6 Geektastic Prequels That You Need To See


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Prequels get a bad rap.

Obviously, George Lucas didn’t help much with the abysmal dreck that was The Phantom Menace and Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy, while entertaining, was often ponderous. Throw in turd burgers like Dumb and Dumberer and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and it’s no wonder that people associate prequels with fecal matter.

But honestly, you could say the same thing about a lot of sequels.  (Transformers: Age of Extinction anyone?)  So to label all prequels as terrible, is axiomatically incorrect.  There’s plenty of quality prequels out there.  I’ve selected six non-ranked prequels that I believe are required viewing.

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Prometheus (2012)

People knock Ridley Scott’s return to the world of Alien claiming bland characters, inconsistent motivations, lack of logic in several instances, and Charlize Theron running away from a spaceship in a straight line.  I’m not going to say that some of their comments don’t have merit (how do you get lost in the spaceship with three laser mapping balls?) but a lot of it is nitpicking.  Seriously, people are still pissed that the elephantine faces were actually just space helmets and not the actual heads themselves.  If the species is supposed to be our ancestors why in the name of Dwayne Hicks would they look like elephants?  Or the fact that Noomi Rapace’s character of Dr. Elizabeth Shaw clings to her Christian faith after the origin of life on Earth is revealed.  Yeah like no one else who possesses deeply ingrained faith would do that.

People hate on Prometheus simply because it’s not Alien.  Alien was a landmark film in the history of sci-fi.  It examined blue-collar workers in space and made the vastness of space feel very claustrophobic.  It’s a monument to terror.  Prometheus however is a very existential film.  It questions where we come from, the role of God in our lives, if life has meaning at all, and science versus faith.  You know, the big questions, not just “a xenomorph is trying to kill my ass.”

The film is a visual feast, from the rendering of the Engineers to the painstaking attention to detail of the spaceship Prometheus.  I thought the acting was actually quite good especially Idris Elba and Charlize Theron.  But Michael Fassbender as David the android really stole the show.  It’s one of the best if not the best depictions of an android ever brought to the silver screen.  I cannot wait for next year’s Alien: Covenant and the next chapter in the Alien saga.

My rating:  9/10

 

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Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)

Listen the Star Wars prequels aren’t great.  People need to come to terms with that and stop bitching about it already.  While The Phantom Menace was atrocious and Attack of the Clones only offered us glimpses of greatness, Revenge of the Sith is a solid movie start to finish.  In fact until The Force Awakens came out it was my third favorite behind Empire and Jedi. (Cue nerds with pitchforks and torches coming to kill me.)

There were several better choices for Anakin Skywalker than Hayden Christensen, however his performance in ROTS is leaps and parsecs better than his acting in Attack of the Clones.  And to be fair part of that was due to effing terrible dialogue like this:

But truthfully, you can see the pain and rage in Anakin’s countenance at several key moments in the film.  I’m not saying Christensen is Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood good, but he isn’t Joe Piscopo in Sidekicks bad either.

What elevates Sith above its predecessors is the overall dark tone of the film.  It’s a much more somber and dolorous Star Wars movie than we’re used to.  Yet even though it’s by necessity (we know about the Empire’s rise and Anakin’s ultimate fate) that doesn’t lessen the impact.  The opening space battle on Count Dooku’s ship exceeded expectations and the Jedi council scenes were wrought with tension.  However, the real star of the show was the final lightsaber battle between Obi-Wan and Anakin.  It makes Connor Macleod and The Kurgan’s fight in Highlander look like two kids with stick swords by comparison. That’s worth the price of admission alone.  And if you didn’t get chills at the birth of Darth Vader I question your Star Wars love.

This isn’t to say that Revenge of the Sith is the pinnacle of Star Wars cinema.  Anakin turns to the Dark Side quicker than it took Han to shoot Greedo, Palpatine takes out three Jedi masters just as fast, and Natalie Portman completely phoned it in with her performance as Padme.

However, for all its faults, it doesn’t make Revenge of the Sith any less enjoyable.

My rating: 8/10

 

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The Thing (2011)

John Carpenter’s The Thing is one of my all-time favorite movies.  It’s one of those films that if I could only pick five moves to take with me to Antarctica, it would be one of them. Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.’s (damn that’s a mouthful) film while not Earth shattering is nevertheless entertaining.  The biggest complaint I hear about this film is, “Who wanted to know about what happened to the Norwegians before the events of John Carpenter’s film anyway?”  Well me for one. I’d always wondered about it.

