It seems like just about every movie character is getting their own solo film these days, from obscure superheroes to decades-old slasher villains. With the recent release of Lightyear and the upcoming Wonka musical, it seems there is no end to who could get their own origin story.
However, not every character needs their own origin story. Even if a character is compelling, it does not mean that they can carry an entire film by themselves. Sometimes exploring a character’s backstory even detracts from their initial intrigue, and just explains things that really did not need explaining. While not all of the films are bad, these characters really did not need their own origin movie.
Cruella de Vil
Out of all of the villains from classic Disney movies, Cruella de Vil is probably one of the least sympathetic. A rich, self-righteous woman in the original film, her whole plan was to kidnap the titular 101 Dalmatians so that she could turn them into fur coats.
Despite that less than endearing evil plot, Cruella was given her own origin film in her self-titled Cruella. Thankfully, the movie changed most of her character around to make her more of an anti-hero than a straight up villain, though they did make the bizarre choice to have her mother killed by Dalmatians. Surprisingly, the movie was pretty entertaining, with several great performances at the helm.
Leatherface is the terrifying primary antagonist of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise, and has been frightening audiences for decades. Little was revealed about Leatherface outside of his relationship with his equally scary family, but his origins have been explored a few times.
The primary example is 2017’s Leatherface, when the masked killer was given a full backstory. The movie attempts a rug pull by implying that one character could be the young Leatherface, but soon reveals that is really the film’s mostly innocent protagonist, who is then twisted by others into the killer fans know and love. The movie received mixed reviews, with some fans enjoying the new approach and some thinking it unnecessary.
Harry and Lloyd
Harry Dunne and Lloyd Christmas, the slapstick duo from Dumb and Dumber, were never meant to be terribly complex characters. They are lovable goofballs whose antics are fun to watch in the original; however, they really did not need any kind of further exploration.
Yet fans were treated to an origin story for the pair in 2003’s Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd. The prequel did not involve anyone from the original and recycled several jokes from the first. Explaining how the two met just seemed unnecessary, and the movie was panned by critics.
The Joker is one of the most well known comic book villains of all time, and has had numerous incarnations and characterizations over the years. One thing that most kept similar though, was that the Joker’s backstory was rarely explored to maintain the mystery around the character.
Todd Phillip’s Joker however, was a solo film entirely dedicated to explaining the backstory of the clown prince of crime. More reminiscent of Taxi Driver than a Batman movie, Joker was more of a character study than a true origin story, and was essentially a different character than his comic book counterpart. Joker was controversial, but was a massive success.
Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a holiday classic whose original animated adaptation remains great today. In 2000, the story was retold in live-action while delving deep into the Grinch’s backstory, which showed that this version of the Grinch was a bullied child, suffering from unrequited love.
Since the primary reason for the Grinch’s hatred of Christmas was supposed to be that his heart was too small, putting in an entire backstory to explain it seemed a little unnecessary, and even somewhat unfaithful to the story. Nevertheless, the movie was a massive hit, and remained popular as one of Jim Carrey’s most successful movies.
Hannibal Lector was the breakout star of Silence of the Lambs, but he was actually only on screen for around 15 minutes. He was such a menacing and mysterious character that he even managed to outshine the film’s real villain. In the movies that followed, Lector became a much bigger player.
The first of Hannibal’s backstories came in 2007’s Hannibal Rising, which showed Lector’s origins as a fugitive in World War II before beginning his descent into murder and cannibalism. Unfortunately, the movie received very negative reviews and the attempt to make Lector more sympathetic detracted from some of his allure. The second attempt at a Lector backstory in the TV show Hannibal was much better received.
The Wizard of Oz and the Witches
The Wizard Oz is such an important piece of movie history that any filmmaker has a tough time trying to follow it even today. As far as prequels go, showing how a regular man became the almighty Wizard was actually not a bad premise. Oz the Great and Powerful shows the origins of Oscar Diggs and how he rose to power.
The film was fun and had several nods to the original, but failed to make too much of an impact. Some claimed that the Wizard’s backstory detracted from his powerful presence in the original film. The witches were also among the complaints, as Glinda was rewritten as a love interest for Oz, and the Wicked Witches’ origins just could not compete with their other origin story from the landmark play. Wicked.
Even alongside the most recognizable slasher villains of all time, Michael Myers stands out as the grandfather of the genre. With literally a dozen films to his name and still going strong, Myers is one of the most popular and enduring horror villains. The problem with giving him an origin film is that his backstory was already established in the iconic opening of his first film.
Myers’ backstory has been rewritten several times in the series, but it was Rob Zombie’s reboot of the series that fully delved into Myer’s origins. The problem with this was that Myers had been established in the series as a being of pure evil, and giving him more sympathetic origins removed some of the menace from his original character. Thankfully, the recent Halloween reboot took Myers back to his original roots.
The minions were inescapable after the release of the first Despicable Me movie. They were so popular they seemed to pop up in advertising and commercials everywhere, so it was probably inevitable that they would get their own spinoff in Minions.
The minions were fun sidekicks, but had little room for character development to carry their own film. Plus, the movie shows that the minions always follow the biggest villain on Earth, leading some fans to question their role in actual notorious world events. Despite mixed reviews, Minions remains one of the highest-grossing animated movies ever, and a sequel is set to release this year.
Since Disney took over the Star Wars license they have been begun creating spinoffs for many popular characters. The first of these spinoffs was Solo: A Star Wars Story. Han Solo is one of the best and most beloved character in the entire franchise, but even before the movie released many questioned whether he needed an origin story.
Solo turned out to be a fun watch, but never quite justified demystifying Han himself. Many parts of Han Solo’s character did not need exploring, like the film’s underwhelming origins of his name. Other parts like the famed Kessel Run were better left up to the imagination, letting fans decide if Han was telling the truth. Despite a scene stealing performance from Donald Glover, Solo just seemed forced.
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