Easy Rider And The Unnecessary Prequel
Let’s agree that Easy Rider isn’t a very good film. The dialogue is silly, the plot is virtually non-existent, and it’s a pioneering effort in disseminating baby boomer self-importance and hippie gibberish. Dennis Hopper’s direction was slapdash. In fact, he didn’t even direct half of it since he let stoner friends loose on the shoot.
But aptitude is not why Easy Rider is revered. It’s a landmark, not only because it was an example of a new generation of guerrilla filmmakers wresting creative control from the major studios, but also because it was a celluloid representation of the counterculture that was absent from the big screen. It showed dudes riding choppers and smokin’ grass in 1969; other films in that year’s Box Office Report top ten included Paint Your Wagon and Hello Dolly!
With this in mind – that Easy Rider is a landmark for ex-longhairs still fightin’ the man by acquiring another investment property – it’s mystifying that anyone ever thought there should be a sequel. Sorry for the spoiler on a 40-year-old film, but Captain America and Billy The Kid are very dead.
Cinematical reports that in the ’80s Hopper and Fonda were actually considering a sequel, featuring the duo reanimated in a post-apocalyptic future America. This decade a sequel called Easy Rider A.D. actually began production but soon fizzled out. Finally someone has completed a second Easy Rider film, whether we needed it or not.
Back in May at Cannes, 40 years after Hopper won the First Film Award (known as the Prix de la premiere oeuvre) for the original, cast and crew appeared to plug what is actually a prequel — Easy Rider: The Ride Back. The film relives the story of Fonda’s Captain America character pre-birth, spanning the ’40s to the current day. Weird, since Fonda proclaimed to Hopper while shooting the film that Captain America “doesn’t have a mother” (according to Peter Suskind’s riveting New Hollywood exposé, Easy Riders Raging Bulls).
Looking at the mostly-anonymous cast (the most famous of whom, Sheree J Wilson, has the biggest claim to fame as a sidekick in Walker, Texas Ranger), it’s safe to say that The Ride Back isn’t endorsed by Hopper or Fonda – probably because the film is completely unnecessary. The only reason Easy Rider holds any cachet is that it was absolutely on the crest of a zeitgeist. Colombia Pictures executive Peter Gruber was right when he said, “If Hopper hadn’t done it, Easy Rider would have happened a minute later or an hour later or a day later with some other film.”
The prequel’s website crows, “Now a whole new generation can experience the same sense of freedom through these modern day road rebels in Easy Rider: The Ride Back“, but this generation is more likely to be thrilling to the modern-day road rebels in Fast & Furious. It might’ve been more prudent to pitch Easy Rider: Tokyo Drift.
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