Every week, Criticwire asks film critics a question and brings you the responses in The Criticwire Survey. We also ask each member of the poll to pick the best film currently playing in theaters. The most popular choices can be found at the bottom of this post. But first, this week's question:
Q: With prequels on everyone's minds thanks to Ridley Scott's "Prometheus," I'm curious: what movie prequel would you most like to see?
The critics' answers:
"There are thousands of great answers to this question — all of which focus on the wish fulfillment of seeing favorite characters as they developed (a young Indiana Jones, a portrait of Norma Desmond in her youth). However there's only one movie that flat-out needs a prequel: Andy Warhol's 'Sleep.' Yeah, I know. It's experimental, but it's also boring in that Emperor's New Clothes sort of way. People hear about it or see it and imbue it with magical powers because it came from Warhol and because it's so ridiculously awful that it's better to assume he's a genius than that we're all idiots. It's especially irritating considering that Warhol had a great deal of skill as a storyteller. Granted, this was his first movie, but filming a guy sleeping for five hours is the movie equivalent of defecating in a bag and selling it as 100% Artist's Shit. Crack cocaine to the posers, but nauseous for everyone else. So let's see the prequel. Wouldn't it be fun to follow John Giorno when he's, you know, awake and actually doing things?"
"This is a tough question, as it's pretty rare that I actually leave any movie really wanting something to fill in the blanks as to what might have come before. With a few exceptions, the track record of most prequels doesn't do much to change that desire either — 'Prometheus' included. So, bearing in mind that this is undoubtedly an awful idea, the origin story of 'No Country for Old Men''s Anton Chigurh could make for some interesting possibilities. Pick any period you want: his 'We Need to Talk About Kevin'-esque early years; his roaring 20s as a cruel itinerant butcher, picking up work at abattoirs across the country, developing an affinity for the bolt gun as a silent but deadly weapon; or his early 30s when he discovers he can kill people for money and not just pleasure. If we were still in the era of case-of-the-week television about roguish traveling characters, the latter period could be presented as series-based dark counter-programming to the do-gooder 'A-Team,' 'Stingray, and 'Knight Rider.' Actually, forget what I said about it being an awful idea: I'd totally watch 'A Spoonful of Chigurh' on a weekly basis."
"While I am a fan of 'Prometheus,' I tend not to like prequels because they’re often just familiar humanizing origin stories to explain how villains became so evil (by the way, my wife suggests a 'Clockwork Orange 'prequel that’s more 'We Need to Talk About Alex'). One rare concept I’d like to see more of, however, is the dramatized prequel to a documentary film. Martin Bell did this very well with 'American Heart,' a semi-fictionalized origin of one of the kids from his Oscar-nominated doc, 'Streetwise.' And the 'Grey Gardens' 'remake' had a few good flashback moments as well. I could see similar prequels done with the current release 'First Position,' specifically focused on the uplifting story of adopted Sierra Leonean teen Michaela DePrince, and (more along the same lines of 'Streetwise') Marc Singer’s 'Dark Days,' centered on Dee, one of the film’s memorable homeless subjects. But the film that immediately comes to mind is Berlinger and Sinofsky 1992 classic, 'Brother’s Keeper,' which could inspire a very disturbing drama about the lives of the four Ward brothers leading up to the mysterious death of William and murder trial that ensued. Such a prequel isn’t necessary to better understand the Wards outside of what’s shown in the documentary, and maybe that’s why I’d be into it as merely a complimentary character study."
"There aren't many movies that have left me dying to know what the characters were doing before the opening credits, but I've always thought it'd be fun to see a prequel to 'The Incredibles.' There's nothing missing from the film — it's one of the best, most enjoyable superhero movies ever made — but the characters are so wonderful, and the world so inventive and fun, that you could easily do a retro-Incredibles prequel about how Mr. Incredible met Elastigirl that has the classic Pixar mix of action, romantic comedy, and heart. How is it we live in a world that has 'Cars 2' but not another 'Incredibles' movie?"
"I’m generally against prequels, because nine times out of ten you know exactly where they’re going to finish. Moreover, I think the idea of going back and stripping away the secrets can sometimes suck out the fun. The 'Star Wars' prequels showed us how Anakin became Darth Vader, 'Prometheus' gives us the genesis of 'Alien,' and in both cases, the answers are totally unsatisfying. That all said, ever since I saw 'The Avengers' I’ve been dying for a Black Widow/Hawkeye origin story, so that’s my answer for today."
"Though horror movie prequels haven't traditionally panned out well, I've always wanted to see a prequel to Sam Raimi's 'The Evil Dead.' Fans have been pining for a new installment in the franchise for years, and with a remake planned in 2013, I suspect the clamoring for Raimi and co. to tell a new chapter will be at an all-time high. Sure, 'Army of Darkness' took place in the past, but still didn't touch upon the existence or nature of the Necronomicon. If Raimi decided to direct a new 'Evil Dead,' I'd like to see him explore upon the Necronomicon's history, maybe incorporate a little more from its Lovecraftian roots into the story."
