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Remake: The last man on Earth

Amongst myself and my movie nerd friends, the subject of I AM LEGEND, the soon to be released Will Smith sci-fi, zombie thriller, has risen a few times recently. More than once the resemblance between I AM LEGEND and the classic Charlton Heston, 1971 film, THE OMEGA MAN – not surprisingly it’s because they are both based on the Richard Matheson novel which shares its name with this latest adaptation.

What I found really interesting while researching I AM LEGEND — which is far from an indication that anyone else will — is that the novel has not only been bought to the big screen before, but that THE OMEGA MAN falls into a category of film that I’m sure we all tend to think of as a modern phenomenon: The reboot.

The latest example of a reboot, which has attracted quite a bit of scorn — and not just from this website — is THE HULK. Released only only four years ago it is effectively being erased by the new story being told in the Edward Norton film, titled THE INCREDIBLE HULK, due for release next June. Interestingly the remake/reboots for the movies based on the I AM LEGEND novel have all differed in title as well, with I AM LEGEND being the only one to make a direct association with it’s origin.

In 1964, a mere seven years before THE OMEGA MAN, horror legend Vincent Price starred as Dr. Robert Morgan in the first adaptation of Richard Matheson’s novel (Heston’s character in THE OMEGA MAN was named Dr. Robert Neville, the same name as Will Smith’s character in I AM LEGEND). The movie was titled THE LAST MAN ON EARTH and the general consensus is that it, despite having both a technical and budgetary disadvantage when compared to 1971’s THE OMEGA MAN, is a superior adaptation.

The two existing versions differ from each other to a large extent, however at their core is basically the same story: A brilliant scientist/doctor is the lone survivor of a virus/plague which wipes out the population of the planet. Although he is the last man left alive, he isn’t alone. At night strange zombie/vampire creatures seek him out, wanting to drink his blood and generally cause him harm.

Morgan/Neville’s existence is primarily made up of killing these creatures and continuing attempts to find a cure for whatever it is that the vampire/zombie creatures are affected by and resurrect the human race.

THE OMEGA MAN is weighted heavily with social sentiment and the notion of vampire/zombies isn’t as clear (or strong) as the concepts in the novel – a mistake that I hope this new version doesn’t make. If played correctly, I AM LEGEND could not only be an utterly terrifying movie, but also one that leaves you nagging questions about the morality of Neville’s actions after the plague/disease/virus/whatever Zompires everyone.

The latest news about I AM LEGEND is that of last minute re-shoots and changes, which are not completely unheard of for any film, but given that we’re set to see this movie in cinemas in less than a month (and the re-shoots were taking place in the last couple of weeks) that’s cutting it fine in anyone’s book. The good news is that the scenes being reshot had something to do with the film’s ending — which had apparently deviated from the plot of the novel — Now, while we have no way of really knowing what it was that was being ‘corrected’ there is hope that the changes will bring things closer to Matheson’s original vision. [source]

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