6 MOST IMPORTANT and interesting PREQUELS
Prequel – a literary or film work that recounts events earlier than those described in the original. Prequels are usually created later than the original works and often clarify plots and events that were told by the main part. As a rule, new actors are taken who play younger versions of well-known characters (e.g. X-Men: First Class). A prequel is often the genesis of a character (X-Men Genesis: Wolverine) or an explanation or depiction of events mentioned in the original film (e.g. Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith). In front of you are 7 extraordinarily successful and imaginative prequels, which prove in various ways that this cinematic “prequel” can, from its seemingly lost position of being “the other”, solidly surprise with its original approach to the subject – acting, plot, content.
6. PREY (2022) / prequel of PREDATOR (1987) & PREDATOR 2 (1990)
We waited exactly 35 years for the prequel to the science fiction classic starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and directed by John McTiernan. Even more time separates the action of Prey from the events of the first Predator, because nearly… 270 years! This time the commandos and policemen (from the sequel) were replaced by Indians from the Comanche tribe, and machine guns were replaced by muskets, bows and tomahawks. For the first time a woman fights the Predator as the main protagonist, effectively dealing with the beast with agility and cunning. The most important thing in Prey, however, is the pistol that Naru gets from a French colonist, which turns out (see engraving: Raphael Adolini 1715) to be exactly the same one that the 1997 Predator presents to Danny Glover in the sequel, which was made in 1990. Apparently, by the way, it was this distinctive prop from Predator 2 that made 1719 chosen as the time of Prey’s action. Interestingly, the 1996 comic Predator: 1718 (i.e., created six years after Predator 2) explains how Pred came into possession of the distinctive gun, receiving it from… pirate Raphael Adolini himself, before the latter gave up the ghost after a duel with a space predator. Perhaps in these very comic events we can look to the plot of the next sequel / prequel to the famous science fiction franchise. Currently, the weapon remains in the possession of Naru’s parents, to whom the brave alien slayer gave the gun along with the severed head of the Predator.
5. THE MANY SAINTS OF NEWARK (2021) / prequel of THE SOPRANOS (1999–2007)
The creators of the film The Many Saints of Newark, including co-writer David Chase and director of the nine episodes of the series Alan Taylor, have kidnapped themselves from the sun, 14 years after the end of the broadcast of The Sopranos, in an attempt to make a film prequel to one of the best series ever. First of all, The Many Saints of Newark is a prequel that no one was waiting for and that the series didn’t need, because David Chase’s TV masterpiece with the role of James Gandolfini stood and anything filmed without him is just not that anymore. And while the film as a prequel to The Sopranos falls a bit short, there is no shortage of good scenes and decent gangsterism in a Sopranos-Scrorsese vibe, and as a creation considered in isolation from the parent series the film is quite good. But The Many Saints of Newark came in at number five on my rating not for quality, but for… the actor who plays the difficult role of young Tony Soprano in the film, the most vulnerable to criticism from viewers. And he is played by none other than the real-life son of the irreverent James Gandolfini – Michael. I can’t say that Gandolfini junior has shown any kind of above-average acting, but he bears such an uncanny physical resemblance to his father that watching him in The Sopranos prequel as a younger version of Tony hooks you into some kind of cinematic metaphysical experience. Thus, for his on-screen “presence” alone, which makes one feel the spiritual presence of James Gandolfini, The Many Saints of Newark is worth watching and perhaps even appreciating.
4. PEARL (2022) / prequel of X (2022)
A very interesting case of a prequel, the uniqueness of which already begins in the original film, horror X. I enjoyed this plot-intriguing slasher very much, especially how at the end the old woman Pearl was pulled out of her shoes with a shot from a double-barreled shotgun and broke her hip. And believe it or not, but it wasn’t until some time after the screening that I came across somewhere the information that Mia Goth, playing the main character, also played, under a layer of make-up, the old woman Pearl, fixated on youth and beauty… in a way, herself. But the most interesting was to come only with the release of the prequel X titled Pearl, where Mia Goth steps into the shoes of the young Pearl and, showing the gradual evolution of this heroine into a calculating assassin, gives a real acting performance. It’s a bit of a shame that Pearl has slipped unnoticed through a season of significant film awards, finding recognition only at smaller film festivals and garnering nominations and awards for Mia Goth from various insignificant film-critical bodies. But the most important is the fact that Pearl received on Rotten Tomatoes as much as 92% positive reviews and a certificate of freshness (X received 94% and also a certificate of freshness), but already on IMDb, by strictly audience votes, Pearl received a score of 7.0/10 thus beating (!) the original X, whose rating is 6.6/10. Both films were made in the same year and both were directed by Ti West. And already on the way (release announced for this year – 2023) is MaXXXine, the sequel to X that closes this remarkable horror trilogy. It’s directed by Ti West, of course, and will again feature Mia Goth in the lead role.
