The Conversation

The plague of prequels

I found "Monsters University" to be one of the better specimens of that misbegotten Hollywood tradition, the "prequel."  In this case, the writers didn't have much choice, because the end of the earlier "Monsters, Inc." essentially destroys the uniquely weird setting, in which a world of monsters harvests the screams of children for fuel.  There was no way to tell another story in this setting without turning back the clock.

It's easy to review "Monsters U": if you, or your kids, enjoyed the first movie, you'll like this one too.  It has all the attractions/annoyances of the typical prequel: the fleshing out of backstory that was quite good enough when largely implied, the strange reverse-thrill of watching a story unroll into an ending you already know, and the curious sense of doom that comes from knowing these characters will ultimately wipe out the world they live in.  (In a good way, of course - it's a modest spoiler for anyone wholly unfamiliar with the "Monsters" films to recall that our lovable heroes eventually discover a better source of power than "scaring."  But really, ignore the upbeat nature of the apocalyptic transformation he unleashes, and Mike Wazowski is basically Elric of Melnibone with a standup-comedy mike instead of a world-destroying black sword.)  

My question is, when did this "prequel" stuff get started?  When did this become a major Hollywood tradition?  It usually comes off a lot lazier than "Monsters University" does.


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