The story itself clings to the heart of the original in that it’s a very claustrophobic film where you can’t trust anyone.  Mary Elizabeth Winstead kills it as the female lead, paleontologist Kate Lloyd, while Joel Edgerton delivers another strong performance as Sam Carter, a helicopter pilot and Vietnam War vet.  Even Eric Christian Olsen is great in a supporting role.  The producers made the smart move in keeping the Norwegian plotline and setting it in 1982 just like the  original.  It would have been very disappointing if this was a straight remake.

What prevents 2011’s The Thing from being a very good film instead of just a good film was the overuse of CGI.  The movie would have been much better served by going the route of the original and using practical effects.  It’s also a tad too short and relies a little too much on jump scares.  Other than that I really dig this movie.

My rating: 7.5/10

 

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Monsters University (2013)

Despite relatively strong ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, a lot of viewers saw MU as an unnecessary prequel that didn’t have the heart of the original.  I think a lot of that stemmed from the absence of a Boo like character.  But if that had happened the film would have come off contrived and disingenuous.

As it stands MU is just as funny as Monsters Inc., albeit lacking some of the charm of the first film.  Sully and Mike chasing the pig down was gold and that photo of Oozma Kappa after they’ve been pranked was hilarious.  Yes the message of MU (persevering even when everyone else counts you out) is an oft overused trope, but it works in Monsters University.  Plus the voice cast is just fantastic.  Forget about John Goodman, Billy Crystal, and Steve Buschemi, when you’ve got Nathan Fillion playing fifth fiddle and Helen Mirren rocking it as the intimidating Dean Hardscrabble, you know you’re doing something right.  Others like Aubrey Plaza, Bill Hader, Sean Hayes, Dave Foley, and Charlie Day are just icing on the cake.

My rating:  7.5/10

 

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Red Dragon (2002)

The Silence of the Lambs is a psychological classic that’s Hitchcockian but more gruesome.  If you polled movie aficionados about the all-time iconic characters in the history of cinema, Hannibal Lecter would easily be in the top ten.  While Ridley Scott’s 2001 film Hannibal took good source material and made it boring and tedious, Brett Ratner’s film (who for the record I can’t stand) was a pulse pounding thriller from the moment the credits rolled.

It’s a true character study of both the serial killer (played brilliantly by Ralph Fiennes) and pursuer (Edward Norton in an equally powerful performance).  Both character’s obsessions (Ralph’s with William Blake’s painting “The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in Sun” and Norton’s with catching serial killers even at the cost of  his home life) are opposite sides of the same coin.  Hopkins performance and assistance is almost an afterthought.

There’s no less than five actors in this film who’ve either won or been nominated for Academy Awards.  That’s no small feat.  There’s plenty of chilling moments, the most memorable being the late Philip Seymour Hoffman’s sleazy newspaper reporter Freddy Lounds having his lips bitten off and then set on fire.  Emily Watson also gives a subtle and sweet performance as Francis Dolarhyde’s (Ralph Fiennes) blind love interest.

While Red Dragon isn’t a masterpiece like The Silence of the Lambs, it’s still stupendous.

My rating: 8.5/10

 

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Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

Some of you may be thinking, “Wait I thought this was a sequel?!”  Nope.  The fedora-wearing, whip-cracking archaeologist’s second adventure is set in 1935, a full year before the events of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

I’ll freely admit that Temple of Doom is my least favorite Indiana Jones flick.  (Yes this includes Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.)  Maybe it’s Cate Capshaw constantly screaming or that the Sivilinga stone just isn’t as interesting a McGuffin as The Ark of the Covenant or The Holy Grail.  For whatever reason I just don’t dig it as much.  And I’m sorry but Short Round is annoying as Hell.

Having said that, there’s a LOT to like (if not love) about Doom.  Harrison Ford is just as dashing, fleshing out the character even more than the first film.  Mola Ram makes for a truly demonic and imposing villain.  The opening car chase and subsequent plane crash are thrilling and the final confrontation on the bridge was pretty cool.   Most of all, Doom‘s tone succeeds on every level.  It’s dark and ominous, much more so than the original.  You could almost feel the heat of India or taste the repulsiveness of the chilled monkey brains. Great stuff.

My rating: 7/10

 

If you’re one of those people who think all prequels suck, I highly suggest you watch one or all of these films.  You just might change your mind.

 

You can follow me on Twitter at @DarthGandalf1

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