"All legends have an origin." So goes the over-played preview for X-Men Origins: Wolverine. All of them? Really? Does the legend of Harry from Harry and the Hendersons have an origin worth telling? Howard the Duck? Monkeybone? Probably not. Clearly, however, there’s something there in the idea that great characters from movie history might have a back story worth telling. It’s time for a list.
With X-Men Origins: Wolverine opening next week, it got our twisted minds thinking about what other origin stories we'd like to see on the big screen. The origin story is far from unique in the movie world. We've seen everything from Hannibal Rising to The Exorcist: The Beginning (twice!). But Wolverine brings the concept of back story or prequel to a new level. This is no straight-to-video knock-off for a few dollars (even if early buzz indicates that maybe it should have been). If this is financially huge, as it very well could be, we're gonna see dozens of these things. Take a proven franchise and milk it for a few more dollars. It’s the Hollywood way.
But could there be some interesting origin stories out there besides Wolverine? Of course, the first target for Hollywood is going to be superheroes. An origin story for Magneto is already in the works and they'll probably just move down the X-Men line to characters like Cyclops, Storm, Professor X, and Beast eventually. (Yawn.) So, while a Joker origin story might be cool and there are several villains and heroes from the DC and Marvel Universe that could follow suit, we're going to try and think outside the box. No traditional superheroes or supervillains. Why limit ourselves? Couldn't there be interesting origin tales of other popular characters from movie history? Let us suggest a few...
Note: Star Wars Origins is way too obvious. We could just make a top ten of Star Wars characters (starting with Han Solo, Boba Fett, Yoda, Mace Windu, etc.) who would make for origin prequels that would probably be better than Attack of the Clones. (Like that's hard.) Maybe someday we will write that feature, but, for now, it's best to just exclude them all. Same with The Lord of the Rings. As bad-ass as The Lord of the Rings Origins: Aragorn would be, there are just too many choices to pick just one and we can’t have the whole top ten be Tolkien.
10. Wanted Origins: Fox
With the recent buzz surrounding the in-production Wanted sequel - which might focus more on Terence Stamp’s character - let us make another suggestion. Get Angelina Jolie back in the sexiest role of her career and do it with a prequel. I know Wanted is a divisive movie, but I thought Timur Bekmambetov's action flick was a damn good time and, when I think of 2008 action scenes that I loved, one of the first that comes to mind is Fox hanging off a hood shooting at another car. James MacAvoy may have been the last man standing in Wanted, but who wants to see that cocky kid headline his own sequel? With all the Matrix parallels in Wanted, do you really REALLY want to risk Wanted Reloaded and Wanted Revolutions? Wouldn't you rather see how Fox was recruited and became the bad-ass that she is at the beginning of Wanted? Me too.
9. The Matrix Origins: Morpheus
Speaking of The Matrix. We know that the pain and disappointment are still raw after Reloaded and Revolutions, but it's hard to believe that the world of The Matrix is completely dead. In fact, it's impossible to believe. There's too much love for the first film and too much storytelling potential in this universe to let a couple of bloated sequels close the door on the world of Zion forever. So, what was big, bald bad-ass Morpheus up to before he recruited Neo? (Besides hosting wicked underground raves, of course.) There are countless stories to tell in the world of The Matrix and it makes perfect sense to start with the back story of one of its most popular characters. Fishburne himself is a little too old and probably too busy counting CBS paychecks from CSI, but he could easily be recast if the story focuses on a younger Morpheus. Go with an unknown and make the script really good. At least better than the two sequels.
8. Watchmen Origins: Rorschach
What was the best part of Zack Snyder's Watchmen? Easy. Jackie Early Haley's performance as Rorschach. Not only was he the most fully-realized and fascinating character, but he also seems the most likely candidate for a spin-off film as he was the only one that most audience members cared about in the slightest. I know. Somewhere, Alan Moore’s skin is crawling and he doesn’t even know why. The words spin-off and prequel would probably drive the legendary writer crazy. But he wrote off the Watchmen film anyway, so why should he care? And, honestly, without the original source material, another film set in the world of Watchmen could be really intriguing. There are interesting stories to tell in the alternate universe that Moore and Dave Gibbons created and, while we do know a bit about Rorschach’s history, an ambitious writer could really make this project a home run. It would probably be better than the first film. Just don’t let Zack Snyder anywhere near it.
7. Serenity Origins: Mal
It's a cold hard fact. We NEED more Firefly/Serenity. I’m getting tired of watching those 13 episodes and that lone movie over and over again. And there’s a window that could open soon. Despite its improved quality since its premiere, including at least one episode that could be called great, Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse doesn't feel like it's going to be around for the long haul. The ratings and buzz aren’t quite where they should be. Similarly, Nathan Fillion’s star vehicle Castle isn't bad but the great Nate should be doing something more challenging than this Moonlighting variation. While we’d love a straight-up sequel to Serenity, it may be more creatively intriguing for Whedon to fill in the gaps of the history of Mal, one of the best characters in the history of sci-fi. How did he get his crew together? In his early days of rebellion, what challenges did he face? What enemies? There’s enough support from the Browncoat community that the fans would practically finance this thing themselves. Has there even been a pledge drive to produce a movie? This could easily be the first.
