The Problem with Prequels..and no, not just Star Wars!
..They are so easily pitched, made, released and yet so frequently go wrong. Here’s why..
- The makers know too much?
If you find yourself too immersed in a mythology? That can be good in building a world and prepping a film. It’s not such a good thing when that prep effectively becomes the entire series. This is the mistake Peter Jackson made with The HOBBIT trilogy.
That should have been a one and done, small scale, fireside tale on BBC, pre Christmas, same way Harrrrrryyyy Potttttterrr belonged there rather than on big screen?
Instead? We got Lord of the Rings mark two. Makes no sense to have an entirely other tone and world imposed on what is a skeleton simplicity plot designed for the kiddies. It just does not work.
- The makers know Too Little?
One gets a feeling that some new tv shows and film series are written via wikipedia or the bare minimum research to a property’s lore. Or a fair attempt at lots of research but failure to truly distil an essence to an IP.
The key symptom of this is the over-egging of certain character traits that were mere incidental symptoms and passing references in an original product.
I am looking at you, Star Trek. No, not Enterprise (an underrated and measured, even credible preface to the main series). More, Discovery. And the JJ universe (enjoyable but really..everyone defined by one trait they once showed on one episode?).
- EXPOSITION ALERT!
You can go a tad far in telling the audience where a story is going or what it is you are trying to accomplish. Presuming our familiarity with key events in your fictional universe, you forget to simply show rather than tell the key developments that made things happen.
The TV show, Endeavour is guilty of this. Yes it’s popular, but there is a tendency to tell the audience what each character is, where they may end up, etc.
The Star Wars prequels really overdo this: much political talk, thereby draining the mystique and killing all fun, punctuated by a sudden burst rush of delivery in the arse end of the third film, with some gratuitous dark violence to match.
- Giving the People what they Want. Or NOT giving it Enough..
Sometimes, they overdo the whole foreshadowing thing. The reference forward in an ep from franchise past? Other times they sort of go there yet hold back for another time? Both are a bit cringe worthy..
Wow! JAMES BOND has an ASTON MARTIN! So what? He loves cars. And? Oh you think HE will be in awe because a previous iteration of his fictional self had that car in Goldfinger et al.
Um. No. And they certainly would not rebuild it at Mi6. That’s just bollox, whether prequel / reboot/rehash or original self contained adventure (remember those?).
MY NAME IS KHAAAAN! (Ok, but you are now a century too late for that to have happened and even if this is a universe reboot, the same name with same man is stretching it and Kirk has no idea who you are, anyway).
‘Anakin Skywalker..meet OBI WAN KENOBI!’; ‘THIS IS A DROID CALLED R2-D2!‘. (Ok..but why has the film slowed down to tell us these details which are frankly sod all interest to the characters in universe at that stage of their lives?).
‘JOKER CARD!’ (ok to be fair, they followed up that one well. But even so, the Dark Knight series does overdo references that are either overstretched or not paid off in the name of ‘realism’, right up to sort of having a Robin and rushing the end of the series IN ‘Rises‘?).
Prince Andrew in The Crown: ‘Prince Charles wants a reduced monarchy’ (sure he does, Andrew; FORTY YEARS AFTER THIS SUPPOSED SCENE).
I think you get my meaning. prequels CAN be fun. They can even be GREAT! But you MUST pace the references to what in that universe is future lore. Equally, neither stint on what people love in the imagery of a franchise nor impose it so strongly that one is taken out of story, plot, character and tone.