I was channel surfing the other day and came across Star Trek Enterprise, watched for five minutes and then muttered “what a pointless exercise that was” to myself. I’m a huge Trek fan, but even I can’t justify Enterprise – it’s beyond redemption.
Why would you base a series around the starship Enterprise they’d never mentioned, with the Captain that wasn’t worth reference? There isn’t an answer, because this was a story that never needed telling. From a TV viewpoint it took the once thriving franchise and sunk it deeper than whale doo.
But to be fair, Star Trek never again hit the high notes it had with the Borg episodes of Next Generation season 4, neither Deep Space 9 nor Voyager. But for all their faults both of those shows at least had their own timelines and lore, and in that respect had a freedom where they could reasonably go plot-wise.
But Enterprise didn’t have even that chance, because it predated the lore of the original series, to which it was sadistically glued! Why the concept didn’t get nixed before they made the pilot I’ve no idea, but it isn’t a mistake that Paramount been alone in making.
What possessed Lucas to make Star Wars I, II, III and not a subsequent trilogy? It was another story that didn’t need telling, if it had been then Lucas would have released The Phantom Menace in 1977, and we’d have been spared the rest of it, presumably. So after three overly long movies, what did we actually learn that we didn’t already know after the first trilogy? Umm… Anakin made C3PO, the storm troopers had originally been clones, and the Force is supposedly generated by microscopic organisms called midi-chlorians! Almost everything else important that happens from Phantom, Clones and Sith, we already knew. Had he chosen to tell the story of Luke and Leia’s decedents, then it would all have been fresh and fertile territory. But no, that wasn’t a possibility, because Lucas put ‘Episode IV’ at the front of Star Wars making him unable to deny the intrinsic power of numerical sequences.
It’s a simple enough premise that I’m putting forward, that a story that’s unknown has a better chance of entertaining than one that’s globally telegraphed.
But back to pointless prequels, is this scenario a problem for the currently shooting Star Trek movie? Strangely, I don’t think it is. Because in the same way that Batman Begins wasn’t spoiled by the Burton directed Batmans (or the horrible ones that came after). Unless I’m completely off-base, the new Star Trek is a re-imagining that will create its own timeline, and maybe break some of the lore that’s previously being set. Some born-again TOS fans might get upset by these changes, but the whole exercise will be much more entertaining for it, I’d suggest. As long as it’s got that essential essence of Trek at its heart then I’m happy for them to re-imagine away, as I was with the Dark Knight post- batnipples.
So are any other movies confronting this challenge? Yes, specifically The Hobbit. Here it’s not exactly that we know what’s going to happen, but the Lord of the Rings has presented the ultimate fate of many characters in it. It all comes down to a choice; make it with exactly the same tone and pitch as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, so that it becomes part of that extended series. Or, does Guillermo del Toro make it totally different so that it stands alone. That’s his choice, and the inclusion of existing cast members does hint at the direction he’s taken, but only time will tell.
I’m sure some people will read this and say that Godfather II is actually a successful prequel of sorts, but for each one of those there are at least ten like Exorcist: The Beginning and Ewoks: The Battle for Endor. I only recently discovered that Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is technically a sequel, but nothing that happens in it has a bearing on the previous or subsequent films, so I’m not sure how relevant the chronology there is. That franchise had its own entire prequel TV series, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, but the connections between that and the movies always seemed tenuous at best to me.
But let’s go back to Star Wars again, with Lucas now determined to insert even more unnecessary stories. This time stuffed between Episodes II and III, The Clone Wars is arriving at the end of the summer.
What is it with Lucas? What’s wrong with new characters and stories set in the same universe, without rehashing the same names and dead-space in plot timelines?
Statistically prequels don’t usually work, for all the reasons I’ve mentioned, and for that reason I wish they’d stop making them.