The Problem with Prequels

With so many prequels having come out in so many forms, like the new Star Wars Trilogy and Fast and Furious 4—and with the threat new Harry Potter books it seems the question of whether or not to prequel will always be something we wrestle with.

There are working Prequels out there, Underworld 3, for instance and Temple of Doom, which most people don’t seem to realize is a prequel. Fast and the Furious 4 works because it does essentially the same thing all of the others do. It’s PG-13 porn, there’s scantily clad women and beautiful cars…

From what I can tell is prequels that work, do so for three reasons—the plot is so thin and dependent on superficial things that its nearly impossible to ruin the larger picture because its all rather base line. Underworld and Fast and the Furious fit into this category. These are watchable films, but there’s not much complex in the way of plot there.

The second reason is because they were planned from the start. The book Mossflower by Brian Jacques is the second book in the Redwall series and is a prequel that is set up by the first book well, it also links the first to the third book. Metal Gear Solid 3 does the same thing. When the prequel is part of the game plan and essential to what comes next, it can work.

Third, and final is the person who made the prequel knew their shit…let’s be honest even authors and directors contradict themselves all of the time. If I were to make you watch Star Wars: A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi you would have an entirely different ide of the Force, of what Jedi could do and of how long the Galactic Empire had been in power. The six movies only fit together if you’re a total fucking retard and don’t pay close attention. Part of the beauty and importance of prequels is they don’t upset what’s there and carefully add to it.

One mistake that’s often made with a prequel is linking everything to some cause to try and better explain the inner workings of things. Anakin/Vader became the center of the universe in the Star Wars prequels. He wasn’t just a misled soul, he was the chosen one and the one who had been foretold and had a virgin birth and all of that…

People have been saying they want Harry Potter prequels, stuff about Harry’s mother and father in school and the other characters there or stuff with young Dumbledore.

Another big culprit for a prequel fuck-up is the antithesis of number two—telling a story we didn’t need to hear. Now admittedly Underworld did this, but it was so fucking cool no one cared they knew how it was going to end. The Star Wars prequels and pretty much anything that can happen in Harry Potter will more than likely fall into this category. Most of the reason why Vader or Sirius Black or any number of other characters like that are so cool is because the reader only saw them for a short time and they heard these great things about the past diluted down through history.

Vader was a great, noble man seduced by the force and a great friend. James Potter was a headstrong youngster who matured into a kind, loving father. For the purpose of their stories, that’s all we need to know about them. Who felt cheated when we had to hear young Vader constantly whining about how he hated Obi-Wan and how he would be the most powerful Jedi ever? Not so noble now, is he?

I would say, as a rule almost, if you have to wonder if the fans want a prequel—you don’t need one. Part of the reason fans want things is because they’re mysterious and that kind of made them cool. Most of the time, they won’t live up to the standard the fans expect. Especially in a worlds swamped by fan fiction like Harry Potter or Star Wars is. It’s better off as a mystery.

Oddly enough, two prequels stand out as exemplarily and so intertwined with their cannon that they are very accepted. Unfortunately both are video games and one is actually Star WarsStar Wars: Force Unleashed falls just before A New Hope and leads into the first movie. It actually works with cannon, not against it. And Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core actually makes the mistakes in Final Fantasy VII’s plot make more sense.

More often than not, though, they don’t seem to work.