Friday Flix: Mystery Men
About three weeks from when this posts, I did a Wednesday entry called “Need to Know Basis” about how many questions an author should answer. The illustrious Mr. Pagel wrote in his comment:
The problem of PREQUELS was aptly explained by Cracked, recently: you have to take your character and make him/her LESS interesting than he/she was in the first and then have him/her become the character we love.
The other day I got thinking about this and it occurred to me that the problem with prequels like “Star Wars” and “X-Men: Wolverine” is that the prequel takes away the mystery of the character. That, at least in my opinion, brings the character down a notch.
In the case of Darth Vader, I think it was more fun not knowing how exactly he got to be the way he was. It made it fun for me and other fans to imagine our own versions of how it happened. Then the prequels come along and we’re spoon-fed something that let’s face it wasn’t as good as what just about any fanfic could have done. (I mean would any fan have gone on for three movies with lame political machinations like that? No. Because we’d want the action, damn it, not politics! Would any of us have come up with as lame of bad guys as the Trade Federation and Count Dooku? Hell no! Really, racist sort-of-fish-looking dudes and an old guy with a lightsaber that looks like part of a cane? Yeesh.) So now we get locked into this story and it’s just not that fun anymore.
In the case of Wolverine, the prequel was completely unnecessary because I didn’t really give a shit about how he came to be. He was fine with no backstory. And fans of the comic books (or X-Men Legends video game) already knew most of it anyway, so what was the point?
The thing is, fans care about the present, not the past. Vader and Wolvie kick ass and that’s all we cared about. Only the creator (in Vader’s case) or people wanting to make a buck (in Wolvie’s case) cared about any of that.
As Mr. Pagel, via Cracked, was saying, when you make a prequel you wind up making the character less interesting than what you started with. Then in theory he’s supposed to wind up as interesting as when you started, except this isn’t really the case. Because now you’ve stripped the mystery away from the character, which makes him less than before.
And as I said in my reply comment, the only time a prequel really works is when you take a secondary character and expand his/her role. I could go on about my example, but I think the best example would be Ender’s Shadow, a prequel of sorts to Ender’s Game. About all we knew from that was Bean was short and maybe young, so Card could do pretty much whatever he wanted in the prequel, so long as eventually Bean ended up at Battle School the same time as Ender. There wasn’t really any mystery to spoil, which allows the prequel to work better.
So there you go, another long-winded piece of tripe about the dangers of prequels.
Monday it’s rambling about villains!