Prequelmania Continues in 2013 with “Oz the Great and Powerful”, a.k.a. “Before Munchkins”

I was away from home last week and privy to hotel Internet access of varying strengths ranging from Very Good to Intermittent to Sadly-DSL to Better-Off-Using-the-Unsecured-Hotspot-of-the-Hotel-Next-Door. Unwilling to squander minutes of family quality time on failed attempts at streaming video, I missed out when the rest of America had the chance to view the first trailer for Oz the Great and Powerful, director Sam Raimi’s vision of how Academy Award Nominee James Franco might transform into Academy Award Nominee Frank Morgan with the aid of a hat, a balloon, a storm, and younger, more hygienic versions of the three witches from MacBeth.

For those who likewise missed out:

I’m sure it’s visually stunning, but I may be seeing it alone in theaters. My son prefers L. Frank Baum’s original Oz novels and holds the loose 1939 film adaptation in contempt. He also hated Harry Osborn and thought he should have died much earlier in the Spider-Man series.

I’m mildly curious to see if this prequel can connect the dots without being too derivative. Maybe it’s just me, but writing a prequel sounds even easier than rebooting an existing franchise. Select one character from a previous work whose origin was never explained. Imagine them younger and the exact opposite of what made them famous. Design a simple plot framework that allows them to transform from one state to the other, either in two hours or in six. Add a few new characters to sell toys, plus a few in-jokes that will only be funny to several hundreds of millions of hardcore #1 fans. Presto! Instant beloved prequel with crowded San Diego Comic Con panel. Since prequels don’t yet suffer the same stigmata that sequels and reboots do, generating one seems more prestigious and less unoriginal. For now.

Under the right circumstances, any of the following potential prequels could be coming soon to a theater or Kindle near you:

Harry Potter Origins: James Potter — Once upon a time, Harry Potter’s dad was an individual in his own right. This ten-film prequel series would show how his seven painstaking years at Hogwarts helped him become a heroic student, husband, and father before his noble sacrifice reduced him to a supporting character in his own son’s life, as well as playing second fiddle to his wife Lily, about whom Harry would reminisce much more often. This would be the first of a plethora of Potter prequels, one series for each of the series’ several hundred characters. The final movie in the series, Harry Potter Origins: Colin Creevey, should begin filming by the time original actor Hugh Mitchell turns 80, though his contract will require him to reprise the role as a ten-year-old anyway. This may require some light makeup and a few hundred million in digital effects.

Crib Story — A rousing adventure about the hopes and dreams of the original toys that belonged to two-month-old baby Andy. Returning characters such as Wheezy, Hamm, Bo Peep, and the shark that once borrowed Woody’s hat will be joined by an all-new set of merchandised characters who react poorly when their ranks are joined by an age-inappropriate cowboy doll. Featuring the voices of Jon Hamm as Lots-o-Huggin Bear (a good, uncorrupted one this time), Ke$ha as a Beanie Baby kitty-cat, Patton Oswalt as a really cool sock monkey, the members of One Direction as a bunch of plastic animals dangling from a mobile, Ian McShane as a Fisher Price Corn Popper with a hidden agenda, and Ricky Gervais as a really annoying rattle who keeps trying to steal the movie.

Star Wars Episode Minus-2: the Hopeful Phantom — Why not prequels to prequels? Within five years I predict preprequels will be all the rage. The first chapter of a new trilogy (to be continued in episodes minus-one and zero) will chronicle the life of scrawny Cecil Palpatine, victim of many a bully in Coruscant Elementary School until he orders a self-help pamphlet from an old comic book that teaches him how to be a man, win friends, influence people, and electrocute opponents with his bare hands. A few scant elements will be cherry-picked at random from existing Star Wars Expanded Universe novels; any previous books not referenced in the movie version of Cecil’s story will be rendered instantly non-canonical and allowed to go out of print.

X-Men First Class Origins: Sebastian Shaw — See how a once-heroic man turned into a super-villain, who turned the once-heroic Erik Lensherr into a super-villain, who turned the once-barely-heroic Pyro into a super-villain, who turned some other guy into a super-villain, who went back in time and turned this one other guy into a super-villain, who turned Shaw into a super-villain. Or something. Fans will adore how quickly the movie continuity and timeline become even more convoluted and impenetrable than the original comics’.

God: Days of Genesis Future — All-powerful, everlasting, infinite in existence and consciousness…but what was he like before infinity began? This hypothetical examination will fancy itself an authoritative work in the hands of two Jewish screenwriters, an agnostic director, eight atheist executive producers, an endless parade of inter-faith focus groups who agree on nothing, and a handsome Scientologist starring as The God. For the sake of affirmative action, exactly one token Christian will be allowed on set, a makeup assistant who thinks that listening to Oprah is as good as reading Scripture. In order to avoid an R rating, the movie will be limited to a maximum of 2½ non-swearing uses of the name “Jesus”, though it’ll be a heart-stopping surprise if they even reach 1.

Lord of the Rings: the Silmarillion — No. Please, can we just not?

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