-- Robert McCloskey
“I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”
-- Robert McCloskey
Once a movie is released into the wild, there are literally millions of minds dissecting it. Instead of just the production team and maybe a little feedback from a few test screenings, those millions can impact the movie in a different way. They cannot impact what the finish product actual is, but rather, what it means. Now when I say fan theory, I'm not talking about positing answers to the questions a movie obviously asks, like was Deckard a replicant in Blade Runner (yes) but rather theories that enhance the movie and maybe even cover up some of its inadequacies. Some of them are admittedly far-fetched, but here I've collected a few of my favorites. Just like my feature on movies that could be awesome with one little change, I get the feeling I'll be revisiting this topic once in a while. So pick a favorite, and re-watch the movie with it in your mind. I bet you'll enjoy it more.
The Matrix Trilogy
I actually mentioned this one in the piece linked above. But rather than a change necessary to make the movies coherent, what if we change our point of view on them? My favorite fan theory about them states that what we're led to believe is reality, is actually just the top level of the Matrix. Even the programs involved in the Matrix would be coded to believe themselves just one level down from reality, but what if the release into the real world and the formation of Zion are all just one more level of control? In this scenario, we'd never even see reality through the trilogy's entire run-time, it would explain how Neo could have powers in "reality" (because he's still in a simulation), and man does that make these movies bleak. Humanity's entire struggle for survival against the machines is just a civilization-wide run on the hamster wheel. The Machines outmaneuvered Neo before the movie ever began.
While we're on the topic of multiple-reality-level movies, Inception has a pretty easy theory to get the hang of once you've seen the movie. Similar to The Matrix theory, we never see reality. What we are presented as reality is actually just the first level of a dream constructed by Cobb's associates to help him get over the suicide of his wife. Ellen Page's character's name being Ariadne (a Greek mythological figure associated with mazes and labyrinths) seems like one heck of a coincidence for the audience to swallow. The idea is that the movie even tries to hint at this with the dialogue between Cobb and Ariadne where he mentioned how in dreams we always join the action midstream and can never remember how we got somewhere. Cobb's projection of Mal points out that he's doing just that. But what about the top spinning, you ask? It isn't Cobb's totem: his wedding ring is. He would've needed one before he took Mal's, and combined with the fact that he's only wearing it in the dream sequences, but never "reality" (where his associates would've taken it to hide the truth), it pieces it all together. Multiple levels of fan theory required to interpret a movie about multiple levels of reality? Whoa, dude.
There are no fan theories to fix how the prequels break continuity with the originals. That ship has sailed. But I've always liked this disproven theory for being so utterly more amazing than what George Lucas actually put on screen. You see, back when the originals were all we had to go on, the "Clone Wars" were mentioned exactly one time in the trilogy and it completely changes Luke's opinion on Obi-Wan Kenobi. Since we never got an explanation for what those were, the theory went that Obi-Wan Kenobi was actually OB-1, a clone Jedi. If you wanted to win a war and you had cloning technology, wouldn't a Jedi make the most sense instead of... some guy (calm down Fett fans)? It would explain why he alternately goes by "Ben" (that seriously doesn't come from Obi-Wan at all): it was the name of the original all the clones were created from. Perhaps OB stands for "Original Batch"? Who knows? Anyway, the idea of large-scale Jedi warfare being in the prequels is so much more compelling than yet more stormtroopers. Wait, those guys are all Fett clones? I feel like I would've noticed that in the originals...