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[Debate] – Prequels Vs Sequels


Posted May 24, 2014 by

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In recent years it seems that the production of original storylines has been quickly overtaken by the number of prequels, sequels and spin offs that moviemakers create due to the success of previous films and franchises. In the last year alone there have been ‘Star Trek’ prequels, ‘Lord of the Rings’ prequels in the form of ‘The Hobbit’ movies and sequels to ‘Spiderman’, ‘Anchorman’, ‘Grown Ups’ and ‘Despicable Me’ to name but a few. This is without even mentioning the announced ‘Star Wars’ sequel, ‘Pitch Perfect 2’, ‘Finding Dory’ and the strange prequel/sequel mash up that is ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’. But are they all really necessary? Isn’t making a prequel or a sequel just a lazy, money-making option for the film studios, or are they just a creatively fuelled as the originals? And when it comes down to it, should they go for a prequel or a sequel?

To start with, prequels are a great way to show how the characters arrived at the predicament they face in the original film. They can give details to character background and how they became the people they are, what makes them do the things they do and let’s face it, it’s always fun waiting to see who they will cast at the younger versions of the characters. It seems to me that the more that is revealed about a characters backstory, the more the audience with love them. They can also help to clear up some things that may not have been completely obvious in the original telling of the first story.

However, prequels have one massive flaw. This may just be me but I always find it incredibly annoying when directors and script writers include scenes in prequels that make it feel like the main character is in mortal peril and is going to die when they quite clearly appear in the original story that takes place after the prequel. It makes absolutely no sense to build up the suspense when the audience already knows the ultimate outcome. They survive. A classic example would be the numerous times it is implied throughout ‘The Hobbit’ films that Bilbo is on his way out or in some serious, life threatening trouble. I hate to break it to you but he is in ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and survives those three films as well. He’s certainly not going to die at the hands of some trolls 10 minutes after he leaves the Shire (this would also make ‘The Hobbit’ an incredibly short film). As well as this, sometimes it seems to me that if the sole purpose of making a prequel is to reveal a previous event in a characters life, a flashback will serve that purpose just as well. Prequel’s sometimes just go in to a bit too much detail and don’t really need a full movie to cover their main points.

This would therefore suggest that a sequel is the way to go if you want to elaborate and expand on an existing story. It takes the characters and places that you already know and progresses them, allows them to develop and change into something completely new and different to where they started in the first tale. Relationships that were formed can be continued and tested (and let’s face it, this is usually the main purpose of a sequel), worlds can be further explored and new characters can create a whole new dynamic to the story. There is no pre-determined end goal that you have to work towards with a sequel. Anything is possible. In my mind, the best example in recent cinema of sequels being used to their full potential has to be the ‘Toy Story’ series. The stories, characters and films in general grew with each episode culminating in a final instalment that many believe to be the best of the three. If you’re going to do sequels, that’s how it’s done.

Not all sequels are quite as successful though, whether it be commercially or creatively. There are many cases, especially in the last decade or so, of movie sequels going on for far too long and losing the initial charm the story had. There’s the multitude of ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ sequels, many of the animated Disney sequels fall into this category, ‘Kick-Ass 2’ didn’t live up to the hype of the first film and ‘Mean Girls 2’ didn’t even make it on to many people’s radar. Some sequels are simply perfect examples of the expression “quit while you’re ahead”. When it comes to films that are incredibly successful the risk seems to be bigger when making a sequel. Expectations are higher, the fan-base is bigger and it has to live up to the success of its predecessor. This is no easy task with films such as ‘Mean Girls’ and ‘Kick-Ass’.

Overall, it seems like whichever direction is taken for a second or third movie, they all have their risks involved. In my opinion, I would much prefer to see a sequel than a prequel but, even more so, I would rather see a film that is completely original and unique. However, when it comes to the prequel/sequel debate, a line has to be drawn. Overselling the brand and making more films than anyone ever wanted from one bunch of characters can be overkill for a story and ruin the original appeal that has led to the extra movies. More is good, but in moderation.


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Amy Ulliott
Just One More Movie
Freelance Contributor

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