We live in a world of sequels, reboots and spinoffs. But the absolute worst of the world where nothing is original? Prequels. The prequels are shit.
OFon of on a prequel must follow one golden rule to justify its existence.
Prequel they have to tell us something we don’t already know.
What is a prequel? It’s a story that dives back into an earlier point in the fictional series’ background. The term was apparently first used in 1958 by science fiction author Anthony Boucher, although creators have stepped back in time to explore the history of their characters since the ancient Greek epic poem Cypria filled in the events before the Iliad or old Bill Shakespeare that followed. Richard III by turning it into Richard II. As franchises and cinematic universes have become a dominant force in media, we’ve seen plenty of such stories, including the biggest TV shows of 2022: the Game of Thrones spin-offthe story of Lord of the Rings and the Star Wars Andor series — which is technically a prequel to a prequel!
It was Star Wars that brought the term “prequel” to the forefront of the modern media industry. In the late nineties, I wasn’t alone in getting excited about the Star Wars prequels. Is George Lucas Telling New Star Wars Stories? Yes please! A cast of great stars, including the perfect casting of indie darling Ewan MacGregor as young Obi-Wan Kenobi? Sign me up! And the Force was strong with the Phantom Menace trailer, which.
The excitement didn’t last.
I won’t repeat every criticism of the Star Wars prequels —— and I’m not here to single out George Lucas, who after all gave us the original trilogy. I refer to the infamous Star Wars movies because they are the first modern prequels and in some ways they are the epitome of the problem with prequel stories.
The pleasure of a prequel – or sequel, reboot or remake – is obvious. Any opportunity to spend more time with a beloved character is welcome. And if, as with Star Wars or Breaking Bad, the story has come to a natural end, an easy way to re-immerse yourself in that world is to go back to an earlier point in the story. See the beginning of Empire or the origin of Saul Goodman in Better Call Saul. And it’s always fun to recreate a beloved story on new terms – basically playing the game “Who would you cast in a remake…?”, a fun game my friends and I used to play at school because I don’t have a girlfriend.
So sure, I’ll mess with the best of the absolute perfection of casting choices like Simon Pegg as Scotty in, or Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal Lector. But fun casting is just that: fun. It’s a sizzle, not a steak. As much as Zachary Quinto could embody Spock in the new Trek, or Robin Lord Taylor could inhabit a young Penguin in Gotham, or Marc Pickering is unbelievably perfect as a young Steve Buscemi in Boardwalk Empire, if that’s not the case, these are just surface glosses. backed by a great story that, crucially, hits us with something we didn’t know before.
X-Men: First Class is perhaps the perfect example. It’s fun to see James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender playing younger versions of Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, but there’s no Marvel prize for anyone who can tell me what’s actually going on in that movie.
These casting games might be fun on paper, but that doesn’t mean they have to expand beyond a pub chat or Twitter conversation to actually become a full-fledged movie. Take Prometheus and— seriously, what has happened to Ridley Scott in recent years?
And check out The Hobbit movies, the prequel trilogy to the Lord of the Rings series. Okay, I know a lot of people love these movies and are excited to go back to Middle Earth. Butstretched into three overlong epics. We really need these movies or directors like Peter Jackson, Jon Watts (Spider-Man) and Taika Waititi (Thor) could spend those years instead of?
At least The Hobbit doesn’t actively contradict the beloved original films, which is another potential danger of a prequel. When a prequel messes with the series’ continuity and canon, it risks rendering the original pointless. The Star Trek prequel TV shows Enterprise and Discovery both found themselves in such a continuity dead end that they had to resort to time travel nonsense to make it work (the same nonsense that bogged down JJ Abrams’ big screen reboot). And once again we can go back to Star Wars: When different characters meet in the prequels, it actually contradicts the original films.
But when it comes down to it, the fundamental fault of the prequels is that all too often they only tell us what we already know. In the end, nine hours of prequel movies explaining Anakin Skywalker’s family history doesn’t have the emotional impact of a single “No… I am your father.”
