Prequels Aren’t Always Bad
Gratuitous explosions, super-hero bravado, schlocky one-liners, giant-monster mayhem, alien invasions, oceans of C.G.I destruction porn, and Dwayne Johnson. This is the stuff Hollywood blockbusters are made of. If there’s one thing Hollywood loves, it’s money, and big action franchises gives Hollywood money in heaps and spades. But, word on the street is that Hollywood is running out of ideas. Many are pointing to prequels as one of the suspects.
Prequels are parts of an over-arching narrative that are chronologically made, taking place before events that happened in the other stories. Hip kids of the internet will tell you that prequels suck, pointing to “Star Wars,” “The Hobbit,” and “Prometheus” as examples. While I personally love “Revenge of the Sith” and “Prometheus” and enjoy the first two “Hobbit” adventures, there are plenty of other great prequels out there.
The “X-Men” franchise has had some ups and downs throughout their on-screen capers. They’ve been through The Cuban Missile Crisis, Apocalypse, Dark Phoenix, Mutant genocide, and at least one crazy change in the timeline. Their prequels may be a mixed bag (stay away from “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”) but you cannot deny how incredible “First Class” and “Days of Future Past” are. While “Days of Future Past” may or may not have canonically erased the first two movies, “First Class” proved that you can make a great X-Men movie without Wolverine. The great period-accurate aesthetics and tone, acting, and scripting make those two must-watches.
Part prequel and part reboot, J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek” Kelvin Timeline isn’t just a great example of how to do good prequel movies, it’s how to do prequels that are arguably better than the originals (but you should seriously watch at least “Wrath of Khan,” “Undiscovered Country,” and “First Contact”). Throwing more sci-fi trope-tastic timey wimey convolutedness into the mix, Abrams and crew brought a new and young version of our favorite space mariners to a new and young generation. While changing timelines is risky business, the Kelvin Timeline shows how to properly erase original timelines. It does this all while creating new and interesting ways for our favorite characters to change. It pays incredible homage to what came before.
Not only are the “Planet of the Apes” prequels great prequels, or even just great sci-fi action/adventure flicks, they are great movies. You might not think these are prequels (apart from them being fantastic), but they are. These movies focus on the coming of age of an ape named Caesar, who led to the apes’ domination of Earth after the fall of man. “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” is an immaculate origin story and “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is a great analysis of societies interacting with each other, but both are rousing drama power-houses sure to hit you straight in the feels.
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” may not have any characters from the other “Harry Potter” movies, but unlike “Captain America: The First Avenger,” “Rogue One,” and “Kong: Skull Island,” this isn’t a cinematic universe where characters get their own solo adventures and we get teased with upcoming team-up and v.s. movies. So, prequel it is, then. Before its release, people joked that “Fantastic Beasts” was a Harry Potter movie featuring zero of the characters the audience liked, and that’s probably the best thing about this movie. It doesn’t need audience familiarity to be enjoyable–it’s just good by itself. So far, we only have one “Fantastic Beasts” movie. So, it’s going to be difficult to tell if we’ll see sequels that are on par with this one. But, with five “Harry Potter” films under his belt, it’s probably safe to say that director, David Yates, is the man for the job.
Hopefully, this list changed your mind about prequels or at least turned you on to some good movies. But, remember, Hollywood loves money, and prequels is a quick way for them to get it–expect more on the horizon. Let’s wish the best of luck to “Fantastic Beasts 2,” “Alien: Awakening,” “Star Trek 4,” the eventual “Indiana Jones” prequel, as well as the upcoming “Alien: Covenant” and “War for the Planet of the Apes” (which you can see in theaters May 19 and July 14, respectively).