Blockbusters that take a huge step backwards

Prequels are hugely profitable but they leave film-goers short-changed

George Lucas opened the prequel floodgates with his totally unnecessary (although it didn't feel like it at the time, the sense of excitement was so high) Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, followed by the equally pointless Attack of the Clones and the frankly depressing Revenge of the Sith.

And now the prequels just keep on coming, coming and coming with the latest uncalled for prequel, X-Men: First Class, recently released on DVD. It's all, of course, to make some extra, guaranteed bucks out of an audience who are already hooked into the franchise. It's a financial no-brainer. Audiences surely want to know their favourite characters' back stories, don't they? But do we really? Do we really want to go back to the characters' origins? Isn't it actually quite annoying to go backwards?

Not only do these prequels rarely work, only very occasionally enhancing the story (Batman Begins, The Godfather II and J J Abrams's Star Trek being honourable exceptions), but they actually, in a lot of cases, make very little narrative sense. We're meant to believe, for example, that Charles Xavier and Mystique in the X-Men series were originally quite close pals. But in the "later" films, the closeness between these two characters is not referred to in any shape or form. It's just something the prequel-makers decided to insert to juice up their origins story. It makes no storytelling sense, and only irritates fans of the original films.

At least the X-Men prequel was blessed with a cohesive script, zesty direction from Matthew Vaughn and strong performances, as opposed to some of the prequels that have been foisted on baffled audiences. We're talking about the likes of 2005's Romy and Michele: In the Beginning.

The original 1997 feature Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, starring Lisa Kudrow and Mira Sorvino as dozy 28-year-olds returning to their high school and faking their achievements, was quite sweet, but not terribly memorable. It didn't require a sequel, let alone a prequel where we're shown the two airheads (played by Katherine Heigl and Alex Breckenridge) graduating from high school and dreaming of making it in LA. Why on earth was this film made? The same goes for 2003's Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd, a prequel described by one critic as a "nightmarish travesty" or Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, the third instalment in the neck-biter franchise but chronologically the first in the series. It's confusing. The same goes for the underwhelming Red Dragon (a prequel to Silence of the Lambs), 2006's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning and the lamentable Tremors 4: The Legend Begins. All dismal attempts to wring every last penny out of the fans of these franchises.

Now the "ultimate" prequel is on its way: The Hobbit. It'll be directed by Peter Jackson, who did such a sensational job with The Lord of the Rings trilogy. This troubled (changes in director, union disputes etc) film does make some sort of sense. An awful lot of people want to see this particular origins tale. The only concern is whether the younger version (played by Martin Freeman) of Bilbo Baggins will match up to the older version (played by Ian Holm). You can't help but compare the two, noting any discrepancies in their intonation, their mannerisms and their movements. This is one of the reasons Star Wars was such a disappointment. Ewan McGregor simply wasn't a credible younger version of Alec Guinness's Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Where will it end? Will no great film be immune to the prequel treatment: "Casablanca 2" (Rick and Isla's cute-meet in Paris), "Some Like It Tepid" (Joe and Jerry as budding child musicians), "ET's Journey" (the little alien's trip to Earth)... Sequels are bad enough but prequels are possibly even worse.

News

literature

News
Dermot O'Leary attends the X Factor Wembley Arena auditions at Wembley on August 1, 2014 in London, England.

television

News
news
Arts and Entertainment
At this year's SXSW festival in Austin, Texas

Music Why this music festival is still the place to spot the next big thing

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished
tvReview: The latest episode was a smidgen less depressing... but it’s hardly a bonza beach party
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall

Mexican government reportedly paying Bond producers for positive portrayal in new filmfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Disney’s flying baby elephant is set to return in live-action format
filmWith sequels, prequels and spin-offs, Disney plays it safe... and makes a pachyderm
Arts and Entertainment
Nazrin with Syf, Camden
photography
News
The QI Elves photographed at the Soho Theatre. They are part of a team of researchers who find facts for the television programme 'QI'.
people
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv0-star review: Sean O'Grady gives it his best shot anyway
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss