Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Dell's Pointless Lists: Dell's Top 11 Prequels

As all good movie buffs know, there really is nothing new under the sun. As proof, we have been fed a never-ending stream of remakes, reboots, re-imaginings, sequels, and of course, prequels. Us bloggers complain about it, real loud, sometimes. However, the truth of the matter is that they aren't all bad. Every now and again, a really good one manages to make its way into our local theaters. That's one of the reasons I decided to do this post. The other is because they were kinda-sorta on my mind due to the post I already know is coming up tomorrow. It's called teasing, people. Deal with it.

Like any list-maker worth his pick for number one, I did a little research to make sure I wasn't forgetting anything. What I found out was that there are some apparently good and/or well-known ones that I just haven't seen. These include, but are not limited to: Zulu Dawn, Butch and Sundance: The Early Years, Red Dragon, The Thing (2011), and Infernal Affairs II. There are also two other movies I have seen that show up on a lot of lists of great prequels, but won't appear here. I'll explain that, later. Yes, that was another tease. For now, let's just call these...

Dell's Top 11 Prequels of All-Time

Why 11? Because I can.

11. Fast Five
Prequel to The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift
This movie continues one of the weirdest timelines of any franchise. For the record, that timeline goes 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 3, 7...mostly. There's some overlapping going on with 3 and 7. But we're talking about 5. The snobs among us will call this a dumb car movie. And it is. However, it's so gleefully bad, you can't help but love it. It's unabashedly ridiculous and always opts for the visually spectacular over more subtle approaches to film-making. It's also the best movie in the franchise. How many other part 5s can you even think of saying that about? (My full review)

10. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Prequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark
When we all flocked to theaters back in the day to see Raiders of the Lost Ark, we didn't know that it wasn't the first time Indiana Jones saved the day. I know, I know, he wasn't really needed to save the world, but that's a conversation for another day. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom takes place a year before the first movie and takes things in a decidedly darker direction. I've always liked it, but like everyone else, I think it's the weakest of the original trilogy of Indy flicks. The two movies on either side of it were great, so it suffered by comparison. Now, we have Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Temple of Doom is looking pretty good, huh.

9. Puss in Boots
Prequel to Shrek 2
Taking place before the titular Puss met everyone's favorite ogre, this one puts the feisty tabby on an adventure of his own. It's a fun ride with plenty of humor and lots of a cat. A cat that prefers to be a lover rather than a fighter, but is adept at both. Having the voice of the lead character provided by Antonio Banderas helps us recall him in the Zorro movies. Puss in Boots is what those movies tried to be.

8. Prometheus
Prequel to Alien
In Alien, the event that set everything in motion was the ill-fated crew bringing a rather large creature of some sort who seems to have blown open from the inside so they could perform an examination. If you ever wondered about the story behind that creature, this is the movie that sets out to explain it to you. It's a compelling and confusing ride that admittedly doesn't answer nearly as many questions as it brings up. The beauty of it is that it's not supposed to. With excellent turns by Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, and Idris Elba Prometheus outgrows it's monster movie roots to deliver an intriguing film.

7. Star Trek
Prequel to just about everything Star Trek related
When you're rebooting a franchise that has been going for as long and has as many strands as Star Trek you've got a tough road to hoe. This effort borrowed from franchise creator Gene Roddenberry's own playbook and created an alternate timeline. This afforded the movie some autonomy without sacrificing a place in the canon. The film also invited new fans in by toning down what some consider an overly cerebral approach. Basically, director J.J. Abrams dumbed it down a bit and played up the action. The result is the most fun and accessible Star Trek flick in ages.