Prequels after prequels
Even now that Star Wars is out of George Lucas’ hands and part of Disney’s Magic Kingdom, the people with the keys to the series haven’t learned from the prequels. In fact, they doubled down by constantly returning to the same people and places we’ve already seen. Spinoffs forand and they had their moments, but were still confined by the ever shrinking cage of continuity. The whole plot it was already said in Return of the Jedi in a single dialogue: “Many Bothans died to bring us this information.” Apt yet wonderfully evocative, this line sums up the fatal impact of the attack, the sacrifice of others across the galaxy, the heavy responsibility that weighs upon Luke Skywalker and his brave comrades. It’s a great line. What else to say? Apparently quite a lot, like TV series he will come soon .
Star Wars isn’t the only one suffering from this problem. It’s fun to see the Marvel superhero Wolverine fight in every major war of the 20th century in Wolverine: Origins, but we didn’t need an entire movie about his transformation into a super soldier because that was already handled much more convincingly. in the main X-Men series. We didn’t need Fantastic Beasts because we saw the Harry Potter movies. We didn’t need an entire prequel to 2011’s The Thing because the entire story of that movie was already told in the first few minutes of the 1982 original.
If a prequel is to justify its existence, it must change our perspective. In addition to a fresh and interesting story that can really surprise us, it needs – more importantly – to provide something that changes the way we look at the original story.
When you get to the end of Memento or The Usual Suspects or any movie with a big shocking twist, if you go back and watch the movie again, it feels completely different than the first time you watched it.
It is what a good prequel should do.
Compare the prequel Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom to the mini-prequel flashback sequence at the beginning of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. There is no reason why Temple of Doom should be placed before Raiders of the Lost Ark. But the origin story in Last Crusade not only shows us how Indy collects the tools of his trade, it also reveals his relationship with his father. Not only do we get to enjoy the fanfare of seeing a young Indy played by a younger actor (River Phoenix), but we also learn something that drives the rest of the film forward: his desire for his father’s approval. This adds another dimension to the previous films as we realize what Indy was really looking for throughout the series.
Most prequels don’t give us a new look at the original. So are there any really good prequels? Of course., to start. I’m sure you’re already heading to the comments to list your favorites, but for an example of a well-done prequel that means a lot to me personally, let me focus on The Galaxy’s greatest comic.
A law unto itself
In 1977, the British sci-fi comic 2000AD introduced the sci-fi supercop, created by writer John Wagner and artist Carlos Ezquerra. Still running in the same comic, the satirical anti-hero Dredd is judge, jury and executioner in America’s totalitarian future. But he never had an origin story that exploded into action fully formed in his first appearance, his story only sparingly fleshed out over the years since.
But on the 30th anniversary of Dredd and 2000AD, Wagner and Ezquerra finally revisited the story in the epic 23 issue Judge Dredd: Origins. Likeand the Hong Kong police film classic Infernal Affairs II, Origins perfectly blends prequel and sequel into one story that changes the past and the future of both the character and the world he lives in.
In Origins, we learn how the Judge system came to be. We see Dredd cloned from the first Judge, the incorruptible Fargo. We see Dredd learning his trade. We see young Dredd in action. All the fun surface gloss fans want from a prequel, but still something we already know.
However. The story then reveals something so huge that it pulls the rug out from under us, the readers, and Judge Dredd himself.
Dredd is a man of unwavering dedication who has done terrible things over the years—killing and imprisoning his own citizens on a daily basis, even wiping out a rival city of millions in a nuclear war—but always justifying these atrocities with an unshakable faith. in the system that created it.
Except Origins reveals that the whole thing was built on a lie.
It’s a breathtaking 30 years in the making and a stunning revelation that casts everything that follows in a new light. It casts a chilling shadow over all that came before, and above all, everything that follows. You can’t read after the prequel reveal none The story of Judge Dredd, before or after, in the same light.
AND It is our golden rule.
Just don’t talk to me about midi-chlorians.
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