4 Highly Plausible 'Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey' Theories You Need to Hear
Panned by critics as a bid to ride Back to the Future's coattails, 1989's Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure quadrupled its $10 million budget at the box office and inspired kids nationwide to pepper every conversation with non-sequitur air-guitar riffage. It also spawned a 1991 sequel that's unjustly regarded as inferior.
Usually, when a zany concept clicks with the mainstream and becomes a million-dollar franchise, movie studios tend to dial back the idiosyncrasies to broaden the appeal. But Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey is in no way less weird than Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. In fact, Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter's second spin through space and time is actually kind of fucked up. And, if you look hard enough, it's full of hidden meaning.
Remembering Bogus Journey
The sequel begins with Bill and Ted's mentor and 27th-century scholar Rufus (the mighty George Carlin) learning of a plot by fascist cult leader De Nomolos (a reluctant Joss Ackland) to send robot duplicates of our heroes back in time to slay and smear their originals. Sure. Why not? Rufus resides in a utopian society founded on the music of Wyld Stallyns, a band Bill and Ted (referred to as "the Two Great Ones," in Rufus' world) have barely gotten off the ground in the early '90s. De Nomolos figures, that with the Two Great Ones dispatched, disgraced, and erased from the timeline, the trajectory of humanity shall shift toward his totalitaristic ideal vision.
And his 'bots succeed. Easily. Within the first 20 minutes of Bogus Journey, the good guys die. Evil wins. After that logical endpoint, Bill and Ted's disembodied souls briefly evade the Grim Reaper (William Sadler), wind up in hell anyway, win the Reaper's companionship after defeating him in Twister, meet God, befriend a pair of martian scientists collectively known as Station, then rise from the dead. A happy ending ensues, but the questions only begin...
Is Bogus Journey secretly a fundamentalist Christian movie?
Bill and Ted must be executed and resurrected before embracing their destinies as the saviors of mankind, but that's just the tip of the pseudo-subliminal bible thumping in Bogus Journey. Early on, our heroic duo mention that their medieval princess girlfriends of three years have yet to spend a night at their apartment, implying that all four have agreed to suppress their carnal urges until marriage, just like Mike Seaver on Growing Pains.
The allusions become more direct. A haywire seance inadvertently sends Bill and Ted's souls to hell. A warning against occultism? Before Bill and Ted's robot doppelgangers toss them off a cliff, they restrain their foes and unleash some casual hate speech, as if demonstrating Leviticus 20:13. And most egregiously of all, Bogus Journey's heaven is inhabited by zero dogs and cats. This falls in step with the shit-head doctrine that animals don't have souls, as decreed by the creature who taught my CYO classes.
Are Bill and Ted immortal?
The New Testament isn't the only fictional saga that parallels Bogus Journey. De Nomolos' scheme mirrors that of Skynet in Terminator, except he programs Evil Robot Bill and Evil Robot Ted to sabotage the genuine articles' careers and romances once they're out of the way.
Robo-Schwarzenegger would call De Nomolos' plan redundant. Why doesn't he expect his preferred version of the future to unfold the instant Bill and Ted cease to exist? Why do the Evil Robots need to take over Bill and Ted's lives, brutalize Princess Joanna and Princess Elizabeth, then deliberately botch the battle of the bands Wyld Stallyns are supposed to win? Why bother with Evil Robot duplicates at all? Why wouldn't Nomolos simply go back in time himself and decorate a wall with Bill and Ted's grey matter? Because Bill and Ted are immune to the natural order of space-time.
Tellingly, when the authentic Bill and Ted arrive at the San Dimas Battle of the Bands, the movie's grand finale, their cybernetic counterparts do not appear the slightest bit surprised to see their recent murder victims galavanting about without a scratch on 'em. Neither does De Nomolos, when he drops into the scene shortly thereafter. Everyone is in on a fact that is never conveyed to the audience. Bill and Ted are immortal.
Is Rufus a Machiavellian manipulator of history?
Bootstrap paradoxes abound throughout the two Bill & Ted films. If Rufus hadn't gone back to prevent the Two Great Ones from flunking history class in Excellent Adventure, Wyld Stallyns would not have formed, and the utopian future Rufus originates from would never come to be. Meaning, the civilization Rufus acts to preserve wasn't created by Wyld Stallyns, but by Rufus himself, probably working in conjunction with the shadowy cabal that briefly appeared at Excellent Adventure's onset.
The time-space continuum takes even harsher blows in Bogus Journey. After Rufus follows Evil Robot Bill and Ted to 1991, he disguises himself as, and replaces, Ms. Wardroe (Pam Grier), head promoter of the San Dimas Battle of the Bands. The status of the real Ms. Wardroe is never mentioned or explained. No assurances of her safety or well-being are ever provided.
As Wardroe, Rufus grants Wyld Stallyns an undeserved slot in her "prestigious" competition, once again playing an essential role in creating the future he comes from. During that same conversation, he neglects to reveal his true identity, or warn Bill and Ted about their homicidal robot duplicates whom he encountered (in his personal timestream) hours earlier. He also doesn't bother giving Princess Elizabeth or Joanna a heads up that androids bearing a precise likeness to their boyfriends might very well be planning to kidnap and/or torture them.
Evil Robot Bill and Ted only get to kill Bill and Ted because Rufus lets it happen.
Now, if Bill and Ted's demise and return was required for them to become the Two Great Ones, perhaps Rufus' inaction was morally justifiable. But he had no reason to let the princesses suffer, and we don't know for sure that he didn't murder Pam Grier. So, yeah, Rufus is evil.
What happened to Deacon?
Deacon Logan -- Ted's little brother, played by Frazier Bain -- enjoys a good chunk of screentime in Excellent Adventure, even if he adds little to the story apart from facilitating Napoleon's amusing-but-pointless trip to the Waterloo amusement park. Since Bogus Journey takes place three years after the original, Deacon could very well be attending college out of state. Assuming Captain Logan is a divorcee and not a widower, maybe Deacon's staying with Ted's biological mother. Maybe he joined the Peace Corps. There are multiple perfectly benign and plausible explanations for Deacon's almost complete absence in Bogus Journey.
But no one talks about him. For the most part, Deacon might as well have been shuffled off to the same Negative Zone occupied by Chuck Cunningham and Mandy Hampton.
Except for the single time he's mentioned during Ted's brief sojourn through the realm of eternal damnation. In one of the unpleasant scenarios for Ted to repeat in perpetuity should he remain in hell, an incensed Easter bunny guilt trips him for stealing and consuming the contents of his brother's Easter basket 10 years prior.
Now, why would a childhood transgression involving ill-gotten candy rank among Ted's most painful memories or greatest shames? He didn't even like Deacon. Now, for no reason we know of, he feels guilty about depriving his suddenly absentee sibling of a few Cadbury eggs? The fact that his immediate family members won't even say his name unless supernatural forces subject them to an introspective nightmare strongly implies that something bad happened to Deacon. And the entire Logan clan, especially Ted, was traumatized as a result.
Perhaps Ted stepped on a butterfly during one of his romps through history, and caused a ripple effect that altered future events and prevented Deacon from being born? That would explain Ted's feeling of responsibility, and account for why no one ever questions his brother's whereabouts. Deacon never existed.
That, or Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey isn't the most well thought-out movie ever made. It's still fun to watch, though!
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Barry Thompson writes pop culture and music things. His work has appeared in The Boston Phoenix, Esquire.com, Paste Magazine, and several other online and print publications. He lives under a bridge in Allston, MA, with a cat. Follow him: @barelytomson.