The way franchises are made in Hollywood, now more than ever, story timelines are anything but linear. A story rarely progresses forward without also taking a dip into the past of some of our main characters. Some studios use it as an excuse to make money off of cash cow franchise series, while others still take it as an opportunity to expand and contextualize an already rich film universe. Each attempt succeeds to varying degrees, with some in fact diminishing rather than accompanying (see Star Wars: Episode 1).
But there are some film universes we’ve tragically never seen expanded on. They’re series that grow well forward in time, but leave gaping holes in the past that are just begging to be filled with a new story. What would happen if Hollywood went back and filled in those gaps? We’d sure like to know ourselves.
1. The Hunger Games – Pre-Panem and “The Dark Days”
Both the novels and the movies in The Hunger Games saga make mention of “The Dark Days,” a period of rebellion preceding the sadistic Games, that saw all 13 Districts rise up against the Capitol’s oppressive reign. In the end, the Capitol (allegedly) bombed District 13 back to the stone age, and devised the Games as a reminder to everyone of their superiority.
But what were the circumstances surrounding the creation of Panem in the first place? What happened to the United States that changed our country from a democracy into an oppressive dictatorship where no one’s allowed to leave their respective region? The story of a time before the formation of the fictional dystopia would make for an interesting story to round out a saga coming to a close in theaters.
2. Harry Potter – The Rise of Voldemort (The First Time)
Throughout the Harry Potter series, we pay witness to a series of flashbacks to young Voldemort, then known as Tom Riddle. Past that though, we see and hear little of him as a fully-formed villain, terrorizing the wizarding world for the very first time. Imagine a story where the peace and quiet of an unsuspecting community is broken by the rise of one of the most powerful evils their society has ever known. Now imagine it being handled by Dumbledore and company in their younger years, and we have ourselves a brand new story with plenty of room for new adventures. The Harry Potter universe is already filled to the brim with history, so why not add a little more?
3. Men in Black – The First Alien Arrival
We first see Will Smith get recruited for the shady alien regulation organization “Men in Black” when it’s up and running like a well-oiled machine. While we see photos of a young Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) interacting with the first aliens to land on Earth though, we hear little about the MIB’s early days as a fledgling top secret project keeping the planet safe. In our present day, aliens have been fully camouflaged, monitored, and integrated into our society right under our noses. While the latest movie in the series sends Agent J (Smith) back into the past, it’s not so much an origins story as a fish-out-of-water tale.
4. Taken – Liam Neeson Acquires His “Special Set of Skills”
The Taken trilogy often hints that Liam Neeson’s character had a lengthy spell in the CIA as one of their top operatives, as evidenced by his martial arts ability and bragging about his “special set of skills he’s acquired.” Learning how he acquired those skills though may very well be the way to make a tired franchise fresh again. We could harken back to Neeson’s early days in the CIA learning to save his family from various future kidnappings, giving us yet another chance to see the newly formed action star karate chop bad guys and gutturally threaten people over the phone.
5. The Matrix – The Original War With the Machines
When The Matrix begins, it picks up in a society ravaged by war, where surviving humans live underground in a series of tunnels while being hunted down by their robot overlords. Meanwhile, captured humans are made to believe they’re living in a utopia that’s in fact a virtual reality controlled by those same robots. But all this makes us ask: How did humanity get here in the first place?
As the story goes, humanity blotted out the sun in an attempt to weaken the solar-powered machines, but for some inexplicable reasons that never worked. A story detailing the inception of the war that originated in a very Terminator-esque timeline would lend some useful context to a universe with a fairly mysterious and unspecified backstory, going beyond the simple idea of “we created robots that wanted to kill us.” If a prequel film is never made, there’s always The Animatrix to check out.
6. Kill Bill – Bill Before “The Bride”
Here’s what we know about the title ninja played by the late great David Carradine: Bill is a martial arts expert who recruits women to act as highly trained international assassins, and for reasons unbeknownst to us, names them each after a deadly snake. In Kill Bill, we see everything after that group has fallen to the four corners of the Earth, culminating in Uma Thurman returning to her maker to end his life.
But who is Bill really? Does he have bosses to answer to above him who dictate who gets offed by which of his snake-assassins? It’s hard to believe that people wouldn’t want to know where the mysterious super-ninja came from, and how he ascended to his lofty position atop his meticulously chosen team of skilled killers. We could even call it Bill Before Bill, Volume 1.