beginning of the science experiment gone awry that ended up with Smith being the last human in New York City, but that got shot down years ago. We live in the golden age of reboots, so that was also explored to no great forward momentum.
But, as of now, I Am Legend 2 is happening with Will Smith aboard. Here’s what we know:
WHAT IS I AM LEGEND?
I Am Legend was released in 2007, and was the third adaptation of legendary science fiction writer Richard Matheson’s novel of the same name. The first was a Vincent Price vehicle in 1964, renamed The Last Man on Earth, while the second starred Charlton Heston in 1971 as The Omega Man. Regardless of title, all adaptations kept the central premise of a deadly virus sweeping the globe and turning almost all human beings into hideous, zombie-like mutants.
In the Will Smith version of I Am Legend, his character of viralogist Robert Neville is left after a virus intended to cure cancer destroyed the vast majority of humanity, leaving him to be the only man in New York City. By day, he researches a cure with his loyal dog, and by night, hunkers down in a fortified chamber while the nocturnal, mutated humans try to get at him. By the end of the movie, he has discovered a potential cure, sends it off with some non-mutated survivors, and blows up, taking a bunch of mutants with him. That’s the official ending. However, there was an alternate ending that was filmed (and not used) that adhered more to Matheson’s original, ironic ending, in which it turns out the mutants actually still have a semblance of humanity and Neville’s regular slaughtering of them has made him the legendary monster of their own society. It’s a twist worthy of a man who wrote a whole bunch of The Twilight Zone.
WHAT WILL I AM LEGEND 2 BE ABOUT?
Right now, there are very few details about the plot of I Am Legend 2. As aforementioned, the official, canonical ending of Will Smith’s version of the story ends with him dying in an explosion that takes out a bunch of the mutants (or “Darkseekers”), and the survivors considering him a legend for his efforts to save humanity (as opposed to a legend among the mutants for being a spooky, unseen being that kills them in their daytime sleep). A sequel to Will Smith’s movie will either have to deal with Robert Neville’s death in some way. There are a couple of options which we can speculate on: 1) Neville remains dead, and is seen only in flashbacks 2) they retroactively make the unused ending canon, in which Neville leaves with the other survivors and stays alive, or 3) we end up with a cloned version of Neville. That isn’t us just making up stuff, it is a legit thing that the studio has considered in the past.
WHO WILL BE IN I AM LEGEND 2?
One thing we know for certain is that Will Smith has signed on for the sequel, and he has brought Michael B. Jordan along with him. The relationship between the two is still unknown, but some time ago, Smith posted this image from the original movie to his Instagram and tagged Jordan in it. It seems likely that in whatever scenario is ultimately used in I Am Legend 2, Will Smith will have an elder, mentor role, and Michael B. Jordan will have a more active role. We are speculating that based pretty much on the Obi-Wan Kenobi school of storytelling, but it seems like a reasonable assumption.
Michael B. Jordan has only seen his star rise in recent years, becoming one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s best villains in the blockbuster Black Panther (and reprising the role in the animated Disney+ show What If…?). He also has a franchise of his own in the Rocky-sequel Creed series, in which he plays the son of Carl Weather’s Apollo Creed picking up the mantle of boxing greatness. Jordan is making his directorial debut with Creed III later this year, taking over from longtime collaborator Ryan Coogler. I Am Legend 2 will give Jordan yet another firm foothold in pop culture, but we are all the happier for it.
WHAT ABOUT THE DOG?
Sadly, the dog died in I Am Legend. Short of a major overhaul of the series and some serious retconning, the dog probably isn’t coming back in I Am Legend 2. That said, if Warner Bros decides to make some kind of animated spin-off prequel series starring the dog for HBO Max (we’re just spitballing here), it would not be the worst idea ever.
WHO ELSE IS INVOLVED WITH I AM LEGEND 2?
There is not currently a director attached to I Am Legend 2, so we can assume that Warner Bros and Will Smith are casting a wide net. At this point in his historically successful career, any movie starring Will Smith is essentially run by Will Smith, so odds are that a journeyman director is selected to helm the film rather than an auteur that will put their own spin on things. On the other hand, Michael B. Jordan does like to work with Ryan Coogler (who seems up for some popcorn fare when he wants to be), so there is always that possibility.
It is definitely certain though, that legendary screenwriter Akiva Goldsman is coming back to write I Am Legend 2. Goldsman worked with Will Smith on the previous I Am Legend movie, as well as I, Robot. He also wrote mega-successful franchise adaptations like The Da Vinci Code and uh, Batman & Robin, so he has a pretty good track record. Overall.
WILL THE WILL SMITH SLAP CANCEL I AM LEGEND 2?
The timing for I Am Legend 2 wasn’t necessarily a great one from a studio standpoint. The news first hit the wire on March 4, 2022 which, in and of itself, is really no big deal. But then, on March 27th all heck broke loose when Will Smith walked on stage at the Academy Awards and promptly slapped Chris Rock for a joke the latter made about Will Smith’s wife Jada Pinkett Smith.
The fallout for Will Smith in the wake of this action was swift and harsh. He was suspended from the Academy even after just winning the Best Actor award. But then a number of his upcoming projects were put on hold. Studios seemed reluctant to do immediate business with Will Smith considering the public backlash and the high-profile nature of the incident. It wasn’t a good look at all.
So where does that leave I Am Legend 2? Well, at this point that’s anyone’s guess. The movie was in pre-production, having brought back Akiva Goldsman for a second round on the script. So it looked like the timeline was headed towards a “sooner than later” production schedule. But this Will Smith incident has really called into question if the studio has the appetite to do business with the star until the dust settles some. And we could be in something of a staring contest where Will Smith is concerned. Who is going to the first studio to take the plunge with a planned (or not) Will Smith movie or series. That will likely determine the timeline for something like I Am Legend 2. I doubt this would the movie to test the Will Smith waters considering the amount of budget that would likely go into the film.
To get a sense of the viability of I Am Legend 2 I think we will just have to watch the trajectory of Will Smith’s career in the short term. If it looks like he is making a solid comeback in other productions, then it might be easier to see this movie getting back on track. The only note about that would be if I Am Legend 2 opted to just go on with only Michael B. Jordan, but I doubt that’s something they are considering at this point.
WHAT IS THE RELEASE DATE FOR I AM LEGEND 2?
Currently, there is not a release date for I Am Legend 2. We will keep you updated as more info comes up! Especially about the dog.