6. Monsters University
Prequel to Monsters, Inc.
Rather than going further into the careers of Mike and Sully, this movie takes us back to when our heroes first met. We see their relationship grow from some rather contentious beginnings. The magic of its predecessor is both captured and capitalized on. It is funny right from the start, brings Helen Mirren aboard who gives us a great villain, and even injects some horror flick sensibilities into things during the film's climax. (My full review)

5. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
Prequel to Star Wars
The original Star Wars trilogy is one of the most beloved franchises of all-time. The trilogy of prequels that followed decades later is one of the most loathed. I actually kinda like The Phantom Menace. What can I say? I'm a sucker for pod racing. Still, it wasn't great. I hate, hate, HATE Attack of the Clones. It's just one of the most god-awful things ever committed to film. Fortunately, Gen. Lucas' third and final prequel rights the ship. Of the much-reviled cinematic trio, this is the one most like the original set of films with its more robust space opera stylings. Unlike the two movies that preceded it, something actually happened in the two hours we're watching it. Honestly, and this might be blasphemy to some of you, I think it's better than Return of the Jedi.

4. X-Men: First Class
Prequel to X-Men
Sometimes, the best way to get the taste of a bad movie out of your mouth is by getting as far away from it as possible in the opposite direction. That's what the good people behind the X-Men franchise did when they reverse field after the atrocious X-Men: The Last Stand and went back to the very beginnings of our favorite mutants. Stars James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender take over the roles of Professor Xavier and Magneto, respectively, and breathe new life into the series. The movie showcases patient, yet still compelling story-telling that stands in sharp contrast to its warp-speed predecessor. It's clearly one of the best films the franchise has to offer. (My full review)

3. Casino Royale
Prequel to every 007 movie ever made
The James Bond franchise was in desperate need of a makeover. This is the movie that provided it for us all. It simultaneously updated the character while still paying homage to the movies that, in reality, came before it. Casino Royale also succeeded in something that had been hinted at before, but never fully realized as it is here (and later, in Skyfall): it made Bond a human being. No longer was he just an action figure made of all the stuff boys think real men are made of. He was flesh and blood, motion and emotion. And he was still a man's man.

2. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Prequel to A Fistful of Dollars
Without question, the greatest trilogy of westerns ever made ends with arguably it's best movie, and a prequel to boot. It's a bit unconventional for a prequel in that it some of the actors appeared in the earlier movies playing different roles. However, when your series is based on a guy who's name we never learn, unconventional is par for the course. There are some tell-tale signs that it certainly is a prequel. First, and most important, it is set during an earlier time frame than any of the other movies. Second, and coolest, we learn just how The Man with No Name got that cool outfit he wears.

1. The Godfather Part II
Prequel to The Godfather
How do you follow up a masterpiece? By making an even better movie, of course. That's precisely what Francis Ford Coppola did when he gave the world The Godfather Part II. It's one of those movies that functions as both a prequel and a sequel. The part we're concerned with here is the rise of Vito Corleone whom we met near the end of his life in the first movie. Here, just how he became The Don is laid out in hugely cinematic fashion. This side is juxtaposed with the sequel half of the movie chronicling the rise of Michael Corleone to give us two remarkable films in one package.

Hold up...

Earlier, I mentioned doing research before posting this list. That included looking at a number of other lists on the same subject. I kept coming across two titles that I purposely did not include because they are NOT prequels. Just listen close as I tell you

Why Batman Begins and Rise of the Planet of the Apes are NOT prequels.

Both of these are movies that are not meant to narratively connect to any movie that came before it. Batman Begins exists in a vastly different world than the Tim Burton Bat-flicks and in a completely different galaxy as the Joel Schumacher efforts. Other than the names of certain characters, nothing is shared between Batman Begins and any movie that came before it. The same can be said for Rise of the Planet of the Apes. It is meant as the genesis of a self-contained trilogy, not to connect in any way to the 1968 The Planet of the Apes. Writer Rick Jaffa bristles at the notion of calling Rise a prequel and notes that it is meant to be a self-contained work offering us a completely different take on how Caesar came to be.

In other words, I'm right.

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  1. I was one of those that was dismissive of the Fast and the Furious franchise and when Fast Five finally came to HBO and I was hoping that the critics who praised this were wrong. Then I saw it and I was like.... "what the fuck?" I realized exactly what they were doing. They know they were being ridiculous and actually didn't care if you liked it or not. Plus, the action made sense and the characters were fun. It definitely won me over with repeated viewings as I realized how wrong I was.

