The 2007 version of I Am Legend directed by Francis Lawrence and starring Will Smith qualifies as an eccentric version of “third time’s the charm” appeal to the gods of Fate. In fact, the first two cinematic adaptations of Richard Matheson's sinister examination of what being the last man on earth in a post-apocalyptic world of vampire-like mutant near-humans staked a claim for making any future remakes unnecessary. The main justification would be a historical or ideological update to reflect the times in which they might be made.
King of horror Vincent Price starred in the original 1960s black and white version, retitled The Last Man on Earth. A mere seven years later, Matheson’s novel was again adapted with a title change. The Omega Man starred Charlton Heston and demonstrated how in those seven short years Hollywood had all but killed the black and white film.
Lawrence became the first director to tell Matheson’s story with its enigmatic title intact. Released at the height of the holiday movie season, I Am Legend went on to become one the top ten grossing films released in 2007. The film had been in development for ten years before it was finally produced with Will Smith in the lead. The closest the film ever got to being produced prior to 2007 would have seen Ridley Scott directing Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Will Smith role.
The remake fulfilled the necessity for updating to make the story relevant to its time by introducing genetic engineering into the process leading to the apocalypse that wipes out most of humanity. Ultimately, the film became another addition to evolution of zombie as a movie trope by joining the 28 ___ Later franchise and other films in which the monstrous creature results from infection rather than being bring brought back from the dead.