Guide to movie prequels

With the origin story X-Men: First Class shapeshifting into cinemas this weekend, thought this would be a prime opportunity to consider the much-maligned, rarely successful genre that is the prequel

Some are good, some are bad, and some, like toxic waste, should be buried deep underground and have cement poured in on top of them so that they can never do any harm to humanity again…

Of course X-Men has gone the prequel route already with the ill-conceived X-Men Origins: Wolverine (with another glimpse of the early days in X-Men: The Last Stand). Will First Class end up on the debit or credit side of the prequel ledger book? Until we find out, consider the template to date…

Coppola chancers:

When it came to revisiting The Godfather, Francis Ford Coppola had the inspired idea to make The Godfather, Part II part-prequel, with Robert De Niro playing a young Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando in the first movie) in an origin story that runs parallel to the fortunes of his future son Michael (Al Pacino) in the present day.

Lucas like a winner:

Demonstrating the kind of exquisite historical irony that just adores, Coppola’s pal George Lucas apparently tried to discourage him from going down the prequel path with The Godfather. However, when it came to Lucas’ Spielberg-collaboration, Indiana Jones, the second movie, Temple of Doom, is technically a prequel as it’s set before the action of Raiders of the Lost Ark. The movie is the darkest of the lot, but still tremendous fun. There’s a joyous prequel-y feel to the opening of The Last Crusade too, with River Phoenix playing the young Indy.

It really does make you wonder, then, what went so wrong with the three Star Wars prequels. The best that can be said about Episodes I-III is that they are (pr)equally awful, all blending together as one giant memory turd. The only aspects that stand out in the mind are the jarring witterings of Jar Jar Binks (avert your eyes children!) and the painfully wooden acting of Hayden ‘Mannequin Skywalker’ Christensen.

Butch-ering the classics:

Given the success of and the stamping of ‘instant classic’ status upon the Redford-Newman masterpiece Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, it was inevitable that Hollywood would return to the golden goose to extract another golden egg by any means possible. The original’s ending ruled out a sequel, so Butch and Sundance: The Early Years (1979) tried to recreate the magic with Tom Berenger and William Kat (Carrie’s jock date to the prom). Totally pointless and unnecessary in the same vein as Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd.

Likewise, The Silence of the Lambs was simply too successful to leave well enough alone. Anthony Hopkins reprised his role for the okay prequel-sequel (and sorta remake) Red Dragon, but the franchise plumbed the depths with Hannibal Rising (aka Hannibal Risible), starring Gaspard Ulliel as a teenage Lector.

Motel me when it’s over…:

Psycho IV: The Beginning is also part prequel, with flashbacks to the formative years of shower-slasher Norman Bates and the relationship with his stuffy (I couldn’t resist) mother. A movie that proves that psychos are like sausages: you really don’t want to see how they’re made. This one sullies not just Hitchcock’s original, but also ET as the young Bates is played by Henry Thomas aka Elliot.

The Next Generation…:

JJ Abrams shot some much-needed mojo into the prequel genre with his reboot of Star Trek, covering the early years of the Enterprise’s famous explorers of strange new worlds. Just remember when you’re perving over Chris Pine that he will grow up to be William Shatner.

Let’s not forget TV:

Telly has long been the most natural home for the prequelisation of movies: Star Trek: Enterprise, Smallville, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, and various Star Wars spin-offs.

Finally, a helping hand:

Hollywood, being devoid of imagination, is most likely on the lookout for the next prequel they can squeeze out of an established hit. With that in mind, has these suggestions…

*Mad X Men:

This seems the next logical extension of the X-Men franchise, seeing as First Class is already set in the 1960s and stars Mad Men ice-maiden January Jones. Crossing over with the hit US show, Mad X-Men would see the ad execs of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce discover mutant powers. Don (Jon Hamm) would have the ability to reduce women to putty; Joan (Christina Hendricks), the power to rotate the Earth’s axis as she sees fit with her enormous rack; and Peggy (Elizabeth Moss), the capacity to cut people in half with one look and/or curt phrase.

*Gamete The Parents:

Anyone who endured Little Fockers will know there is nowhere left for the Stiller-De Niro comedy (insert inverted commas for every sequel) franchise to go but backwards. Therefore, in the computer-animated Gamete The Parents we’ll see neurotic sperm Gaylord (voiced by Stiller) try to inveigle its way into a beautiful egg (voiced by a hard-up Lindsay Lohan) while trying to outsmart a mean head sperm cell (De Niro).

*Sex and the City of God:

Through flashback to the mid-80s, we see younger versions of the Cosmo-drinking quartet (though still played by the same four middle age actresses) take a holiday in a tough Brazilian favela, inspiring the locals to drop the guns and drugs in favours of Gucci and Dolce.

Words – Declan Cashin