Once Upon a Time In Hill Valley
***This Review Contains Spoilers***
While I loved Back to the Future Part II for how frantic and fast-paced it is, I love Part III for largely the opposite reason; for being more simple and laid back. You need a dark chapter like Part II before you can have something more romantic and light-hearted like Part III. I love the western setting, there’s a certain innocence to it and is classic in every sense of the word. There’s monument valley, cowboys, Indians, a saloon as well as the atypical western music score. It’s also fun to see Marty and Doc in a date much further back in time as well as seeing the images, quotes and motifs from the first film reapplied in the western setting. The film shows us Hill Valley during its early days thus over the course of three films we get the entire history (and near future) of this town, making it a character onto itself even if the western setting does raise the question about Hill Valley’s geographical location.
Part III is the Doc’s movie; it gave his character a whole new dimension as his scientific ethics are challenged by falling in love for the first time. I don’t think many people realise it but Doc Brown is a pretty dark character. He blew his family’s fortune on inventions which don’t work (at least until he invented time travel) and is ostracised from the rest of Hill Valley so it’s about time something finally went right in his life and he finds a love. Plus it’s cute, two geeks falling in love who were previously separated by space and time for that added romantic element.
My only complaint with Part III (really my only complaint with any film in the trilogy) is that the film pulls the liar revealed, one of my most dreaded of movie clichés. We know the Doc and Clara are going to get back together towards the end of the movie, so do really need to have the movie abruptly stop for a period. But I’m more forgiving of it in this instance as their separation does contribute to the suspense during the film’s finale which is one of the highlights of the entire trilogy. The interactions between Marty and Doc, on the other hand, are just as great as ever, even more so that they have to find a way to get the DeLorean up to 88 miles per hour with the technology available to them in 1885. Although I do have to ask is Doc not going against his principles at the end by creating another time machine, oh well, it’s still a great ending. Back to the Future Part III is my least favourite of the series but I still love it. Unlike other film franchises, the trilogy is done and dusted. It’s not polluted with further sequels, prequels, remakes, reboots, re-whatevers, and hopefully, it will stay that way.
It’s a Wonderful Future
***This Review Contains Spoilers***
Back to the Future Part II is one of the most relentless films I’ve ever seen. A one hour and forty minute film yet it feels like only a fraction of that length. As the characters are already introduced to us, the movie immediately gets the ball rolling. I love how frantic and faced paced Part II is; the movie almost never pauses and is one hell of a thrill ride. How many movie sequels return to the events of the first film? I can’t imagine the effort that went into recreating the scenes from the first film from different perspectives, it makes you see the first film in a whole different light. The film’s portrayal of 2015, on the other hand, is the future we all wish we could have, unlike most movies which predict a future of doom and gloom. I still want those self-tying shoelaces and the pizza which can be cooked with a few seconds – its fun watching all those future gizmos. Although they got some things right; the large, flat, wide screen TV with multiple channels or the market for nostalgia with the Cafe 80’s.
Part II takes The Empire Strikes Back route by being darker than the first film; the alternate 1985 is like an even darker version of It’s a Wonderful Life. Part II is Biff’s movie; while he doesn’t have the most complex personality. What makes him such a great character is all the different incarnations he has from different ages, timelines as well as his relatives. Thomas F. Wilson has by far the juiciest role in the film, playing no less than five variations of the same character and even having the young Biff interact with the old Biff. I find it funny that the universe could get destroyed just because this one guy has to be an asshole. Also, I’m not the first person to notice this but it’s dawned on me how much the alternate 1985 Biff looks like Donald Trump. If the first Back to the Future showed the good side of capitalism: this movie shows the bad side of capitalism.
Back to the Future Part II is one of the best examples I’ve seen of single actors playing multiple roles and how they seamlessly have them appear side by side and interact with each other. It still makes me wonder how they did those effects. Today, of course, they would be achieved using CGI but not back then and that’s part of the fun of these effects – on top of being cool to look at – you find yourself asking “how did they do that?” Robert Zemeicks had just directed the technically challenging Who Framed Rodger Rabbit and then directed a film as complex as this followed by directing the third Back to the Future; someone had a busy set of years working. They also got a new actress for the role of Jennifer and even then they manage to make the change in casting appear seamless.
