A prequel is a literary, dramatic, or filmic work whose story precedes that of a previous work, by focusing on events that occur before the original narrative. A prequel is a work that forms part of a back-story to the preceding work.
All "prequels" (and "midquels") are, by definition, essentially sequels in that they "expand on a previous or preceding work." The term is a 20th-century neologism that is a portmanteau of the prefix "pre-" (from Latin prae, "before") and "sequel".
Like sequels, prequels may or may not concern the same plot as the work from which they are derived. Often, they explain the background which led to the events in the original, but sometimes the connections are not as explicit. Sometimes, prequels play on the fact that the audience knows what will happen next, using deliberate references to create dramatic irony.
Though the word "prequel" is of recent origin, works fitting this concept existed long before. The Cypria, presupposing hearers' acquaintance with the events of the Homeric epic, confined itself to what preceded the Iliad, and thus formed a kind of introduction.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary the word "prequel" first appeared in print in 1958 in an article by Anthony Boucher in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, used to describe James Blish's 1956 story They Shall Have Stars, which expanded on the story introduced in his earlier 1955 work, Earthman Come Home. The term came into general usage in the 1970s and 1980s.
Butch and Sundance: The Early Days (1979) may have inaugurated the term "prequel" into the mainstream. The term has since been popularized by the Star Wars prequel trilogy (1999-2005).[unreliable source?]
Rather than being a concept distinct from that of a sequel, a prequel still adheres to the general principle of serialization, defined only by its internal chronology and publication order. For example, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999) is a prequel to Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983) but is only a predecessor rather than a prequel of Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002) due to release order. Likewise, 1984's Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is a prequel to 1981's Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, in that it is set in 1935, one year before the first film.
Sometimes "prequel" describes followups where it is not always possible to apply a label defined solely in terms of intertextuality. In the case of The Godfather Part II, the narrative combines elements of a prequel with those of a more generalized sequel by having two intercut narrative strands, one continuing from the first film (the mafia family story under the leadership of Michael Corleone), and one, completely separate, detailing events that precede it (the story of his father Vito Corleone in his youth). In this sense the film can be regarded as both a "prequel and a sequel" (i.e., both a prior and a continuing story), and is often referred to in this manner.
In the original Planet of the Apes series, even though the latter three films depict events chronologically prior to those of the first two films, the narrative itself is continuous, as three characters from the first two films go back in time. The later installments (Escape from..., Conquest of..., and Battle for...) are sometimes called "prequels" in a broad sense of the word, and they are also sequels defined both broadly (as later installments) and narrowly (as continuation of the previously established storyline).
In recent times the term "prequel" has also been applied to origin-story reboots, such as Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Batman Begins, and Casino Royale. The creators of both Batman Begins and Rise of the Planet of the Apes also stated their intent to dispense with the continuity of the previous films so they would exist as separate pieces of work, with Christopher Nolan—director of Batman Begins—explicitly stating he does not consider it a prequel. Here, "prequel" denotes status as a "franchise-renewing original" that depicts events earlier in the (internally inconsistent) narrative cycle than those of a previous installment. Most reviewers require that a prequel must lead up to the beginning of its original work, which is inconsistent with works that dispense with the narrative of previous work and are not significantly within the same continuity.
The 2009 film Star Trek features characters from the 1960s TV series Star Trek, but earlier in their careers. However, the film is set in an alternate timeline caused by a Romulan captain from the universe of the original series going back in time and interfering with history. Thus, the film has been described as simultaneously a prequel and a reboot.
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- Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (10th ed.). Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster. 1993. pp. 921, 915, 1068, 246.
- "prequel, n.". Oxford English Dictionary (online) (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. March 2012 [March 2007]. Retrieved 19 April 2012.
- Silverblatt, Art (2007). Genre Studies in Mass Media: A Handbook. M. E. Sharpe. p. 211. ISBN 9780765616708.
Prequels focus on the action that took place before the original narrative. For instance, in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith the audience learns about how Darth Vader originally became a villain. A prequel assumes that the audience is familiar with the original—the audience must rework the narrative so that they can understand how the prequel leads up to the beginning of the original.
- merriam-Webster Dictionary, Entry for sequel
- Burgess, Steve (1999-06-26). "Richard Lester: A Hard Day's Life".
Lester may also have locked up the dubious distinction of inaugurating the term 'prequel' in 1979 when he directed 'Butch and Sundance: The Early Days.'
- Deever, Chris (28 May 2001). "On prequels and The Prequel". TruthInStuff. Archived from the original on 1 January 2004.
- Jess-Cooke, Carolyn (2009). Film Sequels: Theory and Practice from Hollywood to Bollywood. Edinburgh University Press. p. 6. ISBN 9780748626038.
- Dirks, Tim. "Science Fiction Films Part 5". AMC Filmsite.
A sequel and prequel to the first two films.
- Britt, Ryan; Tor.com. "Who's Your Caesar? Rewatching Conquest of the Planet of the Apes". Macmillan Publishing.
Conquest is in a separate category of films as it serves as both a sequel to the previous film and a prequel to the first two films.
- Matheou, Demetrios (August 14, 2011), "Ascent of Ape", The Sunday Herald (Washington, D.C.),
Aficionados of the original series of five films will know that a prequel already exists, namely Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes.
- Chappell, Arthur (2011-08-20). Film Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes: After the Tim Burton travesty, the Apes are back in a genuinely fantastic movie. History (Socyberty/Triond).
Stunning prequel to the original Planet Of The Apes movie, with some elements of the original franchise sequel / prequel Battle For The Planet Of The Apes.
- Associated Press. "With the documentary ‘Chimpanzee’ opening, a look at 5 prime primate movies". The Statesman. Retrieved 5 May 2012.
- Sutton, Paul (2010). "8. Prequel: The "Afterwardsness" of the Sequel". In Jess-Cooke, Carolyn; Verevis, Constantine. Second Takes: Critical Approaches to the Film Sequel. State University of New York Press. pp. 139–152. ISBN 9781438430294.
- Keegan, Rebecca (11 August 2011). "‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’: 21 nods to classic ‘Apes’". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 19 April 2012.
- Skipper, Ben (September 23, 2014). "Star Trek 3 to Include Spock and Kirk Reunion With William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy". International Business Times.