NOV / DEC 2017: BY SCARLETT GRANT
Nearly every single film, novel, or television show which features time travel always discusses the importance of maintaining the “space-time continuum” as it is often referred to. In Back To The Future (1985), Marty McFly saw his siblings, and himself disappear due to his unintentional meddling. But what if there was a film series where these annoying implications didn’t occur? May I present Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989).
Portrayed by Alex Winter (Bill) and Keanu Reeves (Ted), these two lovable slackers would become the prototype for many other dumb, best friend duos with opposing hair colors. Our heroes face separation if they fail their final history report, as Ted’s father plans to send Ted to a military school in Alaska as an ultimatum. But what they don’t know is that the fate of the world depends on the two friends staying together. After a visit from Rufus (George Carlin), they learn that the power metal music their band, Wyld Stallyns, makes will usher in a new era of world peace. All they need to do is not fail that history report.
Rufus, who appears in a time-traveling phone booth, instructs them to how to use the phone book inside to travel to different historical eras and cultures. If a time-traveling photo booth sounds very similar – it’s the result of a bizarre coincidence. Originally, Bill and Ted were going to be driving an old 60s van, which would have fit more accurately with the characters. But this was deemed as being too close to Marty McFly’s DeLorean, and it was changed. Apparently no one was able to connect the dots to Doctor Who, or maybe they didn’t care.
Bill and Ted’s initial plan is to simply travel to different periods, merely observe, and gather enough information to deliver the most accurate report ever. After accidentally taking back Napoleon to 1980’s California, the duo decide to simply kidnap “personages of historical significance”, as they put it, and present them for the report. Who better to explain matters of history than the historical figures themselves?
As they happened to kidnap Napoleon during the Battle of Austerlitz, what happened to the soldiers in Napoleon’s original time? Did the absence of Napoleon mean that the French lost? These are all questions that aren’t even asked – let alone have explanations for them. But do we care? No. Another interesting element of this film is the lack of communication troubles. The vast majority of periods Bill and Ted travel to don’t speak even basic English – not even taking into consideration if people can understand their Californian surfer drawl anyway. Also, if you pay attention to the background in the film you’ll notice a budding friendship between Socrates and Billy the Kid.
The only stagnant rule in this film is that no matter where or what year they are in, the clock back home is always ticking. Meaning, they only have one night of their respective time to complete their assignment. This also means that the historical figures themselves aren’t removed for too long, conveniently explaining away any problems with time continuity.
But despite how throughout the film displays rather clearly how unintelligent Bill and Ted are (When asked who Joan of Arc was, Ted responded that she was Noah’s wife), sometimes they actually say and do things that are quite smart. For example, Bill is able to self-diagnose his Oedipus complex, resulting from his infatuation with his youthful step-mother, Missy. Likewise, the duo are able to concoct a plan to ensure their new historical friends are able to help deliver their history report while evading Ted’s father.
Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure is a story of friendship, history and heavy metal. All three have majorly influenced my childhood development. Growing up my mum would ask “Why I was talking like Bill and Ted”, and once exclaimed during a re-watch that this film was all of my interests in a nutshell. Clearly, these were also enough reasons for many others to enjoy the dumb duo. Excellent Adventure was successful enough to spawn a sequel, Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991), as well as a live-action TV show, a Saturday morning cartoon, and various video games. There are also constant talks to also make a long awaited third film. I don’t want to hype it up, but if it does happen I hope it will be most excellent…