    1. Glad to hear that it won you over. It really does know its a balls-to-the-wall bonkers adventure and just goes for broke.

  2. Great list! Pretty much agree with everything apart from Puss in Boots and Prometheus

  3. I didn't even know Temple of Doom came before Raiders of the Lost Ark chronologically and I've seen all of them! Oh I wonder what else I've missed...

    1. There are lots out there. When Temple of Doom came out no one made a big deal of it being a prequel. It just so happened to be set a yeat earlier.

  4. Great choices of the ones I seen. Crystal Skull was weak but Temple of Doom I think is the bigger disappointment because they foolishly replaced the perfect Karen Allen with the endlessly irksome Kate Capshaw.

    I loved the revamp of Star Trek, being a fan but not a Trekkie I like that they didn't change the characters too much but shed some of the mythos that had by that point weighed the original series down.

    Don't get me wrong when I say this, I love Daniel Craig as Bond and his series of films as the super agent but I think when they removed the more sophisticated aspect of the character and made him more thuggish the filmmakers diminished his distinctiveness somewhat. However I was glad they moved him away from the absurdity that had crept into the films, so I guess it was an even trade-off.

    I was really looking forward to Prometheus since I love the first two Alien films but I ended up not caring for it very much. It started off well but it went on endlessly and by the end I just wanted it to be over.

    Prequels are a relatively rare breed, which I think is a good thing since they rarely work out well and even rarer when they improve on the original. Most of the ones I could think of that you hadn't already listed like Exorcist: The Beginning and Oz, the Great and Powerful are disasters. Two that did come to mind that aren't bad but still not up to the level of the first are:

    Another Part of the Forest (1948)- Which is a prequel to The Little Foxes and attempts to show how the venal Hubbard clan got that way. It's an entertaining film but is missing the bite of the original and Ann Blyth while a fine actress is no Bette Davis at her most demonic.

    The Nightcomers (1971)-A prequel to The Innocents the 1961's adaptation of Henry James's The Turn of the Screw. It's not a bad film, although it leans a little heavily on the sado-masochistic aspect of the plot and Brando's accent is too exaggerated, but its missing the eerie dread of the first.

    1. Thanks. I hear you about Capshaw.

      For me, that refinement was part of what weighed Bond down. Making him rougher around the edges worked for me.

      A lot of folks didn't care for Prometheus. I was into it.

      Haven't seen your two choices or the original. Thanks for putting them on my radar.

  5. TOTALLY agree with you about the Star Wars prequel trilogy: Ep. 1 isn't nearly as awful as everyone says (the pod race is awesome), Ep. 2 is the true stinker, and Ep. 3 rights the ship somewhat. I also liked Prometheus when most of the internet seemed to hate it, so it's nice to see that I'm not alone.

  6. LOL...I love your defense of your stance in the end. You are right, by the way!

    And yes to pretty much all of this!

  7. Nice list Dell. I didn't realize that F5 was a prequel to Tokyo Drift. I also didn't know that 'Temple of Doom' was before Raiders. Temple of Doom was so cray. Heartripping, monkey brain eating, and Billie. Oh Billie was so irritating.

    1. Yeah, it's in Tokyo Drift that Han actually dies, but they wanted to have him in later movies because he was by far the best part of that movie. Making F4, 5, and 6 prequels allowed them to do this. And Temple of Doom is definitely a darker, weirder movie than Raiders of the Lost Ark.

  8. Awesome list Dell and no they're not pointless at all :D I immediately thought of X-Men: First Class which is an awesome prequel, if not the BEST of the last decade. I was thinking about Rise of the Planet of the Apes but you're right, they're more like reboots than prequels.

    1. Thank you. I love X-Men: First Class. Great movie.

  9. Great list mate!!! I never figured The Good The bad... as a prequel but your reasoning seems sound. I couldn't think of one prequel that was better than its cousin, so congrats on making a list of 11!

    1. Thanks. I don't think all of them are better than their predecessors, bit they do all stand on their own as solid films.