Friday, June 29, 2018

Prequels: An Unnecesary Evil

You know for sure that a film franchise has run completely out of steam when they start peoducing prequels.  It's an admission that there is nowhere for the series to go - every conceivable idea, plot twist, reversal of expectations and character development has been exhausted.  Or maybe it is just that the most recent sequel has been such a stinker that it has killed the series stone dead at the box office.  Either way, no further forward motion is possible.  But we just know that the studios and distributors can't leave it at that - they always think that there is some way to squeeze a few more profits from even a stone cold dead franchise.  Hence the prequel, a format which is admitting that you are creatively bankrupt.  You can't move the story forward or develop the characters so you instead go backwards, turning what was a slim backstory in the first movie into a full blown film in its own right, telling a story that the original creators obviously didn't think worth telling.  Prequels are laborious affairs, inevitably destroying any of the mystery surrounding the origins of popular characters, thereby rendering them mundane.

The prequel is up there with the 'origins story' as an utterly pointless exercise which insults its audience's intelligence.  Both are also evidence of poor story telling skills: back story and origins are things which the skilled writer will subtly filter through to the audience as part of their story telling.  We don't need to be bludgeoned with it all in laborious  detail.  Besides, by their very nature prequels are predictable: they can have only one end point - the beginning of the movie they are prequelling.  Consequently, the central character(s) can never be in any real peril - we know that they have to survive, otherwise the rest of the series is negated. Take Butch and Sundance: The Early Years, a film generally considered the first proper Hollywood prequel, (although there is an argument to be made for 1946's The Brute Man being a prequel to House of Horrors, except that it isn't at all clear that Rondo Hatton's 'Creeper; is the same character in each film), there is no dramatic tension because it has to end up with that train robbery which opens the original.  It's existence also underlines the purely opportunistic motivation which lies behind the making of sequels:  Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was a huge success, the ending of which cunningly precluded the possibility of sequels which might damage its reputation.  It might have taken the frustrated Hollywood executives a few years to figure out how to grind some more money out of the property, but they finally did when they came up with the idea of a prequel.  And they haven't stopped doing it since.



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home