There’s a disclaimer that plays before Disney-Pixars’ latest animated feature, Lightyear. The title card explains that the film you are about to see is not about the toy that appears in the Toy Story films, but rather the “in-universe” character that inspired Andy’s mom to buy the action figure in the first place. This time, Disney isn’t even trying to hide it: This is a movie specifically designed to sell toys.
Of course, this disclaimer was also (presumably) intended to explain why Chris Evans replaced Tim Allen as the voice of Buzz Lightyear. Some right-wing conspiracy theorists have accused Disney of “censoring” Allen for his conservative views and replacing him with openly liberal Evans. Rest assured, Republicans. Allen is still the voice of the original character, and he’s even returning to voice Buzz again in a few upcoming Disney+ projects.
We’re not even going to try to explain the “continuity” here, but if we were Tim Allen, we wouldn’t have a whole lot to complain about. If you’re going to get replaced with anyone, you might as well be replaced with Captain America himself. Most of us would be lucky to be known as the “older version of Chris Evans.”
Lightyear is hardly the first movie that has attempted to explore the backstory of an iconic film character. Prequels can range from great (Rise of the Planet of the Apes, X-Men: First Class, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me) to atrocious (Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Oz: The Great and Powerful). That being said, there are a few movie characters whose origin stories have piqued our curiosity. Here are the movie characters whose prequel stories we’d like to see.
John Hammond, Jurassic Park
We’re going to pour one out for every movie critic who used the phrase “this franchise needs to go extinct” in their review of the latest Jurassic Park film, Jurassic World: Dominion.If the movies themselves can’t bother to be original, why should critics? Dominion may have sucked, but we’re still interested in learning a little bit about the creator of the dinosaur park himself: John Hammond.
Richard Attenborough’s performance in the original 1993 film is iconic for a reason. The elderly business tycoon must have some reason for thinking that he can bring back prehistoric creatures, right? We think a smaller-scale prequel story about his early “mad science” mishaps would be way more interesting than whatever was going on in the incomprehensible new sequel.
Keyser Soze, The Usual Suspects
Here’s a toughie. The Usual Suspects, the idiosyncratic heist thriller from 1995, is one of the greatest crime movies ever made. It has one of the most shocking plot twists in cinematic history. Unfortunately, the villainous Keyser Soze is played by disgraced actor Kevin Spacey, who is accused of several instances of sexual assault. Spacey won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his skeevy performance.
We’ll choose to remember that The Usual Suspects also won another Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, which was handed to first-time screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie, who went on to write and direct some of the biggest movies of the 21st century, including the last few installments in the Mission: Impossible franchise. We think it’s time that he went back to his original character and cast a new actor to tell Keyser Soze’s origin story.
Capt. Koons, Pulp Fiction
What’s your favorite scene in Pulp Fiction? Many would cite Christopher Walken’s incredible cameo as the highly unusual military hero Capt. Koons. Koons’ “gold watch” story stays ingrained in a young Bruce Willis’ memory for his entire life, just as it did for audiences. Walken has over 200 credited roles to his name, but his mere few minutes in Pulp Fiction rank among the best.
Quentin Tarantino has toyed with the idea of revisiting some of his earlier films as prequels. At one point, he considered making The Vegas Brothers, which would have brought back Pulp Fiction’s Vincent and Reservoir Dogs’ Vic. Unfortunately, both John Travolta and Michael Madsen were too old to make a believable prequel. We’re guessing Walken wouldn’t be as believable as a younger Koons, but why not cast a younger actor? We’d love to see how the gold watch story actually played out.
Les Grossman, Tropic Thunder
Who says that Tom Cruise doesn’t have a sense of humor? If you’ve ever believed the Top Gun: Maverick star took himself too seriously, then just watch the 2008 comedy Tropic Thunder. Cruise’s insane performance as the ruthless movie producer Les Grossman is unlike anything that he’s ever done. Although it was Robert Downey Jr.’s performance as Kirk Lazarus that earned Tropic Thunder a surprise Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor, we’d argue that Cruise deserved the honor.
In hindsight, the character of Grossman, an abusive, ridiculously toxic studio head who is willing to risk the lives of his employees seems familiar — we're getting flashbacks to everything we know about Harvey Weinstein. Now would be the right time to do a Grossman prequel. With the right amount of makeup, you could even bring back Cruise, too.
