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Thread: How do you feel about prequels in general?

  1. #1

    Question How do you feel about prequels in general?

    To start off with, I'm not talking about the prequels here; I'm speaking of the idea of prequels in general.

    Originally I wasn't against the notion, but it feels like prequels always fall short of expectations and I'm left wondering if hinting at a story's past may sometimes be better than actually telling it; perhaps the interpretation and imagination of the fans based on those hints are far more potent than actually trying to tell the story itself.

    Using our own beloved Star Wars franchise as an example, I think most of us had vastly different ideas of what the Clone Wars would be like based on comments made in the original trilogy and passing remarks made in the various novels. For myself, I feel very disappointed with what we got versus what I imagined it to be like. As blasphemous as this may be to say around here, I often wish the prequel trilogy and subsequent cartoon had never happened and that the Clone Wars had been left to our collective imaginations.

    Underworld is another franchise where I have this problem; I loved the first two films and while Rise of the Lycans was a fun film in it's own right, it didn't live up to what I expected based on the hints given in the first two movies. It wasn't as much of a letdown as the prequel trilogy was, but it was enough of a disappointment that I'd prefer if it had never existed.

    Are prequels ever necessary once a story has begun and become established? Am I alone in thinking that prequels generally fail and end up detracting away from the magic of what the human imagination can concoct based on vague hints throughout the original story?

    I ask because this is an issue that has become very near and dear to my heart as a writer.

    For months now I have been sitting on a half-finished Chapter 1 of a prequel to my last story, The Espada's Masquerade. I like what I have so far, I really do, but there's a nagging voice in the back of my head that keeps pointing out that prequels are often a letdown and I'd be better off moving forward instead of backwards. Perhaps it would be better to do a direct sequel and drop more hints to the untold past story and let the readers continue to flesh it out in their heads, perhaps a flashback here or there to give them something concrete to work with.

    Should prequels exist or do they end up causing more harm than good?

  2. #2
    Moderator: Roleplaying Forum coldskier0320's Avatar
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    As blasphemous as this may be to say around here, I often wish the prequel trilogy and subsequent cartoon had never happened and that the Clone Wars had been left to our collective imaginations.
    Got no argument from me...

    That being said, I think that I tend to agree with you, but for a more specific reason. I dislike most of the movie prequels I've seen in which I'm familiar with the standard setting. Star Wars being the chiefest example among them.

    I think the reason for this, for me, is what they try to do with them. Rather than taking a specific event and making a movie about it, as was done in the "main movie", it seems that writers attempt to make a prequel as more of a documentary, giving a broad-scoped, more historical account of events, which tie in to the existing "main movie".

    Rather than attempting to answer uncertainties, wrap up loose ends, and describe everything, I'd much rather see a prequel leave just as many unanswered questions, and basically cover one particular incident, much like the main movie. Rather than the goal being "Hey, here's a look at all the crap that led up to the 'main movie' ", I'd rather see a prequel that was content to say, simply, "Things were just as nuts in the past!"

    For me, the only really decent example I can thing of is how Temple of Doom chronologically came before Raiders, thus making it a prequel in strictest terms, but not a scene-setter type of prequel.

    Also, being a non-Trekkie, I thoroughly enjoyed the 2009 film.
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    I personally think prequels are terrible ideas! While an author might be able to write a prequel, a movie director should never, ever attempt a prequel. There are simply too many ways for it to go wrong.

    When I heard that there were going to be new Star Wars films made, I said to my friend who was telling me the information, "I hope they don't make them prequels." He then informed me that they WERE, in fact, going to be prequels. I said then that Lucas better watch his movies VERY closely, taking note of the lines spoken and the technology presented, otherwise there's going to be a lot of holes in the movies. I wasn't wrong.

    Prequels suffer from usually two main problems when it comes to movies. First, they're usually a number of years away from the original release of the movie that they are the predecessor to. This causes the problem of lack of consistancy. Lines of dialogue are forgotten or dismissed. Character backgrounds mysteriously change. Events don't happen, or happen differently from previously mentioned. All of those are consistancy problems, usually brought about by the director NOT watching the movie again right before making the prequel (and hopefully viewing it once or twice DURING the making as well to keep the ideas present in mind).

