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.

Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Arts and Entertainment
Drake continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album
music
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

TV
Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
News
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
people
News
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
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.

    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003
    Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

    Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

    Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

    Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
    Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

    Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

    Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
    New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

    Dinner through the decades

    A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
    Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

    Philippa Perry interview

    The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

    Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

    Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
    Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

    Harry Kane interview

    The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
    The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?