We caught our first glimpse of The Thing's creepy Arctic horror this past weekend. But it's just one of a half-dozen movie prequels in the pipeline. Past experience shows many of these prequels may suck. Here's your prequel suckitude forecast.
Fairly minor spoilers ahead...
And welcome, once again, to Monday Hate — in which we hate things because it's Monday.
What questions does it answer? Just what happened to the Norwegian camp? How did they dig the alien out of the ice? How did this monster get unleashed? Why a dog?
Status: Filming is completed, it comes out next April.
What it's got going for it: We were blown away when we visited this film's set and witnessed the incredible attention to detail the film-makers were putting into it. And the trailer they showed at NYCC looked creepy and atmospheric... exactly what you'd want a new Thing movie to be.
Why we've been burned before: Sometimes it's better not to have answers to questions that film-makers left unanswered, like why Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader. Sometimes, you can even have too many answers. Plus you already know going into this film how it ends.
What questions does it answer? How did the X-Men get started? Why did Professor X and Magneto go from best friends to arch-enemies? How did Charles Xavier wind up in that wheelchair?
Status: Filming now, coming out next June.
What it's got going for it: Rather a lot, actually. Singer's involved as a producer, and Matthew (Kick-Ass) Vaughn is directing. James McAvoy is playing the young Professor X, which is an inspired choice. The script was co-written by Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles' Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz. The film's rumored villains, the Hellfire Club, are a nice choice (led by Kevin Bacon! With January Jones as Emma Frost, pictured to the right and above.)
Why we've been burned before: You only have to think of X-Men: Origins: Wolverine, which also had a nifty cast and an impressive director, Gavin Hood. Fox has a long, long history of taking promising films and putting them through a meat-grinder. But also, it's a weird sign that this X-Men prequel doesn't feature the classic X-Men team: There's Alex Summers instead of Scott Summers, plus Mystique, Darwin, Banshee and Beast. At least Beast is part of the original team. But why couldn't they have stuck closer to Jeff Parker's amazing comics?
What questions does it answer? We discover the secret history of Caesar, the first super-smart ape who led the ape uprising. Humans' experiments with genetic engineering lead to development of intelligence in apes, which in turn leads to a war for supremacy.
Status: It's been filming recently, and it's in theaters June 24, 2011.
What it's got going for it: James Franco plays the lead, a new character who wants to find a cure for the Alzheimer's Disease affecting his father (John Lithgow). And Gollum himself, Andy Serkis, is playing Caesar. Brian Cox (X-Men's William Stryker) plays a sadistic owner of a primate sanctuary, and Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) is his son. So all around, a good cast, and the first set pics look promising.
Why we've been burned before: The memory of Tim Burton's disastrous Planet Of The Apes movie still stings. Plus, we're not sure how apes that are entirely CG and motion-capture will look — although at least they're being done by WETA. Also, it's an Apes movie without as much social commentary — this time, according to Franco, it's more of a cautionary Frankenstein-style tale of humans messing with science and paying the price. Plus it probably doesn't have the plague that wipes out cats and dogs.
What questions does it answer? This isn't strictly a prequel, but almost all of the film apparently takes place in 1969, when we see the early days of the Men In Black division. Agents J (Will Smith) and K (Tommy Lee Jones) travel back in time, and meet a younger version of Agent K — played by Josh Brolin. Rumor has it, we'll discover that John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Fidel Castro and Andy Warhol were all aliens.
Status: It starts filming any day now, for a May 2012 release.
What it's got going for it: Emma Thompson is playing the head of MIB back in 1969, which just sounds full of awesome potential. And Brolin as a young Agent K also has oodles of potential as well. Jemaine Clement plays Yaz, an evil alien who goes back in time to kill the young Agent K.
Why we've been burned before: Uh, Men In Black II? Plus I'm not sure how Clement will do in a big scenery-chewing villain role. Mostly, though, this is a series with a tendency to blow past funny aliens into full-on campiness, and a 1969 setting could provide the ultimate campfest.
What questions does it answer? Who was that space jockey? Where did the xenomorphs come from? Were they born, or made?
Status: Ridley Scott is signed up to direct two prequels, and early design work is being done. But there's no clue when filming will actually start — and there are rumors that the project may fall through, due to Scott's demands for a $250 million budget and an R rating.
What it's got going for it: Ridley Scott, Ridley Scott and Ridley Scott. The thought of him returning to the universe he created is mind-blowing. He explained recently, "The film will be really tough, really nasty. It's the dark side of the moon. We are talking about gods and engineers. Engineers of space. And were the aliens designed as a form of biological warfare? Or biology that would go in and clean up a planet?" The scripts are by Jon Spaiht, an up-and-coming screenwriter whose Passengers topped the Black List of 2007's best unproduced scripts.
Why we've been burned before: Scott himself is the first to say the Alien series went to some pretty bad places. Plus if the studio forces him to make it PG-13, that will be pretty hideous. There's also the question of whether you want to know every detail of the space jockey's backstory, or whether you'd rather leave some things mysterious.
What questions does it answer? Basically, because the film-makers foolishly killed off Will Smith at the end of the first film, they can't have him in a sequel. So they want to make a prequel instead. According to Smith, the film would show the "last stand of Manhattan," as Robert Neville and a small group of survivors in Manhattan, who have to go to D.C. for some reason, and then they have to go back to Manhattan at the end, as Manhattan falls.
Status: It's not on anybody's front burner, but Francis Lawrence is reportedly still on board to come back and direct at some point. As recently as January 2009, Lawrence sounded excited about it.
What it's got going for it: Well, Smith says the dog from the first film will be in it, as a puppy. And maybe it'll work as a stand-alone zombie/vampire apocalyptic action movie, in the vein of the Resident Evil movies.
Why we've been burned before: I just don't see that there's a story to be told here. Do you?
January Jones/X-Men: First Class photos by Baker - Dean/INFPhoto, via Daily Mail