Let's face it -- prequels, for the most part, suck. They tend to be even lamer than sequels, which, though often repetitive and pointless, at least get to launch from the previous film's endpoint. Prequels, on the other hand, are forced to operate within the universe of the original movie and can't stray far from the established order of the story that they're leading up to.
So, with 'X-Men: First Class' going back to the JFK years to show how Professor Xavier and Magneto originally pulled the whole mutant funky bunch together, let's look back at the best and worst that the prequel genre has to offer:
'The Godfather Part II'
Admittedly, this is both prequel and sequel to the landmark gangster flick 'The Godfather' -- half of the movie stars Robert De Niro as a younger version of Marlon Brando's Don Vito Corleone, emigrating to America as a child and learning the ropes of organized crime, while the other half picks up where the first film left off, with Al Pacino's Michael Corleone following somewhat uneasily in his father's footsteps.
'Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom'
Set a few years before the action of 'Raiders of the Lost Ark', this adventure follows a slightly younger Indy (Harrison Ford) on an adventure that often mirrors the highlights of one of director Steven Spielberg's childhood faves, 'Gunga Din'. The film's mix of over-the-top action, hilarious gross-outs (that dinner party!) and Spielberg's future wife Kate Capshaw belting "Anything Goes" in Cantonese make it one of the greats.
OK, this one's sort of cheating, but there are so few good prequels that we had to go out on a limb a bit. This animated feature was directed by Rankin/Bass decades before Peter Jackson sunk his teeth into the live-action 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy, but until Jackson finishes his own 'Hobbit' prequels, it is (by default) the best screen adaptation of the Tolkien story about how Bilbo Baggins got that ring in the first place.
'Butch and Sundance: The Early Days'
Some talented actors (Tom Berenger, William Katt) and filmmakers (director Richard Lester, cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs) labored on this one, but perhaps Roger Ebert put it best: "If events of crucial interest had really happened to Butch and Sundance in the early days, either (a) they would have been included in the original movie, or (b) the present film would not have waited so easily for ten years to be made."
Did we really need to learn that Hannibal Lecter became a cannibal and serial killer because he had a traumatic childhood and wanted to avenge the death of his sister at the hand of Nazis? A noxious blend of historical drama and martial-arts-training movie, with occasional beefcake shots of its shirtless "hero" (played blandly by Gaspard Ulliel).
'Star Wars Episodes I–III'
You know, the movies where we find out that The Force can actually be measured as microscopic blood organisms. And where young Darth Vader built C-3PO, but nobody remembers it later. And where Luke and Leia get conceived in one of cinema history's worst love scenes ever. And Jar Jar Binks.
What are your favorite and least favorite prequels?