6. L.A. Confidential Origins: Bud White
One of the best movies of the '90s also featured one of Russell Crowe's best performances, a piece of work that should have been nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. If you haven’t seen L.A. Confidential in the ten-plus years since its release, you really must take another look. It hasn’t “held up”. It’s actually gotten richer and more dramatically satisfying over time. Unlike a lot of films on this list, we’d even support original cast member inclusion. As the recent Robin Hood pics have proven, Russ is back in prime shape, having lost the Body of Lies and State of Play paunch. He actually looks, at least with a little bit of CGI manipulation, like he could honestly play a young Bud White. Of course, James Ellroy would write the story of how Bud joined the force, where his savior complex comes from, and how he gained that grey moral edge that he has at the beginning of the Curtis Hanson film. Who wouldn’t want to see that?
5. Sin City Origins: Marv
Maybe you're sensing a theme? Fox, Rorschach, Bud White - an origin film is really just a way to bring back your favorite movie characters, sometimes even from the great beyond. Frank Miller's The Spirit completely fell apart, Sin City 2 is taking for-damn-ever to get into production, and Mickey Rourke has never been more popular after his incredible work in The Wrestler and casting in Iron Man 2. This one seems like a no-brainer with Miller writing, Rodriguez directing, and Rourke starring in a new tale from the early days of Sin City. Our only concern is that they might go the cheapie route and bring in a whole new team a la the straight-to-video The Crow, Universal Soldier, or Dusk Till Dawn sequels. Don't let that happen, Frank. Bring Marv back for one more drink at Kadie's and don't let the yellow bastards keep him down.
4. The Incredibles Origins: Frozone
Do all superhero origin films have to be live-action? Of course not. Who doesn't want to know more about the past adventures of Mr. Incredible's super-cool best man? Frozone was one of the characters from The Incredibles that we know the least about, but he was iconic and charismatic enough to make us all want more. What villains did Frozone face down on his own? How and when did he retire? What was his family life like (other than yelling at his wife about his super-suit)? There are enough unanswered questions for an interesting spin-off (heck, spin-offs). And, sorry Mr. Jackson, but we all know that Samuel will do nearly anything for the right price. In fact, I'm a little scared to suggest a Samuel L. origin story. It could lead to Snakes on a Planes Origins, Soul Men Origins, or Amos & Andrew Origins, which would all be awesome... in the most Bizarro-sense of the word.
3. Kill Bill Origins: Bill
Uma Thurman may have stolen the Kill Bill movies, but that guy she was trying to whack was a pretty riveting character in his own right and the one guy in the movie that everyone looked at and said, "I wished I knew more about HIM." To be honest, an origin film about any of the supporting characters in the Kill Bill flicks would be entertaining (even Kill Bill Origins: The Bride, about the heroine's early ass-kicking days, would be a blast), but we'd start it all with Bill. Carradine would probably come back (although the recent off-the-cuff comment that implied QT was a drug user may hurt that possibility) and Quentin could go Grindhouse-crazy again, detailing how Bill became Bill, why Hattori Hanzo was so willing to make a sword to slit Bill's throat, and how Billy formed his legendary Viper Squad and fell for his deadly bride.
2. The Departed Origins: Frank Costello
There were rumors a while back that the producers of the Oscar-winning The Departed were thinking of spinning off a movie series about Mark Wahlberg's character, but c'mon, while the guy was gorgeously foul-mouthed, he wasn't nearly as captivating as Nicholson's mob boss extreme, Frank Costello. The guy is perfectly suited for an origin story. How did Frank come to run his big corner of the world? What happened during his rise to power? When and why did he start working with the feds? This could be an epic rags-to-bloody-riches story, scripted by William Monahan, that would fill in all the gaps in Frank's legendary history. Rise-to-power stories are always popular and Frank Costello rose to a pretty prominent position. The biggest problem, of course, would be - who could step into young Frank's shoes? It doesn't feel like all the CGI in the world could make Jack young again and who would dare take on a role made famous by Nicholson? (Aside from the late great Heath Ledger, that is.) Our advice - Go with an unknown. Maybe he’d actually get an Oscar nomination for the part (unlike notoriously-snubbed Jack).
1. No Country for Old Men Origins: Anton Chigurh
Javier Bardem's award-winning villain in No Country for Old Men is nearly more intriguing because we know so little about him. He's so single-minded, such a force of nature, that he practically becomes a symbol for pure evil. So, it's not like an origin film for Anton would be overly heavy on details about how Chigurh became such a bad-ass SOB. No, Chigurh: Origins would merely be an “early days” story of Anton. I don’t want explanations for his coin-flipping or goofy haircut. I just want to know what Chigurh was doing before he picked up the scent of Llewellyn Moss. You know that Anton had some interesting, blood-drenched jobs before the one in No Country for Old Men. He’s already a legend, the kind of baddie spoken about in hushed tones, when the movie begins. How did he get there? There are numerous Coen characters - including half the people in Miller’s Crossing and The Big Lebowski - that would make for an interesting prequel spin-off (Walter Sobchak: Origins could be one of the best-selling cult DVDs of all time), but none would have the dramatic potential of this one.