    The second problem is technology. Perhaps one movie was made in the 80s, and then the "prequel" is made 15 years later. Well, the apparent technology is going to advance. A flashlight used in the 80s can look notably different than a flashlight made today. Cars are noticable. Clothes, hairstyles, verbal phrases, set design methods, graphicly visual effects, they all change over the years. This creates visual consistancy problems in the movies. Star Trek has done it, Star Wars has done it, I'm sure others have done it as well. You see a spaceship and you see the cockpit of a ship in the original movie. Make the spaceship AND the cockpit look the same. Make the other shapceships look like they fit the original era AT LEAST. Don't do what Star Trek did and have nice touchscreens in your ship that supposedly occurred decades before the ship that had toggle buttons and slide bars. It kills the idea of consistancy. Sure, you're attempting to be cool and modern, but you have to remember that you're making a PREQUEL! That means it happens BEFORE...older tech! Older styles!

    Therefore I shudder every time I hear about a movie that's a prequel. They're always, always done wrong. Exceptions like the 2nd Indiana Jones don't really count because they have zero tie-in with the original.

    So count me as "Not a fan".
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    Agreed, with everything which has been said. I think you hit the nail on the head, Coldskier; a prequel can only be effective if they are as much stories in their own right, and not trying to explain or tie up everything. "Making everything fit" has an awful tendency to not only make the prequels kind of boring, since you already know what is going to happen, but to take a concept that was once very open-ended and innovative and reduce it to a much smaller scope. AKA, the same characters, the same story, all over again, with very little new ideas or themes being introduced.

    And I'm with you all the way, Seghast. I VASTLY preferred the Star Wars universe before the prequel-era material was released. There is something about not knowing which so tantalizes our imaginations. . . why the Mona Lisa is smiling. Whether DiCaprio was awake or still asleep at the end of Inception. Who Captain Nemo really is. Being told would ruin the magic.

    One "prequel" I actually cringed to hear about was Dawn of the Jedi. I don't know about everyone else, but to me, having the Jedi and Sith have mysterious origins--the details of which were lost in antiquity, with only legends and rumors left--is SO much more interesting than having everything spelled out. And, as to what you said Grim, it looks like they'll be using lightsabers. Because all Jedi must have lightsabers.

    There have been interesting prequels, like SOME of the Brian Herbert Dune novels (poorly written, but at least interesting). And some very good ones, such as Wicked, but these all have a compelling story all to their own, often expanding the setting the originals were in rather than shrinking it.
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    I can't recall ever having problems with a prequel. If this is because there are no inconsitencies, I don't see them, or they don't bother me is another question entirely. I loved the Star Wars prequels. I loved the 2009 Star Trek movie. As I recall, Asimov wrote some prequels to his Foundation setting, which I loved back in the day.

    Just because things don't turn out as you expected them to turn out, doesn't make prequels a bad idea.
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    You're correct, Lucas, just because it turns out different than what we expected doesn't make them bad. What does make them bad is when they have inconsistancies, directly contradict with previous movies (movies they are supposed to be preceeding), are badly directed, or are anachronistic. Those are the aspects that I have seen too often with prequels.

    Now I can't say I've seen every prequel movie out there, or that all prequels are the same, but from what I've seen, a vast majority have some of those problems and therefore were a bad idea.
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    Asimov wrote the Robot trilogy as a separate series, but fused the two together with Prelude to Foundation. And I do agree with you, just because things do not turn out how you expect does not make it bad. In fact, I would argue that many times the fact that it IS different and creative and new can add tremendous value. However, I do have to second what Grimace said: when you DO have those kinds of faults, and many prequels do, you run into trouble.
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    I can understand your view of such problems, but I've never encountered them in prequels myself. Not that I've seen all prequels ever made.
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    Personally, I think if they had set the Star Wars prequels a few milennia before the original movies, maybe explored the distant past of the Jedi and Sith (and where the prophecy came from) I would have enjoyed them better. At least, when I saw the ad for Episode I the first time, and saw Darth Maul's double-bladed lightsaber, I thought it was Exar Kun.

    Silly me.

    But in any case, the problem with the prequels is not that they're set before. At least with Star Wars, having better technology in the real world is not a problem, because Lucas artificially aged everything in the originals to get that "used future" look. The problem with the SW prequels was just that they suffered from bad writing (and had a vastly different vision of the Clone Wars, vis-a-vis Obi-Wan's mutterings in Episode IV.)

    I don't prequels are ipso facto bad. They can be quite good. The problem really depends on how good the writing is, and the story itself. If the story is bad, the prequel will be bad. If the story is good, the prequel will be good. Even if it contradicts minor elements from the original. (Of course, if it contradicts major points...)
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