PopWatch Dictionary: 'Preboot.' (Example: 'X-Men: First Class')


Image Credit: Murray Close; Attila Dory

Everyone knows what a sequel is. Everyone unfortunately knows what a prequel is. Everyone who doesn’t know what a reboot is will feel very confused at the multiplex next year. But in the nightmarish franchise laboratory of modern Hollywood, the Boys in the Back Room have created a horrific new subspecies that harnesses the power of the fourth dimension to pump new energy into a fading film series. The name of this monstrosity? The preboot (noun, origin unknown unless someone is stupid enough to claim it). Like the common prequel, the preboot takes place chronologically earlier than previous films in a series. But unlike a prequel, the preboot is not intended to lead directly into those earlier films. Instead, a preboot purports to restart a franchise in an entirely new direction.

By way of analogy, consider the end of the first Back to the Future, wherin Marty McFly learns that his chrono-meddling has turned his parents into far more attractive, successful, and well-dressed versions of themselves. Essentially, the McFly parents were an aging franchise — Star Trek, let’s say — and Marty was the hotshot young director (or “J.J. Abrams”) who went back to the franchise’s origin point to make the characters cooler, sexier, and more willing to punch people.

Time travel is often a factor in the preboot. Escape from the Planet of the Apes nonsensically shuttered future apes back to the ’70s. Star Trek took one character from previous films and sent him back in time, the cinematic equivalent of having your cake, eating it, and turning the cake into a wormhole. Terminator: Salvation was set in the chronological future, which was the narrative past of the first film, and it was supposed to start a new Terminator trilogy but turns out there is a god somewhere. Time travel, however, isn’t always essential. Fast & Furious rebooted a flailing franchise while purposefully carrying over a character who died in the previous film. This summer’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes purports to carry the Apes franchise back to its origin point.

X-Men: First Class represents a new pinnacle for the Preboot. While paying lip service to the previous X films, the movie retcons some characters into unrecognizable (albeit not unappealing) new variations: Suffice it to say that nothing about Mystique in the original trilogy makes any sense in regards to First Class. More importantly, First Class doesn’t necessarily feel like it has to lead into the X trilogy: One can picture a whole host of period-piece X films, plugging Mutants into every major American event of the mid-20th century. (Think Forrest Gump with superpowers.)

There is already an expensive television series being made about the preboot phenomenon. In Terra Nova, human civilization attempts to save itself by starting over, traveling millions of years backwards in time, back to a time when the land was more fertile. Of course, in Terra Nova, no one seems terribly concerned about the fragility of the space-time continuum, and the danger of the preboot is that it creates a narrative Möbius strip that leads backwards, forwards, and sideways, eventually collapsing on itself like a dying star, and our only hope is that John Huston will be there when the universe descends into entropy to guide us home (which is exactly what happens in Battle for the Planet of the Apes).

Follow Darren on Twitter: @EWDarrenFranich

Read more:
Lisa Schwarzbaum’s ‘X-Men: First Class’ review
‘X-Men: First Class’ training montage: Watch Havok wreak havoc and Banshee scream like… a banshee
Meet Your Next Obsession… Michael Fassbender

Comments (5 total) Add your comment
  • GreyRogue

    Um…you’re sort of stretching things here a bit. Comic books have been doing this sort of storytelling for years. Don’t waste your time spinning it. It’s just taken Hollywood this long to get with the program.

  • Ryan

    I had a feeling that X-Men wasn’t a true prequel. I’m fine with this. I don’t read the comics but I know they stretch out over a long period of time with the origins of many characters and those people growing older etc…

    IMO, they should have started with this film 11 years ago. That way by now they would have had an older cast of Xavier, Erik, etc… who you could even make up to look older and make a new trilogy set more in the present day that would be basically what X-Men 1-3 were.

  • whatsinaname

    Stupid enough to claim it? EW EW EW EW EW EW. What part of massive attack don’t you get? Wanna play a game? You won’t get hacked.

  • therealeverton

    This reads like you haven’t actually watched X-Men: First Class, because if you have Mystique makes perfect sense here. The only part you could possibly argue is her line in X1 about being..”afraid to go to school as a child.” but even that fits in with her effectively being a runaway whe we meet her in 1st Class (not a spoiler trust me). The film even goes so far as to introduce Mystique to the person who will father her future child, Nightcrawler. The film starts with the exact same scene as X1 and clever shows us what happens next. Beast and MMystique’s ages get explained (something that concerned me before I saw the movie) we see, the foundations of the school (OK you get the feeling Erik should have been around a little longer than he was). There’s more that fits than there is that doesn’t fit. I’m a little confused as to what, Moira McTaggart and Xavier and Magneto’s pre credits visit to a young Jean Grey in X3 apart what is so different to the other films?

    Even so with Lauren Shuler Donner planning to run Wolverine, First Class and X4 & X5 side by side and there arealreay 2 character who have been played by the same actor in both sets of films your whole Preboot theory doesn’t really hold with this film at all.

    • Squishmar

      Okay, that sounds super confusing. Can one see “X-Men: First Class” without having seen any other “X-Men” film and still enjoy it?

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