The Wonka First Look Illustrates The Problem With Forced Prequels

The first image of Timothée Chalamet’s Willy Wonka in the upcoming Wonka does a perfect job of encapsulating how easy it is for prequels to ruin the goodwill of what came before them. It’s far too common for a prequel story to twist the original in a way that completely sours the experience people had, and Wonka could easily be falling into that same trap.

Wonka is set to be a prequel to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory that tells the story of the titular character’s life before opening his iconic chocolate factory. The first image paints a different picture of the eccentric candyman than most people are probably used to. His clothing bears a close resemblance to Willy Wonka’s trademark outfit, but the colors appear more muted than usual, even compared to the Johnny Depp version. The half-smile on his face also doesn’t portray the same whimsical charm that Depp – or Gene Wilder, especially – managed to convey. One picture is hardly conclusive of anything, but this specific picture certainly gives credence to the idea that Wonka will be another prequel story that ruins the goodwill of what came before it.

Related: Casting Willy Wonka In Charlie & The Chocolate Factory's Prequel Movie

The most essential function of a prequel story is to explain to the audience how the characters and world got to be the way they were when audiences were first introduced to them but, more often than not, the answer ends up being nothing people wanted to see. Solo: A Star Wars Story, for example, does a lot to ruin Han Solo’s mystique and charm by making it a slow burn for him to become a dashing rogue and including many underwhelming answers about his past, including, oddly enough, how Han got his "Solo" last name. By a similar token, while a combination of memes and future installments in the franchise not living up to the hype have helped to flip perception, the Star Wars prequel trilogy still serves as a classic example of this with such controversial revelations as the Jedi being an incompetent peacekeeping organization and that Darth Vader had to go through various stages of whininess to become the terrifying Sith Lord people are familiar with. Wonka risks suffering this same problem with the famous and beloved title character.

A more recent example of this can be found in Cruella, the live-action prequel to 101 Dalmatians that goes through the same process of giving unsatisfying answers to questions that would have been better left unaddressed. There wasn’t a need to provide a sympathetic backstory for Cruella de Vil, a Disney villain whose name literally means “Cruel Devil," and there also wasn’t a need for all of the various ways dalmatians were tied into her backstory in various ways. By that same virtue, there isn’t a need for Wonka to reveal that the goofy candyman had to go through troubled times and do dark or morally grey things before he became how he’s depicted in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, as the slightly dour picture of Chalamet easily implies.

Once again, it should be acknowledged that one picture is nowhere near hard evidence of the kind of movie Wonka will be, and it could very easily be a silly and uplifting tale. However, with it and the bare-bones synopsis being all that anyone has to go on at the moment, it’s easy enough to assume that the film will fall into the same disappointing trappings that prequels are prone to do. Ideally, that won’t be the case, but there’s more reason to believe that it will happen than there is to believe that it won’t.

Next: Willy Wonka Is A Serial Killer Theory Explained

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