Bill & Ted Face the Music (2020)
The film that literally no one was asking for until the trailer was released, (and then suddenly it was all anyone was asking for), is finally here!
Bill & Ted Face the Music (2020) is a sequel to a sequel, of a movie that pretty much had no right to be any good. Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989) seemingly had no stakes, stupid characters, a surprisingly convoluted plot, and yet it was beloved. Because it is Excellent! It touched the hearts of millions and two years later we had a sequel, which was so good that it took twenty-nine years to get a third.
None of this should work! So why do I love them so dang much?
The most interesting thing about the story of two stupid slackers who are destined to be the greatest musicians of all time, is just how convoluted the plot can get. Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989) is a little convoluted; they just have to use time travel to get an A on a history presentation. Pretty simple stuff. Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991) is pure insanity, with the two leads dying and coming back to life with a martian they met in Heaven, and then the climax involves a time travel battle of the wits that would make Doctor Who blush. Bill & Ted Face the Music (2020) starts with the end of the universe. So you know…. standard affair really.
This is the first time that time travel paradoxes directly impact the story though. Many of the main antagonists in the film are the multiple future versions of Bill & Ted who are upset that the current versions of Bill & Ted have failed their destiny. Then again, Bill & Ted only seem to be failing because the future versions of Bill & Ted are trying to stop them in the first place. And each future version is directly impacted by the last experience with the current version, so surely they saw this coming because it happened to them?
Pictured: who would've guessed that these are the bad guys?
Look, I like time travel stories, and usually I like them to, at the very least, stick to their own established rules (Back to the Future: Part II is one of the worst time travel movies because of this, don’t @ me) but the way Bill & Ted utilises its own inconsistencies to its advantage is genuinely impressive. I don’t want to get into spoiler territory, but I kind of want to give it a slide because the characters are so stupid that they indirectly lead to the end of the universe which is also the only way to save the universe. I dunno, Kid Cudi seemed to understand what was going on, so I better just trust it.
Pictured: Kid Cudi and Billie knowing exactly what's happening. Thea is also there.
At the same time that all of this is happening, Billie and Thea go on their own adventure. It's similar to the first movie, in that they travel back to get the greatest musicians of all time to form the band that will play with Bill & Ted. What could have been a stale rehash of the first movies genuinely becomes a fun expansion that has higher stakes, and new characters that are familiar but different. I’m surprised I haven’t heard a bunch of whiny babies online complaining about how female-centric half of the film is, especially considering its origins. But maybe that’s just because it’s so well done?
Or because half of the internet hasn’t seen the movie yet…. Either or…
Look, I don’t think anyone goes to a Bill & Ted movie for a thematic experience. You just watch it for some good times, dude. They’re adolescent male fantasies. They're the ultimate Mary Sues: the two idiot slackers who seem to have nothing going on in their lives, but are actually the most important people in the entire universe! It kind of reminds me of watching American Ultra (2015) and thinking “Man, Max Landis really wants us to believe he’s a special boy, doesn’t he?”
Being written by the same two dudes as the first two, you’d expect nothing more. However, just like characters in a good movie, Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon have clearly matured over the last twenty-nine years, because they’ve made a film that legitimately looks back on the last two with a critical eye.
Pictured: Creative maturity... or just getting old... either or...
It’s a stupid movie that looks back at its predecessor stupid movies and makes you think, “maybe that was an unhealthy stupid way to view things, so let’s look at these new stupid ideas,” and it works. In this aspect, it’s probably the best of the three movies. I don’t think people will like it as much as the first two, but it actually has something to say and decides to say it in the most fun and silly way it can.
9/10 (who the hell expected that?)
With twenty-nine years difference, obviously, technology has changed. Practical sets have been swapped out for digital sets. Matte paintings are swapped out for sweeping CGI imagery. Guitars are swapped out for theremins. The future is now.
Pictured: the music of the future.
What I really love is the use of wide angle lenses for the majority of the shots. Generally, that’s hard to do with green screen (because that means you have to light more green more evenly to get a good key out of it, but damn, if you've got the budget, go wild, I guess), but it genuinely looks great here. It never looks real, but it's stylised.
My only real complaint in this department is the music. Specifically, the song that unites the world. At the end of Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991), they kind of make it seem like the song is just God Gave Rock and Roll to You by KISS, which is hilarious because… surely, that means that KISS were the ones who united the world? So retconning that, I’m totally fine with. However, the song at the end of this is just kind of… totally fine, I guess? It’s epic in a sense, but I dunno, I expected to be united with everyone over time and space when I heard it, and it was just music. I’ve already forgotten how it goes. But God Gave Rock and Roll to You is still stuck in my head from three days ago!
Now to be fair, the ending narration does state that it isn’t the song that matters in the end, it's the fact that everyone in time and space experienced it together (don’t worry, that makes sense I swear), but even still… it's kind of weak.
The problem with making a sequel to a movie that was made twenty-nine years ago, that was a sequel to a movie two years before that, is that you kind of need to see and like those last two movies. If you haven’t seen them, this movie is even more nonsense. Just pure, unadulterated nonsense. And if you didn’t like them, then this is just annoying nonsense. I cannot imagine someone who hasn’t seen or liked the first two, liking this one at all.
Pictured: my face when you tell me you haven't seen any Bill & Ted movies.
Remember when Star Wars: the Force Awakens (2015) came out ten years after Star Wars: the Revenge of the Sith (2010) and, even though it relied so heavily on nostalgia, people were still able to watch it as their very first Star War and love it? Yeah, I don’t think that will happen here. On the other hand, I don’t think this one just rehashes the first movie, only to spiral into a pit of meh-ness that meant nothing like that series did.
Bill & Ted Face the Music (2020) relies on the nostalgia, sure, but it uses that nostalgia to tell a new story that explores new themes, that actually impact upon how you view the originals. Be excellent to each other. And party on, dudes!
And all the better because it didn’t burst my freaking ear drums! I’m still bitter about that, Nolan!
10/10 (if you've seen it)
Pure confusion/10 (if you haven't)