"'Old School.' I want to see the gang in high school. Especially Cheeee-eee-eeese."
"We have been choked to the gills with prequels and remakes and reboots. I never want to see another prequel in my life. How can I be expected to care at all when so clearly the filmmakers don't seem to care? Do you dream of recreating someone else's work when you dream of being an artist? You should not. This is what inspiration is for, so you can create your own worlds. Prequels are bastards of Marketing. Marketing is not Art. Marketing is not Art no matter how effective it is at winding you up and getting you excited to see the same old crap trotted out with new ribbons on it. I'm so mad I can't even make a joke to end with."
"I saw this suggestion online, but I would absolutely get behind a 'Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World' prequel. My favorite part of 'A Beautiful Mind' was the Russell Crowe-Paul Bettany pairing, and I thought they were brilliant together as Captain Jack Aubrey and ship surgeon Stephen Maturin in Peter Weir's stirring adaptation of the Patrick O'Brian nautical novel series. The history of that friendship — how they met, came to serve together — and their prior adventures could provide material for multiple movies. Plus, it would be a blast to cast a young(er) Crowe and Bettany. Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston, anyone?"
"I'd love to see a prequel to 'Auntie Mame.' The novel and movie both hint that Mame Dennis had some pretty wild adventures before being saddled with a small child. How did someone from such a stuffy family break free? Imagine her and Vera Charles in their twenties, helling around New York, appearing in the slave-girl chorus in Chu Chin Chow, mingling with all kinds of characters. It might be similar to 'Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,' but it would still be entertaining."
"Often, the best prequels are the ones that have the least to do with their franchise. The more references and callbacks, the less interested I get while watching it. That being said, the one franchise I could imagine that would be a fun prequel would be Soderbergh's 'Ocean's 11.' I think if Soderbergh grabbed a bunch of great actors in their 20s and set it in the 1980s, he could create another fun meta-film (and I'm sure it would end up being some meta-commentary on prequels)."
"'Star Wars!' Totally! [cries] Actually, I want to watch how ['The Shawshank Redemption''s] Andy Dufresne's increasing remoteness and indifference toward his wife and his marriage leads her to start a tender affair with a kind, lonely local sheriff… ending with the tragedy of their sudden murder."
"I'd have to go with 'The Big Lebowski.' I'd be curious to find out who The Dude was before he was The Dude. Where did the love of White Russians come from? How did he and Walter meet? Was he ever employed, sir? Is this a … what day is this?"
"'Predator.' But not in the sense of 'Boy, what was the alien like before?' I mean the squad lead by Dutch and how they originated the world's manliest and most mocked handshake between him and Dillon. Clearly the squad has seen the shit and it'd be fun in a fan sense to see what brought the squad together originally. Best part, you could tie it into the universe by having an ending with the Yautja that decides to vacation in South America decidedly tracking them. (As a side note, the Predator species also have been called 'Hish.' But Yautja was canon in the 'Predator Vs Aliens' novels. So, there's that nerd moment)."
"There's a part of me that would be interested in a 'Taken' prequel showing Liam Neeson's character being a badass in his younger days, but then I remember that it wouldn't star Neeson and I move on. I think the prequel I'd most like to see is one for 'Inception.' I had issues with the flick, but a movie about the invention of this dream invasion technology and the evolution of the business that came out of it could be great if done right."
"In honor of the passing of the greatest game show panelist and host ever — Richard Dawson — I'll throw out a Paul Michael Glaser film, 'The Running Man.' In a futuristic world, the global ecomony has collapsed and criminals must fight their lives on a game show. The year? 2017. Depressing. I like the idea of a prequel where we could see the pitch meeting for the game show while the global economy craters. So like next Thursday."
"I'm not a big fan of prequels. I think filmmakers generally make them when they've run out of ideas. If there's nowhere left to go, they return to 'the beginning.' I've always thought that if 'the beginning' was so interesting, they'd have made the movie about that stuff in the first place. The other problem with prequels is that if the same characters are going to be used, it often necessitates having younger actors do pale imitations of the original stars (i.e. 'Dumb and Dumberer' Syndrome). For these reasons, I think the primary draw of a prequel should be the concept itself and/or the "universe" in which it takes place. With this in mind, I'd most want to see a prequel to a movie that's already a prequel: 'Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.' George Lucas has created a whole world of beloved characters that could be tapped into. And since many of them are the products of CGI or costumes, there wouldn't be a reliance on trying to find similar actors to inhabit the roles. The possibility would also be there to mix in some new characters with those we already know. As someone who has been obsessed with 'Star Wars' for 35 years, I'd love to see a movie about the early days of Yoda, or an action picture featuring some of the series' well-known bounty hunters. Heck, I'd even be up for 'The Darth Maul Chronicles.' Dozens of spin-off books, videogames, comics, and TV shows have proven that the 'Star Wars' universe has endless tales waiting to be told. So let's go back to a time before Anakin Skywalker was conceived and see what was going on. My midichlorian count would go off the charts."
