We are living in heinous times. Strange things are afoot in every direction. Bogus fiends stalk the corridors of power. A virus spreads through the air. The Arctic is burning. It’s easy to feel pessimistic about the future right now, but if movies have taught us anything it’s that whenever the balance of the universe is threatened a hero will emerge – or sometimes a couple of heroes. If anyone is equipped to defeat the cynicism of this most egregious year it’s the pure-of-heart Bill and Ted, who return to cinemas this week in Bill & Ted Face The Music.
From the moment lovable slackers Bill S. Preston, Esq. and Ted ‘Theodore’ Logan first air-guitared their way into our hearts in 1989’s time-hopping cult hit Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, the pair have embodied a spirit of pure, unwavering optimism that’s carried them through every seemingly insurmountable crisis. Even when they were thrown to their deaths by “evil robot us’s” in 1991 sequel Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey they greeted their mortal end with stoicism. Taking their cue from Ingmar Bergman’s 1957 existential classic The Seventh Seal, in which a knight challenges Death to a game of chess, they set about defeating the Grim Reaper at Battleship, Cluedo, Electric Football and then – finally and definitively – at Twister. By the end of their Bogus Journey through the afterlife Bill and Ted were resurrected and victorious, ushering in a new era of world peace with their band Wyld Stallyns. Death himself played bass.
For Alex Winter, who plays Bill, that seemed like the natural end of his and co-star Keanu Reeves’ excellent adventuring. Winter retired from acting in 1993 to focus on documentary filmmaking, but says his interest was piqued by the story Bill & Ted creators Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson pitched to their two leads. “Keanu and I had no intention of making a third Bill & Ted movie,” Winter says. “The thing that hooked us back was the idea that we could expand on these guys in an interesting way. We’re coming back to them 25-30 years later, and they’re not bros who are in a stunted adolescence. They are adults with wives and daughters who they love, but things have not worked out exactly the way they thought they would when they were young.”