Part II is by far the most and I do mean by far the most complex of the trilogy, these movies seriously screw with your head if you think about them too much. For example, (presuming time travel exists) if you go to the future you can’t actually meet your future self, as you skipped the intervening time period by travelling forward in time, your older self would not exist in that timeline; instead you would find your loved ones mourning over the day you disappeared or how about when old Biff returns to the future after giving his younger self the almanac, should he not have returned the future which he changed? I’ll admit the first time I saw it I found the plot a bit confusing; it took me a number of viewings until I finally figured out why the old Biff is in pain when he returns to 2015. I don’t see these inaccuracies as a bad thing if anything they strengthen our love for these films. Part of the fun of the trilogy is discussing the time travel mechanics and trying to find explanations for any possible inaccuracy. Also one other thing I’ve always wondered, why does Marty make no effort to protect the letter from the rain when his life depends on it? The scene in which Doc tries to explain to Marty that they are in an alternative 1985 must have been similar to the interactions between Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale when they were writing this film.
To Be Concluded…
Spaceman From Pluto
***This Review Contains Spoilers***
An aura of ‘cool’ permeates everything about Back to the Future. I could imagine seeing this film when it came out in 1985 (of course I wasn’t alive) and watching Marty McFly riding through Hill Valley on his skateboard while holding onto the back of a truck to The Power of Love by Huey Lewis and the News and thinking to myself, “omg, this is just the coolest film ever”. To me Marty McFly is the personification of cool, he rides skateboards, has a hot girlfriend, plays guitar. Yet his life is far from perfect; his dad is a dweb, his mum is an alcoholic and his uncle is in prison. This brings him down to a relatable level, plus he hangs out with a crazy old scientist. Why? I don’t want to know. I like the mystery of not knowing how this unconventional friendship came to be. The technical jargon between Marty and Doc is a never-ending pleasure to listen and even lines which shouldn’t be memorable are somehow highly quotable (“Wait a minute Doc, are you telling me that it’s 8:25…dam I’m late for school!”). Likewise taking the coolest looking, commercially available car and making that the time machine is yet another stroke of genius. Notice the scene in which we see the DeLorean for the first time; it’s impossible for Doc Brown to get inside the DeLorean while it is inside the truck so he would have had to get into the car and drive it into the truck and just wait there until Marty would show up and then drive it out and exit the car. I guess Doc thought he had made a time machine that looked so badass he really had to give it an impressive introduction to Marty. The whole movie has the best uses of product placements I’ve seen in a film; never before have I been happier to see advertisements for Pepsi and Texaco. The pacing of Back to the Future is perfect, the film never lets up; the odds keep stacking up against Marty and the suspense towards the end of the film is crazy.
Even though most of the film takes place in the 1950’s, Back To The Future is the film which defines the 1980’s. The ending in which Marty finds his family has been changed for the better and he gets the 4×4 vehicle he wanted; it’s a wish fulfilment fantasy and very much a capitalist, 80’s ideal. It’s an uplifting ending, providing you ignore the fact that Marty now has to adjust to living with a family he has no previous memory off. It makes sense that Marty goes back to the year 1955, the time period of when adolescence had a voice and began an economic force for the first time in history; plus just take a look at the title of what won Best Picture that year. Marty’s mother being attracted to her son is weirdly funny plus his mother being the opposite of her adult herself; makes you question your own parents claims about their day. I’m always struck by the moment when Marty tell his relatives in 1955 he has two TVs and they think he’s joking yet if you told someone in 1985 that households today own upwards of 6-7 TVs, they would have the same reaction.
Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Back To The Future; to me these are the trilogy of trilogies. The three film sagas I can watch again and again, always notice something new on each viewing, discussing every character to no end, coming up with crazy fan theories and trying to find an explanation to any possible plot hole. I’m sure there are still plenty of subtle gags, use of foreshadowing and who knows what lurked within this film which I still haven’t noticed. Is it possible for a film to be 100% perfect, one which has absolutely nothing wrong with it no matter how minuscule? I can’t think of another film (or series) which has a better use of repeating images and motifs. If I could only bring one DVD to a desert island, it would be my trilogy box set so I could spend my time uncovering every last secret in the trilogy. I love how self-contained the movies are; there are so closely connected to each other and the perfect film trilogy to watch in one go (as I have done several times).
But what is it that makes Back to the Future immensely beloved by such a wide audience? I can tell you why I love it but I have a weird and eccentric film taste. Perhaps it’s due to time travel is something we all fantasize about, as well as the idea of seeing your parents when they were young. The themes the film explores such as family, coming of age, the generation gap and the optimistic message of free will, that our future isn’t written; it’s whatever you make it.
To Be Continued…