Ridley Scott’s Prometheus hits theaters this week, and since it’s a kinda-sorta-maybe prequel to Alien, it got us thinking about the prequel itself. It’s a peculiar beast, really — the sequel is (for the most part) a crass commercial form to begin with, but a prequel is basically studio executives and filmmakers admitting, Well, we really want to sell you this product again, but we can’t make a sequel for whatever reason, so how’s about a sequel that takes place before the first one? Will you buy a ticket to that?
The results can be enlightening (The Godfather Part II), entertaining (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom), or franchise-rescuing (X-Men: First Class). But as with sequels, more often than not, prequels look like a filmed deal, a blatant cash grab that’s low on ideas but high on cynicism. After the jump, we’ve assembled ten of the least inspiring prequels in movie history; we’ll find out soon enough if Prometheus dodges their fate.
Butch and Sundance: The Early Days
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid ends with a literal hail of bullets, as the Bolivian army takes out our heroes as they flee from the house where they’ve taken shelter. So that’s a pretty definitive ending, no? But it was one of the biggest box office smashes of 1969, grossing over $100 million (that places it in the top 40 hits of all time, when adjusted for inflation) and making a movie star out of Robert Redford. So why not try to spin another movie out of it? Two made-for-TV sequels focused on lady love Etta Place, but to make a new theatrical film, they’d have to go back to Butch and Sundance’s early years. Drafting the great Richard Lester (A Hard Day’s Night, The Three Musketeers) to direct was a good idea, but the two stars of the film, Tom Berenger and William Katt, proved to be no Redford and Newman, charisma and chemistry-wise. Reviews were unenthusiastic, and the movie barely earned back a third of its $15 million budget.