It’s a tale as old as time. A geek opens her laptop, looking at various film and television news, and is inevitably disappointed to see that, instead of making this awesome thing or that awesome thing, The Powers That Be have chosen to develop this supremely disappointing thing instead. You know this story, right? It’s the prequel that doesn’t need to be told or the sequel in a series that should’ve died ten years ago. It’s the remake of a movie that doesn’t need remaking, the standalone focusing on the most obvious and least interesting character, the adaptation that’s clearly a mediocre knockoff of that other more successful adaptation. We’ve all been here before.*
Last week two such prequels were announced. The first? Jack Bauer’s origin story on FOX, which, yeah, no thank you, out you go. The second was a prequel film to The Sandlot, which just . . . come on, WHY? And while despairing about these announcements, I formulated an idea, not one that would have any practical value whatsoever, of course, but one that might make me feel better all the same: a new feature on the blog where I proposed projects I’d personally prefer to see, rather than whatever the hell was just reported.
Unfortunately, I quickly hit a snag. See, my initial plan was to swap Shitty Prequel Idea in favor of Cool Prequel Idea, Boring Spinoff in favor of Exciting Spinoff, etc. However, it’s readily become apparent to me that prequels are just Not My Thing. I rarely, if ever, see the point of them: many movies or TV shows have interesting backstories, of course, but they’re usually revealed in said movie or TV show. I generally don’t feel the need to see the story I already knew the beginning, middle, and end of. Likewise, finding out the secret origins of a defeated villain or doomed mentor type is kind of cool, I guess? Then again, I know what’s going to happen to them down the road, so . . . meh?
Still, I was committed to the prequel idea. The obvious choice was the Young Princess Leia movie, of course, but I felt like I should save that discussion for the next Star Wars spinoff idea that does nothing for me. So, I thought about it and thought about it and finally came up with something that at least mildly interested me, or at any rate, something I’d rather see than Jack Bauer’s surely grimdark origin story where he likely gets tortured for the first time and tortures other people for the first time and his wife, Teri, who he just got married to, says things like, “Don’t go, Jack! Think of your baby daughter!” and is otherwise useless.
Yeah. Instead of THAT prequel, gimme THIS prequel, please . . .
If you’re not familiar with The Pelican Brief, watch the trailer to get the basic synopsis. If you are familiar with The Pelican Brief, watch the trailer anyway because previews from the early 90’s are hilarious.
The Pelican Brief has two main characters: Darby Shaw (Julia Roberts) and Gray Grantham (Denzel Washington). By necessity, this prequel would have to focus solely on Grantham; these two characters don’t meet until this movie, and while I like Darby Shaw well enough (or did–I have to admit it’s been some time since I’ve seen this film), she’s a young law student drawn into all this crazy political conspiracy murder shit. So, unless Darby’s a 16-year-old debate club prodigy investigating the overelaborate murder of the student body president, I’m having difficulty coming up with a solid prequel story here. (To be clear, I’d watch that movie in a heartbeat. I’m such a sucker for a good high school murder mystery.)
Gray Grantham, though, is different. He’s a seasoned investigative journalist; we meet him interviewing a Supreme Court justice, for Christ’s sake. He could have investigated all kinds of fun political conspiracies in the past, ones that would obviously have put him in serious danger and maybe forced him to take off his shirt once or twice. And while I’d be totally into watching a sequel with Denzel Washington reprising the role 25 years later (particularly in today’s ludicrously and dangerously dysfunctional political climate), I have to admit, I’d also be pretty okay watching a prequel starring this guy as the young Mr. Grantham.
Yes, as much as I’d love to see John Boyega get a role which would allow him to use his natural accent again, I’d still cast him in a fucking heartbeat here. Mind you, I have no idea what the actual conspiracy would be about, but I’m certainly entertained by the thought of Gray Grantham investigating shit, running away from bad guys, and actually asking hard questions of politicians, you know, the kind that so many journalists in this country refuse to ask politicians now. Maybe–and I’m about to showcase some damn dirty idealism here–he could even be something of a role model or otherwise aspirational figure, a reminder of what journalism should be about (albeit with a few theatrical explosions along the way).
The Pelican Brief Prequel–which would obviously need to get a sexier name, stat–could be a movie, of course, but I quite like the idea of it as a limited series, something on HBO or Netflix, you know, one of those networks that makes quality television and also has enough money to potentially entice Boyega away from blockbusters, however briefly. That way, the show could really set up a good solid mystery with a bunch of well-developed twists and turns and a decent ensemble of interesting and morally ambiguous characters, hopefully including lots of women. Anjelica Houston, for instance. Alfre Woodard. Zazie Beetz. Tatiana Maslany. Sandra Oh. Lucy Liu. You know, just to name a few.
Look, don’t get me wrong: I know that nobody’s making a prequel based off a 25-year-old John Grisham adaptation; like, that’s not where the money is, and even if it was, I’m pretty sure Hollywood would pick The Firm over The Pelican Brief any day. Still, I think it could potentially be a fun show, and anyway, it HAS to be better than that Jack Bauer shit, right? (I did try and come up with something to swap out The Sandlot with too, but there were even bigger problems there. Like, Mek and I agreed that no one wants to see The Goonies prequel about Chester Copperpot’s Big Doomed Quest to find One-Eyed Willie. And they definitely don’t want to see what Ray Brower did for his summer vacation right before Stand By Me.)
Well, that’s about all I’ve got right now. How about you? What prequels would you actually like to see? (If it’s the Jack Bauer show, I’ll try and only gently mock you, promise.)
*ETA: I feel the need to point out that I wrote this whole thing prior to Saturday’s news about a TNG sequel featuring Captain Picard. So it’s not that EVERY prequel, sequel, standalone, remake, or adaptation announcement is automatically terrible. It’s just most of them.