WHERE: In the living room of my apartment in Portland, ME (Isla Nublar)

FORMAT: Blu-Ray on a Vizio 32″ LED HDTV

COMPANY: Cinemanaut Becca in and out.

PHYSICAL AND MENTAL STATE: Eating pizza, excited for Terminator Fest afterward, trying to think about dragons and shit.

Have you read Cinemanaut Becca’s excellent reimagining of The NeverEnding Story as a science fiction film? It’s amazing. She breaks down every possible way that the narrative could be changed to incorporate spaceships and holodecks, and it’s just the best. Of course, I would say that, because a) I sleep with her, and b) I’m a much bigger fan of science fiction than the fantasy genre.


Well, since I’ll be reluctantly watching Lord of the Rings 52 times next year as part of the final phase of the Cinema 52 experiment, I figured I’d get a head start on pretending to enjoy magic by turning Becca’s idea on its head and retelling Back to the Future as a fantasy film.

Now, the writers of Back to the Future have stated in DVD special features that they didn’t want the time travel to be magic. It had to be a machine that was governed by rules (though, let’s be honest, those rules can seem awfully magicky at times), and none of this “if you wish hard enough” or “the forces of fate have aligned” crap. So, one way to turn Back to the Future into magic would be the exact same movie, but with… that junk. I’ve watched plenty of time travel movies this year that take place in a seemingly normal world with one sparkly, unexplained temporal sneeze, so I’m not going to bother imagining that version of Back to the Future. Also, a random magical time-hole would take Doc Brown completely out of the equation, and there’s no way we’re leaving behind that chaotic, absent-minded son of a bitch.

Where we’re going, we need Doc.

So, I attempted to turn the whole thing into a sword and sorcery epic, despite the fact that I don’t know a damn thing about The Two Towers or Game of Thrones. I saw Krull once? That count? Okay, I’ve cobbled this story together from all the notes I took while watching Back to the Future, and I haven’t added anything I didn’t think of before the end credits. Oh, and don’t bitch about how I’m misusing terminology like “wraith” or “alchemy” or “orbs of conflagration.” If you like rules so much, then why are you into magic? Burn.

Honestly, fuck every last one of you that voted for Lord of the Rings. Just kidding, I love you, don’t ever change. Now park your ass in front of the fire, for this story is as old as time itself…


The year is 1385. The setting is Halvalla, a kingdom that’s fallen on hard times. A young apprentice by the name of Martin MacFly enters the cave of his mentor, a notoriously crazy wizard named Emmett the Brown. He isn’t home, but the place is filled with hourglasses and an enchanted cauldron that appears to be conjuring up Emmett’s breakfast. Martin picks up a lute, which has been forged with powerful magicks and is the loudest lute in all the land. The raw force of the instrument blows Martin into a pile of scrolls. Martin finds a note in the pile from Emmett the Brown, asking him to take part in a new spell tonight at… shit, I didn’t come up with a different name for the mall. So… at the Twin Pines Mall.

It wouldn’t be cheating if you, the listener, changed it to the Gemini Forest in your mind.

Martin realizes he is late for a lute competition at the Castle Halvalla, where he is hoping to prove himself worthy of playing at the upcoming ball in honor of King Williamson the Gold. Unfortunately, his melodies prove to be too intense for the royal judges, so he sulks away with Guinnifer, a young maiden whose name I instantly regret. As they enjoy each other’s company under a tree and speak of riding away to a lake for the weekend, an old hag interrupts them with tales of an inevitable troll attack. She claims King Williamson the Gold refuses to take precautions against the rapidly increasing troll population and hands them a sky-blue scroll with more information on the terrible situation, which they reluctantly take. As Guinnifer is about to return to her family, she mentions that she will be at her grandmother’s cottage this evening, so she draws Martin a map to its location on the back of the scroll.

That’s the magic of love!

When Martin arrives home, he finds that Sir Bartholomew, a brutish knight, is giving his father a hard time. Martin’s father, George MacFly, is a page… squire… whatever that thing is that Sancho Panza is to Don Quixote. I can’t look it up right now, but George is totally that to Bartholomew. Bartholomew informs George that he was drinking too much mead and accidentally killed the MacFly family’s horse, which means Martin’s festivities with Guinnifer at the lake are now an impossibility. The knight requests that George slay the ogre that Bartholomew has been assigned to slay. George accepts, Bartholomew tells Martin his skull resembles buttocks, and Martin’s mother Lorraine serves the evening meal and regales the family with the tale of how she met George at a royal ball in 1355.

