Even as a prequel defender, there is no doubt that the Star Wars prequel trilogy would have been better had George Lucas actually had any successes post-Return of the Jedi outside of the Indiana Jones series. Had Howard the Duck, Willow, The Radioland Murders, etc actually been critical and commercial successes, Lucas's plunging back into the Star Wars universe would have been a triumphant return rather than a resigned escape. Does anyone think that Ghostbusters III isn't going to be a depressing grasp for former glory from Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ivan Reitman, and whomever else is coerced into coming back? Despite occasional threats of a return, does anyone truly think that Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi can recapture the seat-of-their-pants dazzle of the first two Evil Dead pictures with a fourth film nearly twenty years after Army of Darkness? And does anyone really believe that Ridley Scott would be helming an Alien prequel if Kingdom of Heaven, Body of Lies, Robin Hood, Matchstick Men, and/or A Good Year hadn't financially and/or critically underperformed?
There are exceptions; instances where a filmmaker returning to their famous franchise can yield worthwhile results (Wes Craven's New Nightmare and Sylvester Stallone's shockingly effective deconstructions of his Rocky and Rambo franchises are the ones that come to mind). But generally speaking, when a filmmaker returns to a long-dormant property and/or retakes the reigns of a series that has passed him by long ago, it is not a decision born of artistic inspiration, but desperation. For years, we've been hearing how Sam Raimi, Guillermo del Toro, and other geek-friendly filmmakers were all set to direct The Hobbit, with Peter Jackson merely producing in a capacity that would theoretically allow him to tackle other projects as well. But following MGM's financial difficulties and the failure of The Lovely Bones, it appears that Peter Jackson has apparently resigned himself to being 'that guy who makes Middle Earth movies' for the rest of this career. Even if The Hobbit turns out to be a worthwhile two-film prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, this news is not cause for celebration.