It’s Matthew here. I know that you don’t know me very well, but I felt compelled to reach out. You see, I just heard that Joel Silver and Studio Canal are trying to do an origin story for Snake Plisken and I want to ask you to not let this happen.
It’s been a tough time these last few years. From the outside it certainly seems like everyone down there is having trouble coming up with exciting new ideas. There have been more films based on existing material every year for the past several. That’s sequels, remakes and reboots, and the dreaded origin story.
No, for the record, I don’t think this is inherently a bad thing. There’s lots of reasons why it’s a good thing. Writers and audiences like to revisit characters or stories. Studios like properties they can bet big on. Stories may have more chapters that can be told. Stories can be updated to reflect more current sensibilities. The list goes on.
However, origin story prequels almost always suck. Why you ask? I’ll tell you.
Take Snake Plisken. He’s a fucking badass and that’s all I need to know. He has an eye patch. You know what I don’t really need to know? How he ended up with said eyepatch. Furthermore, when you do a prequel and show me exactly how he ended up with that eyepatch? It’s either going to be not as cool as what I might have imagined, not be shocking because we knew it was coming, or you’ll try to make it so cool that it’ll end up being annoying.
You know what would be cool? Just do another Snake Plisken movie in the series and in the course of that movie have someone ask him how he lost his eye. Or have him face a new bad guy and when Snake meets him and someone asks “wait, do you know him?” Snake can say “he owes me an eye”. That’s a movie I’d watch, even if you recast Snake.
The point being is that there is some value to the mystery of it all. I don’t need to know that Snake lost his eye by using it to stop an arrow that was aimed at an orphan baby or see him fight the wars that made him lose his faith in pretty much everything. He’s already a fully formed character with a boat load of flaws so work on developing that, don’t just show us where all those flaws came from. That’s boring compared to the idea of him growing out of some of those flaws.
So if Joel Silver wants to make a new trilogy of Snake Plisken films? I say go right ahead. Just don’t make them prequels. I’m sure they’ll make money, but there is already so much to explore in that world. Have him go back to New York. Have him fight the oppressive government. Hell, you could even just rip off Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome and have him fighting some bad guy in a post apocalyptic wasteland town (he destroyed the world’s technology, remember?) and post apocalyptic movies are big business these days! I’d watch that!
Take Star Wars as an example, George Lucas made a trilogy of prequels and you know what? They are middling at best because we already know everything we needed to know about those characters. Seeing how Annakin Skywalker became Darth Vader didn’t make him more evil and it didn’t really do a very good job of making him more sympathetic, it just made him seem like an unwitting pawn. A bitch. And you don’t want to make Snake Plisken into a bitch.
To be fair, it’s true you could end up with a great film. X-Men: First Class is one of the best films in the X-Men franchise and it’s an origin story prequel. However you’re more likely to end up with something like X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Prometheus, or The Phantom Menace.
Your new movie might be pretty to look at but at the end of the day you’ll have spent so much time trying to shoehorn in references to what’s already been established that the story will suffer and the film will be OK at best. Worse yet, you might end up with something like Battlestar Galactica: The Plan, which was utterly pointless.
And if you insist on doing a prequel please do something for me: just don’t do an outright origin story, just tell a new story with the same character. It worked for Indiana Jones after all.
So that’s me Hollywood, asking you to take a step back and have a think about what you’ve been doing lately. I love you and I want you to succeed and make a brilliant movie and that requires having a new thought about the character not just making a story that fits all the history that we already know.