Martin eventually meets up with Emmett the Brown at the… Twin Pines Mall… and is amazed to see a beautiful silver horse named Delorea. Emmett places his cat upon Delorea’s back, puts an hourglass around his familiar’s neck as he flips a second hourglass on the ground beside him, and slaps Delorea on the rump. Delorea gallops away and is consumed by flames, leaving behind only fiery hoofprints! What demonry is this?!

Some serious dung.

Emmett the Brown explains that Delorea can cross the river of time in either direction, to history or to destiny. After another explosion of flames, Delorea and the cat return. Emmett shows that the cat’s hourglass contains a different amount of sand than his, and also they’re enchanted hourglasses that don’t get upset by galloping because magic is stupid like that. As Martin hastily scribbles down the details on parchment, Emmett points to the Amulet of Flux around Delorea’s neck, claiming it’s what ultimately allows one to move through time. You simply write a moment you would like to visit on a scroll, tuck it under Delorea’s saddle, and off you go. As an example, Emmett writes down his memory of first attempting to forge the Amulet of Flux in 1355 and places it under Delorea’s saddle. When Martin inquires how one obtains the incredible amount of power one would need for a spell like this, Emmett informs him that it runs on Pluton’s wort, an herb bred by warring elf clans that he was supposed to use to make a poison spell.

As Emmett feeds Delorea another dangerous handful of Pluton’s wort (which will kill her unless a time spell is carried out), a group of furious elves ride up and stab Emmett in the heart for not concocting them a poison spell. Martin jumps atop Delorea and attempts to flee, but the amulet glows and Martin is thrust up the river of time into history.

And now your storyteller grows weary.

Forgive me, but the flames seem to be dying out at this point. Perhaps it’s a metaphor for the fact that you can pretty much suss out the rest of the details for yourself. Martin arrives in 1355, he sees his father as a young… pagesquire… to the teenaged Bartholomew, who is just as nasty as ever. He meets the Son of William, who has aspirations of bringing changes to Halvalla, but he is not of royal blood; Martin assures him that one day he will be a great golden king, inspiring him in his fight to claim the throne for the people. Martin then meets his mother, Lorraine, who is unfortunately infatuated with him, though honestly, wouldn’t that relationship be right at home in old mythology?

Let’s see… oh, young Emmett the Brown can’t get Pluton’s wort because the two elf clans are currently at peace and have not yet bred the herb, but lightning is powerful enough to charge– um, enchantificate the Amulet of Flux. But one cannot summon lightning! Nope! There’s no spell for it! Fortunately, Martin has the troll scroll that Guinnifer wrote on, and it contains a list of troll births, including one a week from now. As everyone knows, the birth of a troll is marked by a great flash of lightning… look, shut up, okay, they didn’t have clock towers back then and I needed something time sensitive without mechanical parts.

And I have chosen troll contractions.

Martin discovers that parts of his family crest are disappearing from his tunic, so he tries to get George to court Lorraine by dressing up like a god and threatening him. Martin tells off Bartholomew, Lorraine asks Martin to the ball, George and Martin cook up their rescue scheme, Bartholomew messes it up, George socks Bartholomew, there you go. Martin is tossed in a large chest and the court lutenist cuts him out with a sword, slicing up his hand. Martin plays lute at the royal ball, George and Lorraine kiss, Martin is saved… I don’t know anything about medieval music, so no St. Charles of Berry gag or anything. That’s just plain going to be a problem with setting this in olden times. Most audiences don’t know any major cultural differences between 1355 and 1385. I don’t.

1355? Close enough.

So the troll lightning works, Martin returns to 1385, Emmett wore armor under his robes because he read a letter from Martin, huzzah. Martin’s family now lives in the Castle Halvalla, for George is the royal storyteller; Martin’s actions in 1355 inspired George to spin a popular tale known as “A Courtship Forged By Gods.” Bartholomew is a peasant. Martin and Guinnifer are happy. And so ends our tale…


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