A Question of Prequels

Sequels are all the rage these days. Take your original cast, put them in a new place or give them a new problem, and apply the basic formula, and voila! Cash in the bank!

But what about prequels? Are they ever really necessary? If so, then when?

My opinion is that in most cases, a prequel shouldn’t be necessary. If a movie is well-done, it should stand on its own without requiring explanation. However, the current trend of starting a story (whether movie, book, or TV show) in mid-action does tend to leave some of us feeling disoriented. Occasionally, a good writer or director uses this situation to develop a character or plot further.

Sometimes a movie has a great ensemble cast in which a supporting player steals the show. Fans may demand more of them, and a prequel might be the only way to make that happen. Some stories have a character-driven plot that lends itself to answering the how and why of their situation.

A great director or writer doesn’t rush into making a prequel. They look for the demand. They listen to their fans. They decide what questions should be answered. Most writers already know the “backstory” of all of the characters they create. Most movie-goers never really get all the history of any character they see on the silver screen. It’s the mystery that keeps an audience attentive. Too much information and we get bored. Not enough and we’re confused. A good writer or director knows the recipe.

There’s a movie in theatres right now that is a prequel to a very lucrative and successful movie franchise that has spanned over 30 years. It’s not being promoted as a prequel. It stands on its own as a single film, and if you haven’t seen any of the other films, you wouldn’t miss a thing. I won’t tell you what it is, because I don’t want to spoil it for you.

I will offer a hint. Ridley Scott is a genius.

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading.



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