Saturday, June 25, 2011

Fear Versus Anticipation: On Prequels

You know why I'm writing this. You know the film being shot right now. It's not the only one, but it's definitely the only one I'm struggling to retain an explosion of fanboyism for. The Hobbit. Though written before LOTR, it will be the first epic prequel to come along since... since... those three 'films' that shall not be named (back off Lucas!)

So, why am I trying to put a cap on an outpouring of fanboy wailing that would make Ol' Faithful blush? Simple - Prequels almost always suck. Think about it. Think back throughout all the years. What do categories do prequels boil down to? 1) Direct to video films nobody watches, 2) Large scale blockbusters with pre-original time-line references to post-original time-line people and events, or 3) A craptastic explosion of sorted nothingness in a way that no way adds anything to the original film(s).

Try to think of a Prequel that truly exceeds (or even matches) the quality of the original. And for the record, I don't think films like 'Star Trek' count. I could see an argument for X-Men: First Class, but that one is really pushing the reboot/prequel boundary. Though even if you were to try and match it, it wouldn't end well. For each momentary relief from the endless onslaught of crap with the likes of Red Dragon, there's a Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas, Cruel Intentions 2, Dumb and Dumberer, or Butch and Sundance: The Early Days, just waiting in the wing to pounce.

Not that I necessarily blame prequels. On the whole they're never given much of a fair chance to begin with. Often packed with cheaper talent, ridden on the back by studio executives out for a quick and easy buck, and under tireless strain to stick to the original formula without debate. Under such pressure, almost anyone would collapse into a decaying void of blandness.

So while I hope, and tease with the notion of anticipation, don't expect me to go too overboard. After all, history isn't really on the film's side....

10 better thoughts:

Alan said...

You're right about Star Trek not being a prequel, because it violates the "cannon" of existing Trek movies. Specifically, Star Trek IV begins on Vulcan, which was destroyed in Star Trek.

X-Men First Class sets itself up a prequel. It tells the story of how the lines from the first three films are drawn and I don't think violated any of them. It even references things we know from the original three, like Mystique's appearance as Rebecca Romijn. It's a prequel and it's set a pretty high bar.

One of the signs of a bad sequel or prequel is cast and crew from the original not returning to fill the same roles (provided it's actually possible given the passing of years). It wasn't a possibility in X-Men for obvious reasons, but it is here and the cast is returning. Keep the faith, man.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

The Hobbit is only a prequel in the sense they just didn't do that movie first. It was the first book of Middle Earth published and LOTR was the sequel. In the hands of Jackson, it won't disappoint. It won't be better (except possibly in the area of special effects) but it will be on par with the other three movies.

Red said...

I've been trying to limit my excitement on this project for ages, and the new casting announcements each week have certainly helped a level of fatigue to set in, but I'm sure next summer I will be counting down the days.

As for prequels, decent ones are for the most part hard to find. I would consider First Class to be a legit prequel. I don't think they'll ever get tot he point where they use those actors/director in the same timeline that Singer used them, so I'm not sure if I can call it a reboot.

And while it wasn't nearly as good as the first Temple of Doom was a pretty good prequel. (2nd best of one of the most popular franchises in history).

Hannah M said...

I'm with Alex - prequels usually suck most because the plot, writing, and acting sucks. But the plot and writing are taken care of since this is a book adaptation (and one written before Lord of the Rings) and I'm impressed with the cast they've got lined up. Has there been a precursor along these lines? I can't think of one. This makes me feel (and hope) it'll protect it from the sequel jinx. :-)

Castor said...

The problem with Prequels is that you know what will happen before it happens so it's very difficult to generate any tension and suspense.

I agree with Alex that The Hobbit doesn't really fit the definition of a prequel though. I'm most concerned that Peter Jackson got "lucky" with LOTR and that he isn't as good a director as most of us think.

Duke said...

I feel Jackson cares about his story and will take the time necessary to make a quality film - even if it doesn't live up to LOTR

msmariah said...

I agree with you about most prequels, but I think Peter Jackson knows the material enough to do it justice. I'm hoping for the best. Now, George Lucas is a completely different animal. I make no excuses for Phantom Menace or Clone Wars.

I did think that Paranormal Activity 2 (prequel to 1) was pretty good. I'm also looking forward to the Thing prequel. I really hope they don't mess that one up.

Wes22 said...

Prequels definitely make me nervous. I'm still hoping Ridley Scott won't kill Alien for me with Prometheus. Guess we'll just have to wait and see.

cinemasights said...

While there certainly is reason to be wary, I would contest that this is based upon strong pr-established material which came out years before The Lord of the Rings did.

That being said, even as a huge Tolkien fan, I don't think The Hobbit is a fantastic book. I think it most certainly will be a step down in quality from the original trilogy and I think the film will suffer from trying to be epic in a way that the source material isn't. It's more of a fairy tale than a fantasy epic and I'm almost certain they will turn it into a fantasy epic.

That being said, I still expect a decent film, I just will go in with my expectations moderate.

Dylan said...

Tacking onto what others have said, yeah, you needn't worry.

I'm the farthest thing from an LOTR fanboy, but really, these aren't prequels in the same meaning of that word that we've come to endure over the decades. If they were imagining a storyline for a series of films to come before Fellowship, that would be one thing, but they're not - the info's already written for them (and is a classic just the same).

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