Prequels Rattle My Nicholas Cage

If there's one idea that seems to be universally true in Hollywood, it's this: Nothing exceeds like excess.

Witness the recent confirmation by MTV that Nicholas Cage will be playing famed Chicago mobster Al Capone in a prequel of The Untouchables. Untouchables: Capone Rising, as it is tentatively called, will focus on the gangster's notorious and presumably violent ascension to power -- and specifically his early dealings with Chicago cop Jimmy Malone, the role played by Sean Connery in the 1987 flick.

Now fundamentally I'm not against the idea of this movie. I think Nicholas Cage is a brilliant actor who can play everything from an ex-con redneck trying to kidnap a baby, to an ex-con Army Ranger trying to stop a plane full of escapees, to an ex-con car thief trying to steal 50 cars in one night.

Seriously though, Cage has incredible talent. Combine his emotional range from films such as Adaptation, Matchstick Men and World Trade Center with his over-the-top performances in movies like Face Off and Con Air and I bet you'll get a heck of an Al Capone.

Pit him against the right Jimmy Malone (rumored to be Colin Farrell) and Capone Rising ought to be pretty entertaining.

What bugs me is the new fascination with prequels. As if there aren't enough sequels (and trilogies), now the movie studios are want to take our favorite films and create elaborate back stories. The most recent being Hannibal Rising, the story of Silence of Lambs villain Hannibal Lecter's disturbing childhood in Eastern Europe that supposedly explains his fascination with torture and appetite for liver and fava beans.

Hannibal Rising was panned by critics and was an equal disappointment at the box office, earning a mere $13 million in its opening weekend, and only $27 million or so to date.

But don't expect Hollywood to take any hints from that. I'm sure we'll see plenty more prequels in the next year or so.

Some prequels I understand. Star Wars I, II & III were acceptable to me because the original Star Wars was always Part IV in George Lucas' mind. It was planned that way from the start. And The Godfather II, one of the greatest films of all time, is both a sequel and a prequel simultaneously.

But may I remind Hollywood of some of the prequels that have not worked out so well. Let's remember that Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was a prequel -- and clearly the worst of that trilogy. Red Dragon was also a prequel to Silence of the Lambs and while it was entertaining, didn't work because Anthony Hopkins was so much older

in the role of Hannibal Lecter. (Does that mean Hannibal Rising was actually a pre-prequel?)

Was Casino Royale a James Bond sequel or prequel? Oh... sorry... that was a "reinvention". My bad.

Generally I think prequels don't work because to make them interesting, you end up having to add elements to the film that don't jibe with the original. For example, as much as R2D2 figured into the plots of Phantom Menace, Attack of the

Clones and Revenge of the Sith, you would think that Obi Wan Kenobe would have recognized the droid in Episode IV: A New Hope. But of course, Alec Guinness had no idea.

And if I were Darth Vader and Obi Wan had cut off my legs and left me for dead on a lava planet, I think my first words confronting him on the Death Star wouldn't have been, "We meet again at last," but something more like, "I am going to kill you old man! I'm going to cut off your legs and shove them up your..." Well, you get the picture.

Almost certainly, Capone Rising will creat inconsistencies in The Untouchables, which I think is a shame.

All there is to do now is wait for Capone Rising Rising, the story of how Al Capone, Jimmy Malone and Elliot Ness all actually went to the same preschool and fought over the milk and cookies. "He pulls out a crayon, you pull out a magic marker. He goes after you on the playground, you go after him during naptime!"

I can't wait.

Ethan Morris: "Not always right, but never in doubt." Go ahead and write me.