Full disclaimer off the bat. The ninth film by Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, as premiered at the Cannes Film Festival (to rave reviews) and as such, this theory can easily be debunked by critics and those in attendance. But for the rest of us normies who can’t go to Cannes, the film comes out on July 26th and by not looking into all the answers, we’re still left theorizing and wondering as to what this movie might explore. As such, I could easily find out if this headline is complete nonsense but I choose not to for the sake of having fun with the idea and not having the movie spoiled for me and you. That being said, it seems that this film isn’t a straight-up biopic of actual events, but simply the next chapter in Tarantino’s “Realer than Real” cinematic universe.
Yup, that’s right, Tarantino has been doing a cinematic universe long before Marvel took a swing at it and learned the secret to printing money. Most of the film’s in Tarantino’s catalogue, including those he’s written and/or directed, are actually set in an alternate reality. Films like Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, True Romance, Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained all exist within the same timeline, while films like Natural Born Killers, From Dusk til Dawn, Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2 are “movies within movies”, meaning these are the movies those kinds of characters watch on the regular. You may notice that those films are often a lot more violent and that’s due to the desensitization of violence in that timeline, largely thanks to prior historical events, which has normalized violence in media as normal, patriotic and maybe even rewarding. The evidence? Some of the surnames of certain characters, like Pulp Fiction’s Vincent Vega, have shown up in multiple films, including Reservoir Dogs and True Romance, or Hateful Eight’s Pete Hicox being an ancestor to Basterds’ Archie Hicox. Other things like the fictional Big Kahuna Burger chain and Red Apple cigarettes have shown up in many films before. Tarantino himself said that such a universe exists in a 2016 interview, confirming a long-running fan theory.
Which brings us to Hollywood. This movie is, at first glance, the most historically accurate film Tarantino has made thus far. It’s a love letter to Hollywood and television circa 1969 and is full of historical figures and events. The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt as the fictional Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth, as they weave through the rich, famous and sadistic of Tinsel Town at that time. The likes of Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), Steve McQueen (Damien Lewis), Bruce Lee (Mike Moh) and Charles Manson (Damon Herriman, who coincidentally, is playing Manson in season 2 of Netflix’s acclaimed series Mindhunter) are all sprinkled throughout this latest offering from Tarantino. Seeing as how Hollywood is not likely a film in the “movie universe”, we can assume that this is part of the “Realer than Real” universe that Tarantino has established for himself. But like Basterds before it, which opened with “Chapter One: Once Upon A Time in Nazi-Occupied France” and proceeded to alter history, Hollywood also looks be a fairy tale of sorts, which will distort and alter the history we’ve come to know. Seeing as there are so many historical characters in this one though and that the events are shocking and terrible for the parties involved, I don’t imagine history will be changed too much out of respect for those killed that night and their surviving friends and families.
But even if events aren’t altered that much, they still have to be altered a bit to accommodate the universe. That means that the Basterds successfully killed Hitler in this timeline, forever altering history and glorifying the violent and bloody end of the Third Reich. There’s a shot of Leo’s Rick Dalton in the latest teaser, dressed up as a World War Two soldier fighting the Nazis. Only there’s something going on here. The action is highly stylized, with Dalton sporting an eyepatch and burning the Nazis from a balcony above with a flamethrower. The imagery is not that different from how Hitler met his end in Basterds, which saw some of the soldiers in Lt. Aldo Raine’s unit bomb, burn and shoot the Nazi High Command, an act that was likely immortalized by Americans in this timeline. So when Al Pacino’s Marvin Schwartz, an agent in Hollywood, states that he loves all the killing in Dalton’s films, he likely means that in a weird, fetishized act of patriotism, where he grew up on the violent tales of the west and found a new sense of violent pride after hearing about the bloody end to Hitler. That act and that unit would go on to become heroes, immortalized in film, television, comics and so on. That’s why I believe Dalton is portraying the acts of World War II that happened in his reality and that would mean that over the top, violent acts against the Nazis could have been done by no one other than the Basterds themselves.
Do you think Dalton is portraying an exaggerated version of events seen in Inglourious Basterds or will this movie step away from the concept of a shared universe and explore history in a more accurate sense? Are you one of the lucky few who have already seen the film at Cannes by chance, if so, what did you think? Let us know all of this and be sure to check out our review of Detective Pikachu and our breakdown of movies that were hated by critics but loved by the fans.