misc What are some good ways to get around the prequel problem?

Hi,
by "prequel problem", I mean the fact that the original movie told the audience already where it all leads. What are good ways of dealing with this on the screenwriting level, in order to create a movie that is interesting and worthwhile to a general audience and avoid it becoming a boring mess drowning in fan service? What are good examples, which ones did you like best, and why?

Other than completely ignoring the fact that it is a sequel in the first place ;) like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, where few people even realize it is actually set in an earlier time than the previous two movies of the Dollars trilogy, to the point where you could doubt it was even intentional. I only really realized it myself when doing a web search for "best prequels" before starting this thread.

As a side note, some of the results that the search engine came up with seemed, uh, questionable, with sites naming things like Prometheus, Rogue One, the first two Hobbit movies, Revenge of the Sith(!) and even some Transformers movie.
 
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sfoster

Staff Member
Moderator
would you beieve one of the most succesful films of all time had the most predictable ending ever?
audiences knew excatly how it would end and they went and saw it anyway and loved it... despite the titanic crashing into an ice berg at the end and sinking.

its not the kiss of death you think it is.
and the great prequel tv show Better Call Saul gets around this by introducing a character that isn't in the sequel.. leaving us in suspense and fear of what horrible fate awaits this character. why isn't this character in the sequel?
 
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and the great prequel tv show Better Call Saul gets around this by introducing a character that isn't in the sequel.. leaving us in suspense and fear of what horrible fate awaits this character. why isn't this character in the sequel?
I like Better Call Saul, but personally, what keeps me in suspense is mostly how the writers plan to write themselves out of the hole(s) they have written themselves into, because I have a hard time seeing how the caring boyfriend of BCS turns into this:


At this stage, the only remotely plausible way I can see is Kim discovering her bisexuality and running off with her new paralegal when Jimmy finally ticks her off enough.
 
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mlesemann

Staff Member
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The idea that "the caring boyfriend is when his needs have been met" is definitely a male fantasy.
Assholes are assholes, sex or no sex.
No sex may lead a guy to leave but if he's suddenly an asshole, he's just showing the true colors that he was hiding to try to get laid.
 
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sfoster

Staff Member
Moderator
The idea that "the caring boyfriend is when his needs have been met" is definitely a male fantasy.
Assholes are assholes, sex or no sex.
No sex may lead a guy to leave but if he's suddenly an asshole, he's just showing the true colors that he was hiding to try to get laid.

Hmmm was saul being an asshole in the video above though?
i didn't think the woman could even hear him, he was just being horny and talking to himself.
 
Well, Re Jimmy/Saul, on reflection it seems that both views have merit, seeing that people can change, which is why there can be character arcs. Can't wait to find out what Gilligan/Gould come up with.
Back to the original question, I've been trying to think what my own personal favorite prequel is, done a youtube search with very mixed results, and went to Wikipedia to remind me of more prequels. (The motivation behind this sudden interest is I got back into creative writing / screenwriting for the first time in over 30 years and thought for some reason it would be a good and easy exercise to start with a prequel to They live, about which I might post more later.)
Anyway, my personal favorites, if any, include Manhunter, Red Dragon and even Hannibal Rising, the prequels to The Silence of the Lambs. The reasons mesh with some of the themes that came up on youtube, even if I don't half agree with most of the examples cited: prequels can be "good" when they are good, compelling movies in their own right, ideally so much so that you don't even need to know the "originals" to enjoy them; and if they don't attempt to answer too many questions, or the wrong questions, since that is an easy way to take some fascination away from the originals by way of needless demystification. Shallow fan service gone wrong. Style over substance. Cases in point, most of the questions "answered" by the Star Wars prequels, including Rogue One and Solo, from midichlorians to Han's blaster scope and his very name.
On the other hand, the question what specifically turned Hannibal Lecter into a cannibalistic serial killer is highly pertinent and interesting. This was of course explored first in the novel the film is based on, which I haven't read, and found it interesting to learn that even that very novel was apparently coaxed out of author Thomas Harris by Dino De Laurentiis because he wanted to squeeze the IP for another movie. In any event, this side of The Godfather II, which I hesitate to call a mere prequel in view of what else runs under that expression. I liked Red Dragon a lot more however, even though it didn't much tackle the Hannibal question. Or possibly because it didn't? Liked Manhunter possibly even more still. Edit: Manhunter isn't even strictly a prequel so much, since the film actually preceeded Lambs, making Lambs a "mere" sequel ;) Don't quite remember specifically what I liked about them though, after several years. Must rewatch. The novel Red Dragon is actually not a prequel, it was written years before Lambs.
From memory, what sticks out are certainly some actor performances, like William Petersen foreshadowing his later CSI character "Gruesome" Gil Grissom. I loved Brian Cox as "Lecktor", possibly even more than Anthony Hopkins; Cox seems criminally underrated. Loved Ralph Fiennes, the creepiest "Tooth Fairy" ever, and especially loved Philip Seymour Hoffman, may he rest in peace, as the sleaziest gossip reporter, which character I thought was a crying shame they didn't let come to the exact same sticky end in the Hannibal TV series for no good reason at all.
 
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Oh dear. The more I learn about this... Manhunter apparently bombed, after which De Laurentiis "lent" the rights for Lambs to Orion for free. So they could make one of the greatest pictures of all times without him.
And Jodie Foster was the director's fourth choice.
Other actors considered for the role of Lecter included Sean Connery, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Derek Jacobi and Daniel Day-Lewis.
I'm trying to imagine The Silence of the Lambs starring Michelle Pfeiffer or the Mum from Jurassic park opposite Connery, Al Pacino or The Graduate. It's a hysterical SNL skit.
 
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indietalk

IndieTalk Founder
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So don't do a prequel if it worries you so much.
 
The prequel ‘problem’ isn’t a problem if you tell a good story.

Rogue One, and Monsters University are two great prequels off the top of my head wherein you know *exactly* what leads on afterwards, but the stories are good enough to carry an entire movie.

Prequels are often telling you how something came to be, rather than surprising you with what the end result is. That’s totally fine, if the story is good enough.

A prequel is not an extended act one. It is its own full story where the end of the third act may directly or indirectly transition to the already existing material.

The stakes will be different, though they should still be high. The stakes can be things like the BCS example above: ‘how in the world is he gonna end up like that???!!!’

Or they might just be different: if your original story has the character very much alive, there may not be much at stake by telling a story about how they nearly died. The story may instead be the kidnapping of their family that eventually pushed them to become the detective they are in the original movie.

On a broader note, studies show that audiences are more inclined to see something when they know what happens, which is why modern trailers show so much.

 
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