WHERE: In the living room of my apartment in Portland, ME
FORMAT: 25th Anniversary Edition Widescreen DVD on a Vizio 32″ LED HDTV
PHYSICAL AND MENTAL STATE: Mostly worried about Google Chat shitting the bed or either of our DVDs skipping.
I recently had a conversation with Cinemanaut John about how viewings with guests usually yield interesting conversations, but make for fairly scattershot articles. With this in mind, rather than publishing our entire chat log, here are my Top Five All-Time Favorite Revelations from Watching Back to the Future with a Complete Stranger Named JP.
1) DOGS DO NOT TYPICALLY ENJOY BRIGHT LIGHTS AND LOUD SOUNDS.
JP pointed out that Doc’s dog Einstein probably didn’t enjoy his little time trip, which made me realize that Doc shouldn’t have sat in the DeLorean without checking it for canine terror-shits first.
2) CAR CHASES ARE BETTER WITH CARS THAT ARE ACTUALLY FAST.
JP highly doubted that a DeLorean’s engine roars like it does in the film, and his instincts are right on the money. It’s stated in the special features that the DeLorean was fitted with a Porsche engine because there was no way the car was getting up to 88 miles per hour without it. However, when JP commented that the Libyans’ VW bus was surprisingly fast, it hit me that the filmmakers probably picked the worst two vehicles for a thrilling parking lot chase sequence.
“I said, ‘Action!’ Oh, you’re already moving?”
I’m not a car guy, so all I know about the quality of Volkswagen vans comes from Little Miss Sunshine and whatever the Internet tells me. Judging from what I found, it tops out at an embarrassing average of 65 mph and takes about 37 seconds to get there. And that’s without hills, which is even more pathetic. Bottom line, both Doc and the Libyans made some serious modifications to these rolling shitboxes.
3) SAM BAINES DRIVES LIKE A MANIAC.
After a brief discussion on just exactly who George McFly is spying on from the tree (I’ve seen nerd arguments online that it’s not Lorraine), JP brought up a very good point: Sam Baines is driving way too fast for a guy who’s about to pull up at his own house.
“Seventh kid this week!”
Seriously, Sam is hauling ass. Hell, he’s driving too fast for a residential area, let alone someone who’s about to make a sharp right-hand turn. And we know that his house is just to the right of his car because that’s the direction he calls out to his wife in.
“Stella! This kid might owe us a new television!”
Either Sam was on his way somewhere else and coincidentally hit his unborn grandson right in front of his own house… or he is a psychopath. If brought up on vehicular manslaughter charges, who’s a 1955 jury gonna believe: some punk kid or the poor man who has to swerve daily to avoid the herds of reckless youth incessantly diving into the path of his automobile?
4) LOGIC DOES NOT APPLY TO THE STONED.
JP and I found ourselves nitpicking over plot hole after plot hole in regards to Marvin Berry and the Starlighters, only to come to the conclusion that their thought processes can’t be properly analyzed because they are positively baked.
Everyone else at the dance is merely intoxicated.
I’ve previously mentioned this as an excuse for why Marvin lets Marty play another song even though he utterly ruined “Earth Angel,” and it might also explain why one of the Starlighters leaves his car keys in the trunk, the worst possible place for them. However, things got really mind-blowing when I realized that there may be a reason you never actually see Chuck Berry in the film: Marvin isn’t actually related to him.
“At the tone, Pacific Standard Time will be…”
This makes his phone call to Chuck so damn funny. He’s high as shit, he suddenly realizes, “Ha, my name’s Berry TOO!” and he starts dialing whatever he thinks is his “cousin Chuck’s” number. It would even explain why he needs to stress “your COUSIN, Marvin BERRY,” because he’s actually talking to some poor old woman he just woke up.
No, I don’t think this was the intent of the filmmakers, but come on, look at that face and tell me you haven’t seen that guy at parties.
5) DOC MAY NOT HAVE TRIED TO SAVE HIS OWN LIFE.
At the end of the film, JP noted that Doc looks fairly surprised that he survived one hell of an AK-47ing. And he should be, since it’s highly improbable that a terrorist would fail to aim for the head.
“Wow… pretty piss-poor marksmanship, eh, Marty?”
This is where several plot holes arise. First of all, this version of Doc knows that he’s going to be gunned down. He has two options; either avoid it at all costs and risk creating a paradox (which I hope involves him building a bulletproof Iron Man suit), or attempt to recreate the evening exactly as it might have happened, butterfly effect be damned. But no, what we see in the film is the worst possible combination of the two; he somehow succeeds in repeating the parking lot experiment over the course of thirty freaking years, yet decides after all that work that he can fudge that last little detail of a bulletproof vest.
Doc’s absent-minded tendencies aside, here’s the only way I can see that plan making any sense: Doc may or may not have already been wearing the bulletproof vest in the original timeline, because he was constantly in fear of run-ins with Libyans and/or the government coming for his time machine, but that timeline doesn’t matter any more. On Doc’s second pass, in a moment of wishy-washy turmoil between self-preservation and guilt, he decides to wear the vest merely as a means of scientific safety. Of course he’s actually wearing it to save himself from the terrorist attack, but he’s justified it in his mind as not tempting fate as severely as, say, the aforementioned bulletproof Iron Man suit.
In short, he’s willing to die to protect the timeline, but not without hedging his bets. Check out his sudden cocky attitude as soon as he realizes that the idiot with the assault rifle neglected to go for a single headshot:
“Oh yeah. Planned it all along. Who’s your daddy, science?”
If you compare those two faces, you may recognize them as the difference between “realizing that you caught the fly ball” and “acting like you meant to catch the fly ball.”
I hated gym class.
CINEMANAUT BILL IS OFFLINE!
A hearty thanks to JP for taking up my offer of a needlessly complicated webchat viewing. We obviously talked about many more things, but they’ve been logged permanently and have great potential to pop up in later articles. If you want to peer further into JP’s brain, check him out on Twitter or peruse his YouTube channel. Again, thanks, JP!