Hey friends, Shep here with the Monday Top 5! It seems like we’re just getting started on a summer full of movie prequels. Last weekend, we started things off with X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which has “prequel” in the title and this Friday we’ll be getting a dose of J.J. Abrams’s Lil’ Trekkies…er…Star Trek. I hear it’s just called Star Trek. Later this months we’ll be getting Terminator: Salvation, which if you use your imagination, is kind of a prequel, and while Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen isn’t a prequel, its Asylum-brand knock-off Transmorphers: Fall of Man sure as hell is!
Prequels tend to get a bad name (and I think we all have George Lucas to thank for that), but some of them really aren’t too shabby. It’s usually best when they don’t draw attention to themselves as prequels. Maybe a few of the following five prequels are ones that you didn’t even know were prequels! Let’s take a look, shall we?
5. Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005, dir: George Lucas)
Okay, I’m fully aware that right out of the gate, I insulted George Lucas and blamed him for the bad name that prequels get and right here, coming in at number five, is goddamn George Lucas’s Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. Call me a hypocrite, maybe I am. But cringe-worthy dialogue, questionable performances, and stale directing aside, this movie is a hell of a nice capper to a really great story and does a very clean and succinct job of tying up all the loose ends in a pretty little bow, giving Star Wars geeks everywhere the thrill of their lives. There are some absolutely terrific action sequences in this film, including Anakin and Obi-Wan’s climactic lava planet lightsaber duel, and what self-respecting nerd doesn’t lose his damn mind with orgasmic pleasure at the sight of seeing Yoda and Emperor Palpatine engaged in combat with each other? It’s no masterpiece, but boy does it get the job done!
I didn’t believe it myself, but it’s true–The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, the last film in the Man With No Name Trilogy, is set before both A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More. According to the trilogy’s Wikipedia page, The Good shows Clint Eastwood acquiring clothing that he wears throughout the other two films compounded by the fact that it takes place during the Civil War, which would serve to set it before the time of Lee Van Cleef’s Confederate veteran character of Few Dollars and a gravestone in Fistful that displays the year 1873. It totally works, though, as Leone had quite obviously saved the best and most grandiose of the films for last. And after Eastwood makes off with his share of the gold at the end of this film, having bested both the “bad” and the “ugly” with his copious badassery, it’s perfectly reasonable to expect him to just sit back and fuck with people like he does in Fistful.
3. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992, dir: David Lynch)
Okay, I’ve made it abundantly clear before that I’m something of a whore for the magnificent films of David Lynch. Why, just last night I was cozily drifting asleep to the soothing sounds of Wild at Heart. This one is one of Lynch’s more questionable entries in his directorial canon. If you haven’t seen just about every episode of his short-lived but awesome TV series, Twin Peaks, then you’ll be a little bit lost and even if you have, you’ll probably still be a bit lost because that’s what we love about Mr. Lynch. The movie depicts all of the events leading up to the murder of Laura Palmer, which was the jumping-off point for the series. As such, it gives Sheryl Lee a lot more to do than she had on the show. It has a much more dark and sinister tone than the show did, and it certainly isn’t afraid to get its hands dirty, but it produces some pretty powerful off-the-wall craziness and black humored oddities nonetheless. The cast is huge, including actors from the show like Lee, the brilliant Ray Wise as her father, Madchen Amick, Kyle MacLachlan, and more–including Lynch himself as Regional Bureau Chief Gordon Cole. Also joining the party are David Bowie, Chris Isaak, Keifer Sutherland, and Harry Dean Stanton. It’s a dark, hypnotic, and unsettling portrait of Lynch’s favorite subject–postcard suburbia gone horribly awry.
The reason I can’t put this one in the number one spot is because it’s not a 100% prequel–in truth, less than half of it is really a prequel, but it’s done so well and it’s so important, that exclusion from this list is just simply out of the question. What practically steals the show of this nearly three-and-a-half hour long movie is the prequel story of Vito Corleone’s (once played by an aging Marlon Brando, now played by a young Robert De Niro) immigration from Sicily to America and subsequent rise to power as a man of key influence in the small Italian subsection of New York. The Vito Corleone backstory is the only material in The Godfather Part II that came directly from Mario Puzo’s original novel and it serves as a profound and mesmerizing compliment to the present-day story where Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) struggles to uphold the Corleone family influence and keep his family (in both the business and personal senses) from crumbling. It’s one of the most necessary, effective, and important uses of a prequel story that’s ever been committed to film.
Some people are Raiders of the Lost Ark people. Some people are Last Crusade people. No one is a Crystal Skull person. Me? I’m a Temple of Doom guy. It’s a dark and deranged masterpiece of quintessential cinematic adventure. And yes, friends, it’s a prequel. It doesn’t really matter, though. The fact that it takes place a year before the events of Raiders kinda has absolutely no bearing on anything that’s going on in this movie–it’s entirely its own story. But it does beg the question of what exactly happened over the next year that caused the estrangement between Indy and Short Round? (Frankly, I could give a shit about him and Willie.) Temple of Doom is great because it’s exactly what you want from it. I’ve said it many times before and I’ll say it again–it’s probably the most consistently entertaining movie that I’ve ever seen in my life. There’s a point, just a little less than an hour into this movie, where the action, madness, and fury reach a full peak that literally never lets up until the very end. This movie is the equivalent of a two-hour carnival ride, and while at times it might make you want to throw up, you’ll stagger off of it screaming “I wanna go AGAIN!” This movie is just that awesome.
So, I think it goes without saying that X-Men Origins: Wolverine, while fun, wasn’t quite worthy of inclusion on this list. I just don’t think I’m at a place in my life where I’m ready to be listing Wolverine and The Godfather Part II on the same list. Will Star Trek blow me away to be a worthy contender? I’ll get back with you on that.