"My pick is a newer one. I'd be interested in seeing a 'Cabin in the Woods' prequel that followed the Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford and Sigourney Weaver characters and explored the whole history of the facility, its global counterparts, and how all of the gods and monsters came to be captured."
"I'd love to see a prequel to 'Leon: The Professional.' What crime did he commit in Italy that brought him to New York City? What made him the cold blooded killer we meet in the film? Why does a cold blooded killer have a moral code? He's one of the most interesting characters of the last 20 years and I want to know more about him."
"Typically the word 'prequel' makes me groan as most films that get them are satisfyingly self-sufficient and don't require any further backstory or explanation. To me this is definitely true of Luc Besson's 'The Professional' — or 'Leon' if you prefer — and yet I love this kind-hearted hitman so intensely that I'd be totally eager see to more of him–or more specifically–see who he was before 'The Professional.' In the extended cut of the film, Leon tells Matilda about his first hit. At 19-years-old, he was in love with a girl from a respectable family. Her father didn't approve and so murdered his own daughter, but wasn't charged because the killing was deemed 'an accident.' So Leon explains, 'One night I waited for him. 500 feet with a lens. It was not an accident. That same night I took a boat and came here to meet up with my father who was working for Tony… Since then I've never left the city, and I've never had another girlfriend.' I'd like to see this story, even though it would be a true challenge to find a young actor who could match Jean Reno's classic portrayal."
"Aside from the prequel elements of 'The Godfather Part II' and possibly 'The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,' there has never been a great prequel. Therefore, I can't say there's a single film I'd want this treatment done to. If I had to choose, I'd go for a film out of left-field, maybe the earlier adventures of George Clooney's 'The American' character. I can already smell a Bourne-esque franchise."
"I actually suggested this in a Cinema Blend piece from last fall: 'Inception.' If you take that movie as the 'one last heist' kind of film, wouldn't it be fun to see the heists they pulled off together before everything went wrong? You see Dom and Mal's relationship start, you see the whole team come together, and most importantly, you get a lot more sense of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Tom Hardy flirting with/picking on each other. Without all the emotional baggage and the tricky third level of the actual heist in 'Inception,' it would be more fun and probably less confusing than the movie we got."
"While I wait for another season of 'Downton Abbey,' I wouldn't mind a prequel to 'Atonement' that follows the characters in their younger years at that gorgeous estate."
"Prequels are, in almost every case, a terrible idea, as they aim to either flesh-out things that aren't necessary or interesting, or — worse still — they seek to explain the very mysteries that made their originals so strong. Still, I'd certainly accept a prequel to 'Road House' that detailed the early-years bouncing career of Patrick Swayze's iconic badass Dalton. So long as it was also in 3-D."
"As a concerned citizen and parent, I feel very strongly that it's in all our interests to demand a prequel to either version, German or English, of Michael Haneke's 'Funny Games.' Who are those two maniacs in tennis whites? Where did they come from? What sort of upbringing did they have? Did they ever harm little animals when they were young? Did they exhibit homosexual tendencies? What sorts of videogames did they like to play? Were they into Scandinavian death metal? Here we have a rare opportunity to stop juvenile nihilism before it starts, simply by hitting the rewind button."
"Without a doubt, 'Drive.' How did The Driver get so damn cool? And more importantly, where did that jacket come from?"
"I can't think of too many movies that really deserve or need a prequel, but after a quick look at my DVD library, the one title I really latched on to was 'Mission: Impossible.' I'm still a big fan of what Brian De Palma did there, even if others may not be. A prequel (or prequel series) isn't really necessary, of course, but I would love to see the 'Mission: Impossible' world brought to life in a 1960s/70s period setting, with Phelps and the original team at the center. Perhaps the hypothetical filmmakers could even address Phelps' journey from idealistic hero to jaded mole. Or not. But regardless, there's definitely plenty of material a 'Mission: Impossible' prequel could cover."
"I would like to see a prequel to Jean-Pierre Melville's 'Le Samourai.' His hero, Jef Costello, is a steely-eyed assassin who mostly remains silent. I would love to see a back-story about how he got to be that way. A prequel to Nicolas Refn's 'Drive' would be similarly interesting."
The Best Movie Currently In Theaters on June 4, 2012: