Movies that go back to the future.
Another Part of the Forest (1948): Be they fascinating or pointless, prequels existed long before studio execs truly began running out of original ideas. You can thank Lillian Hellman. After her trashy 1939 play The Little Foxes became an insanely watchable Bette Davis vehicle in 1941, the playwright went to work on this backstory. And with that, cinema had—unfortunately—its very first prequel.
The Nightcomers (1972): In this prequel to Henry James’ Turn of the Screw—which received a first-rate, uber-creepy adaptation with 1961’s The Innocents—a cusp-of-Godfather-comeback Marlon Brando stars as one of the ghosts. Because James’ novella would be incomplete without all the mystery sucked out of it.
Butch and Sundance: The Early Days (1979): Paul Newman and Robert Redford weren’t above reteaming (The Sting), but they refused to exhume their (killed-off) bandits a decade later. Enter their replacements: Tom Berenger and Carrie’s William Katt. The result—directed by the great Richard Lester, sadly—was so maligned that it even became a left-field punch line in Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey.
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999): See Patton Oswalt’s George Lucas bit.
Exorcist: The Beginning (2004)/Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist (2005): After assigning tortured ex-Calvinist Paul Schrader—hot off Auto Focus—to milk the Exorcist cow further, execs found his version too intelligent. So they trashed most of the footage and hired Renny Harlin to serve up pea-soup vomit and spinning heads. After Harlin’s cut underperformed, the embarrassed studio granted Schrader’s version, a super-modest New York release. The combined price tag: $80 million.
Star Trek (2009): Restarts are well and good—see Batman and Bond—but I don’t care how Kirk became Shatner.
JJ Abrams’ Star Trek reboot is a delightful surprise. No matter what the TV commercials and billboards might say, this really is your father’s Star Trek. Sure, there’s a fresh coat of CGI paint, and everybody’s impossibly good-looking in a modernized, metrosexual sorta way, but Abrams has captured the upbeat sense of adventure that defined Gene Roddenberry’s original 1960s series. The movie opens tonight.
Six Long-Running Film Franchises