A Qualified Defense of Prequels
I gather Alex Knapp is not overly fond of prequels:
For reasons surpassing my understanding, current pop culture has just become entranced with prequels, prologues, and unnecessary exposition. What writers today seem to have forgotten is that background information is just that – background. It’s color or information that should be brought up only as it serves the plot.
I don’t know about this. I guess I’m more welcoming of writers taking what is background in one story and developing it into the foreground plot of another story. Unlike Alex, I liked the idea (in theory) of depicting in separate films the rise and fall of Anakin Skywalker. If a new story can be told, why not tell it?
Well, okay, there may be some good reasons. I share Alex’s skepticism about the proposed Watchmen prequels, for example. My rule for the writing of prequels (and sequels): tell a new story that 1) succeeds artistically on its own aspects and merits and 2) doesn’t in the mere telling debase the literary value of the original narrative or any of its parts.
The writing of a story creates a world. Sometimes that world is open to expansion, further development, or even narrative reinterpretation. Sometimes, however, that fictional world functions as a closed system, so to speak, or in such a way that what is left untold or told with only hints and traces is just as important and meaningful as what’s explicitly shown and said. In such cases, writers would do better to leave the original story alone to work its magic.