3. THE THING (2011) / prequel of THE THING (1982)
It took nearly 30 years for Carpenter’s The Thing to make a cinematic return to this universe. While this return was somehow not hugely successful, as the film’s CGI effects did not match the physical effects of 1982, and suffered from little engaging action in the third act, as a prequel, content-wise (!) it did a great job! The creators of 2011’s The Thing approached Carpenter’s masterpiece with great respect, building the action location, events and characters according to all the information and facts we learned in the cult horror film. Thus, all the events in the 2011 film are subordinated to one goal: to create a plot bridge with Carpenter’s The Thing. Thus, during the closing credits, we hear Ennio Morricone’s characteristic musical theme and watch as the two surviving Norwegians board a helicopter (identical to the one in the original film) and set off in pursuit of the dog with which Carpenter’s classic began or will begin. They have grenades on board, which the camera shows they in one of the earlier scenes of the prequel, and which explode in the first minutes of 1982’s The Thing.
In Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.’s film, we also see how the conglomerated quadruped burned by the Norwegians and brought back to base in Carpenter’s film by a team of Americans was created. With such attention to detail and respect for the original, the transition from 2011’s The Thing to 1982’s The Thing is so satisfyingly smooth that you can start one film after another and feel the plot continuity of events. Kurt Russell is about to visit the destroyed base of the Norwegians, where he finds the burned bodies and trashed interiors in exactly the same condition as we just saw them “live” in the prequel. Thus, viewed from the perspective of familiarity with the prequel, Carpenter’s cult classic gains a whole new tone by the way, becoming in a way a film… complete. As a curiosity, it should be mentioned that 2011’s The Thing is also, in a way, a remake of the 1952 version, because it shows the finding and extraction of an alien in a block of ice (which, after all, was not shown in Carpenter’s The Thing, which is, to exaggerate, widely regarded as a remake of the 1950s classic). We can therefore regard Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.’s film as an unprecedented example of a prequel-remake of two different films from distant cinematic decades.
2. ROGUE ONE (2012) / prequel of STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE (1977)
This great prequel to Episode IV: A New Hope, directed by Gareth Edwards (creator of my favorite Godzilla), was neither particularly expected nor really needed by anyone. That’s because it took on the episode of the rebels stealing the Empire’s plans for the Death Star, an event that was half-heartedly mentioned in A New Hope as the ignition spark of the plot of George Lucas’ classic. Meanwhile, created 35 years after Episode IV as a backstop between the new (I-III) and classic trilogy (IV-VI), the film dealing with entirely new characters, mostly without lightsabers and powers as we know them, turned out to be a smash hit and one of the best films in the Star Wars universe! Literally everything is great here – from the interesting characters, to the absorbing story, solid acting, fantastic visual and sound effects, to the fact that we, the audience, got to live with the characters and care about their tragic fate.
After all, it was obvious from the beginning of the film that… they all had to die, after all, how else could one explain their absence in A New Hope? The film received almost nothing but rave reviews from critics and viewers, receiving a rating of 7.8/10 on IMDb, higher than Episodes I, II, III, VI, and equaling the score earned by Episode VII, The Force Awakens. As with 2011’s The Thing, the ending of the prequel of Episode IV transitions very smoothly into the events of A New Hope (a digital young Leia appears here and her quest begins), and we also get such an epic introduction of Lord Vader to the screen that it took a long time to pick your jaw up off the floor. The film also featured a digital Peter Cushing, as well as the two carnage-ridden characters known from the cult cantina, the more mouthy one of whom, as we remember, will lose his hand under the blade of Obi-Wan’s lightsaber. Well, and in the prequel was born (and died too, by the way) the character of Cassian Andor, who a few years later would receive his own very successful series (Andor 2022), which is, of course, a prequel to the movie Rogue One.
1. BETTER CALL SAUL (2015–2022) / prequel of BREAKING BAD (2008–2013)
The winner in the category of most original and best prequel could only be one, although it turned out to be not a film… but a TV series. When it was announced that a prequel and simultaneous spin-off of Breaking Bad would be made, with Saul Goodman as the main character, I wasn’t particularly interested of this project. Well, because how could it be without Walter White and Jesse Pinkman? Saul, however interesting, distinctive, brilliantly acted and bringing a lot of good to Breaking Bad, will not single-handedly pull his own series. Since a lot of well-started series are sometimes suddenly canceled, and others go downhill from season to season, I’m very meticulous in choosing the titles of the shuffle I’m after. So I only reached for Better Call Saul when its broadcast ended and there were unanimous expressions of admiration and praise from viewers and critics.
It turned out that Bob Odenkirk not only made his own series bearable, but together with other capably written characters (Kim Wexler, Chuck, Mike, Howard) created a series that could proudly stand on the same shelf of quality with Breaking Bad, and according to some even leapfrogged it. What’s more, Walter White and Jesse, without whom I couldn’t imagine Saul’s universe, every time they appeared episodically on the screen, they gave the impression in my eyes of being… superfluous to the story, playing in addition somehow so half-whistled, because there was no trace of their former glory. Better Call Saul is a prequel masterpiece, which not only shows the events preceding Breaking Bad, but perfectly overlaps and intertwines with the original series, using familiar facts and characters, here expanded and given much more screen time. A great thing, unprecedented in the world of TV series.