Interest never ebbs when it comes to what Quentin Tarantino is going to do next. Even when we have fresh work to digest. Is he inching closer to retirement? Is Kill Bill 3 on the horizon? Will he put his mark on the Star Trek franchise? Will he go deeper into the world of Once Upon A Time In… Hollywood and develop a Bounty Law TV show? All seem like possibilities following his recent press tour, but the next thing could also be something completely free from our collective radar. Like, say, a Quantum Leap reboot, which is something born from hope (and maybe logic) and not evidence. At all. And yet, still, I sense that 50% of you are already on board just from reading those words. For the stragglers (or folks who don’t know what Quantum Leap is), however, I’ll make my case.
By the way, this should go without saying but you should stop reading if you haven’t seen Once Upon A Time In… Hollywood. I’m about to talk about how, as he did in the theater scene with the Nazis and Adolf Hitler in Inglorious Basterds, Tarantino fictionalized the righting of a wrong by an asleep-at-the-wheel universe in Once by violently neutralizing some of history’s greatest monsters (the Manson Family). This, of course, saved Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) while mixing fire with sheer brutality and an assist from a very good girl. (A very good girl.) Some will question the level of violence (specifically against the female murderers) or the stepping into real historical events for laughs and art, but you can’t deny that scenes like the ones in question make a mark. They’re also now as signature a Tarantino move as blood spurts, bare feet, ’70s deep cuts, and sharp dialogue.
Let’s file Django Unchained in the same column as Basterds and Once Upon A Time. The handily dealt-with villains like Calvin Candie and his house slave, Stephen, are conjured, not directly pulled from history, but there’s an obvious connection between their on-screen villainy and the evils committed by real-world slavers. Which means there’s that same sense of catharsis when we see Django’s explosive triumph as there is when Hitler and the Manson Family get roasted/pummeled. And that’s to say nothing of other Tarantino works that ride on the rails of revenge fantasy, like Kill Bill/Kill Bill 2 and Death Proof, where bad people who did bad things eventually have bad things happen to them. Just like mama said they would.
Quantum Leap isn’t about catharsis or watching bad people get theirs. [briefly adopts Billy Eichner shout-voice] It’s a nice show! Wrongs are righted as our hero (Dr. Sam Beckett with frequent assists from his hologram sidekick, Al) bounces through time and into people’s lives, but those stories never include the giddy violence that comes with Tarantino’s stabs at fictionalized justice. Quantum Leap is about micro acts of heroism by an “aw shucks” semi-altruist who, while eager to go home, clearly cares about right vs wrong, good vs evil, and the people whose lives he’s affecting as a part of a mysterious plan set in motion by some kind of higher power. Tarantino films, on the other hand, are filled with flawed characters that often exist on the periphery of history and stand in the way of villainy by way of happenstance, righteous anger, and/or revenge.