Lando Calrissian, the Star Wars franchise
Star Wars fans were divided on the 2018 spinoff film Solo: A Star Wars Story. That being said, the one thing that almost everyone can agree on is that Donald Glover nailed his performance as the iconic swindler Lando Calrissian. Stepping into the shoes of Billy Dee Williams is no easy task, but Glover easily captured the essence of Lando’s charisma and romanticism. It goes without saying that Glover is also one of the most ridiculously talented human beings on the planet. It’s almost unfair that someone can simultaneously be so great at so many different things.
Solo may have not launched a new franchise of Han Solo adventures, but we sure would like to see Glover return to play Lando again. What’s his deal? How did he become the galaxy’s greatest trickster? Disney+ is churning out more Star Wars content than ever, and we think there’s more than enough room for more Lando adventures. We’re also in favor of using real actors to play younger versions of iconic Star Wars characters. We’re sick of the creepy CGI deep fakes that have been popping up in The Mandalorian.
Rooster Cogburn, True Grit
True Grit is one of the definitive Westerns of two generations. The 1969 film finally earned John Wayne the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance as the grizzled, retired U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn. However, we’d argue that the 2010 remake is one of the rare modern reboots that actually surpasses the original. The Coen Brothers fleshed out the story more thoroughly, and Jeff Bridges gave a far deeper performance than Wayne.
Both depictions of the character show Rooster after he’s already become a legend. How did this legend make a name for himself? We think it would be cool to see a film about a younger Rooster who is more optimistic and hasn’t yet earned his iconic cynicism. There’s more than a few great young Texas actors we think could take on the part.
Guinan, the Star Trek franchise
Similar to Star Wars, Star Trek has been churning out content like nobody’s business. If you’re one of the rare subscribers who still has there Paramount+ subscription, you’ll notice that there’s been more than a few new expansions to the Star Trek saga. Strange New World is even reintroducing new versions of Spock and Captain Pike. But Trek has always been about diversity; why not give a spotlight to one of the franchise's few Black female heroes, Whoopi Goldberg’s Guinan?
The actress is one of the few EGOT winners (with an Emmy, Grammy, Tony, Oscar), and she famously signed on to play a guest role on Star Trek: The Next Generation due to her love of the character Lieutenant Uhura on the original series. Guinan is an ageless time-traveler, so we might as well bring back Whoopi for a new installment.
Anton Chigurh, No Country For Old Men
Javier Bardem’s fearsome, remorseless killing machine is one of the definitive movie villains of all times. Part of the reason that Anton Chigurh is so terrifying is his mysterious quality. There’s nothing that prepares Tommy Lee Jones’ elderly sheriff or Josh Brolin’s altruistic rancher for the wave of mayhem that they’re about to face.
We don’t think a prequel about Anton would ruin the spirit of the original film. We’d be more than happy to see Anton threatening another small town at some point before the events of No Country For Old Men. Bardem is sort of ageless, so let’s bring him back to his signature role!
Andy Beckett, Philadelphia
Tom Hanks’ Academy Award acceptance speech for Philadelphia was a game changing moment for the film industry. Not only was Philadelphia heralded as a respectful depiction of LGBTQ characters, but Hanks took the time to thank the gay men in his life for their impact on his career. However, Hanks has said recently that today, a straight actor would never be cast in the role.
Here’s a case where a prequel movie could actually cast the part appropriately. Beyond the events of Philadelphia, the gay lawyer Andy Beckett had a prominent career as a straight-laced lawyer. We think a film about his early career would help honor the memory of a man wnho was lost too soon.
Jade Fox, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Ang Lee’s martial art masterpiece Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is one of the rare international films that became a phenomenon in the U.S.
American audiences couldn’t get enough of the magical realism mixed with eye-popping action sequences. While it’s the film that earned Michelle Yeoh a place within the action hero hall of fame, we’re just as interested in the antagonist, Jade Fox. Cheng Pei-Pei delivers a transformative performance as the mysterious witch who murdered Mu Bai's mentor. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon hints at Fox’s backstory, but we want to know how she came to become such a fearsome warrior. It’s also been far too long since we've seen a truly great martial arts movie.