Franchises are interesting beasts. Upon a successful (or even unsuccessful) movie’s release, the market soon becomes flooded with movie tie-in merchandise. This was parodied in Spaceballs (1987), which was poking fun at the Star Wars franchise and all its action figures and other merchandising accoutrements. Franchises which appeal to children will often spin off into comic books, video games, breakfast cereals, and Saturday morning cartoons. The “Bill and Ted” franchise did just that. What’s odd is that, based on the premise of unintelligent, time-travelling teenagers, who would have ever thought that the “Bill and Ted” movies could have been so successful? When it comes down to it, sometimes the right elements are brought together to create a cult-classic franchise. This week’s two films are the movies which kicked off the Bill and Ted franchise.
Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey
Length: 93 minutes / 1.55 hours
Hollywood has often been accused of being unoriginal. One of the reasons for this is due to the prevalence of sequels over original work. They figure that if a movie was successful once, why shouldn’t it be successful again? Occasionally, they are correct, but for the most part the sequel hardly lives up to the original. That being said, sometimes franchises can live or die based on the success of their sequel. Especially if a lot of hype and merchandising has already happened due to the first movie’s success, the standards for the sequel are sometimes extraordinarily high. If it doesn’t do well, the franchise may die right there, but if the sequel is victorious, what’s to stop Hollywood from cranking out another sequel, or two, or three, or five? While Bill and Ted haven’t had another film since the 1990’s, there still seems to be interest in completing a trilogy.
While the apocalyptic future of the Terminator franchise is contingent on time travelling robots protecting/killing people, the peace-filled future of the Bill and Ted franchise is contingent on the music of the Wyld Stallyns unifying the world. The key event for this to happen is for Bill and Ted to win the San Dimas Battle of the Bands. Even though the world is a better place in the future, not everyone is happy with it. This causes Chuck De Nomolos (Joss Ackland) to go back in time and kill/replace Bill and Ted with evil androids that will ruin their reputation. What Chuck did not plan on was the original Bill and Ted coming back from the dead. He also did not plan on them bringing Death (William Sadler) back with them, or a creature known as “Station” being able to create good robot versions of Bill and Ted to fight the evil androids. But the question still remains: can Bill and Ted even play the music to unite the world?
Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure
Length: 90 minutes / 1.5 hours
If I were to pinpoint why Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure was so successful at becoming a cult-classic, it would have to be its approach to teaching history. Sure, the casting of Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, and George Carlin helped to create some memorable characters, but when it comes down to it, we are all interested in time-travel. Unfortunately, usually the intelligent are the only ones in charge of this power. However, if this power is given to the “common man”, suddenly the time periods they travel to are more relatable. This is probably why the Back to the Future franchise did so well too: Marty McFly is your average teenager. What Bill and Ted do differently is humorously commentate on history, without really having an understanding of it to begin with. Plus, their take on time travel to be used as a tool to pass a school exam or get out of jail adds even more hilarity to the premise.
Before Bill and Ted could win the Battle of the Bands in Bogus Journey, first they had to pass their high school history class. Since the future peace of the world is at stake, Rufus (George Carlin) travels back in time in a phone booth and gives it to the two teenagers to use on their assignment, “what would historical figures think of modern San Dimas?” After collecting a smattering of historical figures including Napoleon Bonaparte, Billy the Kid, Socrates, Sigmund Freud, Ludwig van Beethoven, Genghis Khan, and Joan of Arc, they manage to fix the now damaged phone booth and return to the present day. Unfortunately, in trying to track down Napoleon at a water park, the other historical figures are put in jail after causing trouble at the local mall. Bill and Ted need to break everyone out of jail and get to school in time to give their presentation. Will they make it in time?
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 bodacious blockbusters