Spoiler Warning: This entry discusses some elements of the film that may spoil your enjoyment if you haven't seen it.
As with all popular movies, sequels are inevitable in order that franchises can be milked as far as they can go. Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure - the 1988 cult hit with air guitar - was no exception. Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey was let loose in 1991, taking a different approach to the first movie1. Writers Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon decided to do the unthinkable - kill off their lead characters, Bill S Preston Esquire (Alex Winter) and Ted 'Theodore' Logan (Keanu Reeves).
At least that was the opinion of Orion, the film's distributor, who didn't see the sense in killing off the main protagonists. They suggested an alternative idea in which Bill and Ted enter famous works of literature in order to pass their English exam. Disliking an idea that was clearly very similar to the first movie, the writers decided to get Winter and Reeves to support Bogus Journey's original screenplay. Orion relented after seeing that their idea had no mileage with the stars.
A concession had to be made, however, and the working title for the sequel, Bill and Ted Go to Hell, was dropped, owing to the fact that American TV would be reluctant to advertise any film with the word 'hell' in the title prior to 9pm (a situation that could potentially cut the film's target audience in half). The script was also amended to reduce the amount of screentime the characters spent in Hell.
The visual style of the sequel differed to the original, with a bigger budget of $20 million that enabled a better standard of quality than that of the non-union, independent film before it. This is best seen by comparing the scenes in each film set in the 27th Century: the 1988 Excellent Adventure scenes use dull, lifeless backdrops while Bogus Journey shows us a real town of the future. The bigger budget also attracted the then-big rock band KISS to provide the film's closing theme: 'God Gave Rock 'N' Roll To You II'.
'What's Your Mission...?'
Last time we saw Bill and Ted, it was San Dimas, California, 1988, and they found out from time traveller Rufus that the music of Wyld Stallyns (Bill and Ted's Band) was the basis for peace throughout the cosmos and that by 2688 the universe exists in perfect harmony. Therefore, it was pivotal that Rufus helped the two pass their history oral examination or the band would falter and collapse. They passed, and Rufus presented the pair with new guitars and saved the two princesses from medieval England who became part of the band.
'...To Destroy Bill and Ted!!'
2691, San Dimas, California. Three years on, and the future might not be looking so great for Bill and Ted. Chuck De Nomolos (Joss Ackland), presumed dead, isn't happy about his present being built upon the legacy of two fools and he wants to change all that. In the future, our Rufus (George Carlin) is teaching the 'physics of acoustical reverberation' at the Bill and Ted University with special guest speakers thanks to the time travelling phone booth.
De Nomolos interrupts the session in an entrance not unlike that of Star Wars's Darth Vader and presents his secret weapons: Bill and Ted, robotic replicas. It's the mission of these automatons to:
- Totally kill Bill and Ted.
- Take over their lives and totally destroy them.
- Give the speech they were going to give at the Battle of the Bands, only differently.
This will change the future, as it is at the Battle of the Bands (15 September, 1991) where Bill and Ted will speak to millions with the prize of $25,000 and two-year record deal. The evil Bill and Ted step into the phone booth, punch in the number, hit the '#' and '*' keys to confirm... and head to 1991.
1991, and Bill and Ted have reached the 'second most crucial stage in their destiny lines'. They have moved into an apartment together and are about to propose to their girlfriends, the medieval English princesses Joanna and Elizabeth who are celebrating their 521st birthdays. Life is good and they still can't play their guitars, but then the doppelgängers arrive and lead our heroes (who are expecting 'a most unprecedented expedition') to the top of a cliff in the desert and... push them off.
Now their evil selves are wrecking their lives, and Bill and Ted can't do anything about it because they're dead. All this (within the first half hour of the film) sets up another most excellent film where Bill and Ted have to challenge the Grim Reaper and travel from Hell to Heaven in order to get their lives back...
'I'll see you soon.'
Six months of planning went into getting director Peter Hewitt's vision of a recognisable but non-stereotypical portrayal of Heaven and Hell into the movie.
Hell has the licking flames and burning rock but is more a sort of industrial prison. A very large Satan sits like a factory foreman observing the happenings and the seemingly infinite rusted corridors containing everyone's personal hell. Alex Winter plays his character's grandmother in one scene as well!
Heaven, on the other hand, is white with a variety of lilacs and from the inside basically looks like an Ancient Greek holiday camp. Potential visitors must know the meaning of life in order to gain entrance. The staircase to heaven, however, is taken directly from Stairway to Heaven; that film's director Michael Powell and star David Niven are represented by the two statues at the stairway's base.
'They 'Melvined' Me'
Bill S Preston (Alex Winter) - The blond one, now distinctive in his red cap and green checked jacket. Still refers to his stepmother as 'Missy' before correcting himself to 'Mom'.
Ted Logan (Keanu Reeves) - The black-haired, less-smart of the duo. Now in a jacket that sports a smiley on the back. His father is still threatening him with military school.
Rufus (George Carlin) - The time-traveller who fails to follow the evil robots by getting lost in the circuits of time.
Chuck De Nomolos (Joss Ackland) - Disillusioned exile. Once Rufus's teacher. He plans to change the world in his image.
The Grim Reaper (William Sadler) - Rather famous Apocalyptic Horseperson who goes to collect the souls of Bill and Ted.
Station - A Martian who is the most intelligent person in the universe. His entire vocabulary consists of saying his name.
'Missy' (Amy Stock-Poynton) - Still dubbed as Bill's stepmother but thanks to her 'social skills' with the men of the town, she's divorced Bill's dad and married Ted's dad.
Elizabeth (Annette Azcuy) - The brunette princess from England... She is the fiancée of Ted.
Joanna (Sarah Trigger) - The blonde princess from England... She is Bill's fiancée.