I am pretty damn sure there’s only one more time travel movie I need to review this year…
BACK TO THE FUTURE (1985)
I’ve written many articles on Back to the Future. I’ve discussed how it can be wrongfully used in support of criminalizing abortion. I’ve discussed how Jennifer Parker is a poorly written character. I’ve discussed how time travel impacts the nature vs. nurture debate. I’ve discussed the 2002 widescreen DVD release controversy. I’ve discussed my longtime attraction to Lorraine Baines. I’ve discussed freelance science and an unconfirmed urban legend about Orgy American Style. I’ve discussed my love for the film’s sound design. I’ve discussed the three most common types of timeline in time travel fiction and why Back to the Future is definitively mutable. I’ve discussed the real Florence Nightingale and how intoxicated each character is during the film’s climax. I’ve discussed Biff Tannen’s inability to strategize. I’ve discussed Lorraine’s biological resistance to incest and Doc and Biff’s alignments as Dungeons & Dragons characters. I’ve discussed the under-appreciated performance of George DiCenzo as Sam Baines. I’ve discussed lines of dialogue I misheard as a child. I’ve discussed all sorts of weird shit with my friend Connor. I’ve discussed a slew of topics regarding the clock tower. I’ve discussed the difficulties in trying to recreate a moment based on a single document. I’ve discussed the logistics of Marty’s fading photograph. I’ve discussed Michael J. Fox’s skills as a comedic actor. I’ve discussed Marty McFly’s actual age by the end of the trilogy. I’ve discussed the lack of a “save the cat” moment. I’ve discussed how the film shaped my atheist viewpoint. I’ve shown the film to someone who had never seen it before. I’ve discussed Back to the Future‘s place in Robert Zemeckis’s body of work. I’ve discussed the many gags and their lengthy payoffs. I’ve discussed which facts from the trivia track I was previously unaware of. I’ve discussed which character I’d select for a spin-off film that didn’t involve any time travel. I’ve discussed themes in the Honeymooners episode seen in 1955 and the episode that actually aired on that date in real life. I’ve discussed the gender bias of the predator/prey courtship dynamic. I’ve discussed the joy of watching Back to the Future in a movie theater. I’ve discussed whether Doc Brown is a bad scientist or simply absent-minded. I’ve gotten Zen. I’ve discussed some of the details that can be seen in the background. I’ve discussed crazy vehicular antics, Doc’s cocky attitude, and the possibility that Marvin isn’t actually related to Chuck Berry. I’ve discussed skateboards and lightning with two scientists that own a skate shop. I’ve discussed how to stop bullying without violence and how screenwriters avoid the problem by exploiting “morality math.” I’ve discussed Bob Gale’s inspiration for Back to the Future and whether or not I’d get along with my own father as a teenager. I’ve discussed issues with the portrayal of the ripple effect. I’ve discussed my dislike of the fantasy genre and attempted to retell Back to the Future as an epic magical myth. I’ve discussed similarities between Back to the Future and The NeverEnding Story. I’ve discussed the thematic significance of the giant amplifier. I’ve discussed the amount of behind-the-scenes work that went into the production. I’ve discussed the importance of playing along with the film. I’ve discussed the lack of Halloween decorations in Hill Valley in late October. I’ve discussed why the filmmakers chose Cattle Queen of Montana and The Atomic Kid to appear on the theater marquees in 1955. I’ve discussed my annual celebration of Flux Capacitor Day and why a commonly cited plot hole in Part II is also a problem in the original. I’ve discussed the difficulty of synchronizing events by trying to time the film’s lightning strike at exactly 10:04pm on October 12th. I’ve discussed how Back to the Future‘s philosophy differs from that of Doctor Who. I’ve discussed the depiction of Arab characters as cartoonish stereotypes. I’ve discussed the ethics of Marty lying to his teenaged parents. I’ve discussed how Back to the Future is a perfect example of a Campbellian monomyth… while completely drunk. And I’ve discussed the film’s use of rape as a plot device.
But… have I really reviewed it?
WHERE: In the living room of my apartment in Portland, ME
FORMAT: Blu-Ray on a Vizio 32″ LED HDTV
COMPANY: Cinemanaut Becca in and out towards the end.
PHYSICAL AND MENTAL STATE: Wishing my favorite movie a fond farewell.
Back to the Future is the tale of Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox), an ’80s kid with a loser family and a crippling lack of confidence that he has what it takes to make it big as a rock guitarist. While assisting his eccentric friend Emmett “Doc” Brown (Christopher Lloyd) with a time travel experiment gone horribly wrong, Marty ends up in the year 1955, face to face with teenaged versions of his father (Crispin Glover) and mother (Lea Thompson).
Sometimes without pants.
Okay, can I stop writing about Back to the Future like it isn’t my favorite movie in the whole goddamned world now? I adore this flick. It’s got sci-fi, action, romance, comedy, you name it. It’s an exciting, tightly structured story that takes place in an immensely detailed world that reveals more and more each time you watch it.
And I should know.
Some of the mutable timeline rules are a little shaky, like a photograph that keeps changing based on Marty’s actions in 1955, but that doesn’t change the fact that Back to the Future uses time travel effectively to explore a wide range of topics, like societal norms, the butterfly effect, parental relationships, the ethics of tampering with fate, or if we’ll need roads where we’re going.
What really makes the film work is the ever-increasing pile of complications preventing Marty from getting home, each one more exhausting than the last. Marty’s struggle is a great source of comedy and each new problem ups the tension on the way to a thrilling climax.
Michael J. Fox is positively brilliant as the Fish Out of Water in his own hometown. As a character that can’t seem to catch a break, Fox’s Marty McFly is a perfect embodiment of how awkwardly we would react in the same situations. It may be one of my favorite comedic performances of all time.
Christopher Lloyd takes the concept of the absent-minded mad scientist to new heights. He’s odd, he’s wildly animated, but he also plays Doc with a warmth that’s essential to his particular brand of insanity. In short, he’s lovably scatterbrained.
Other way, Doc.
Crispin Glover is… weird, but that’s okay, as George McFly is supposed to be the geek to end all geeks. It’s great work by the casting department, to say the least.
What a clowny clown clown.
Lea Thompson is amazing as Lorraine Baines, the horny teenager that nobody ever wants to picture their mother as once being. Her performance is sweet and feisty and irresistible, which makes it all the more hilarious that she’s unknowingly pursuing the one person that should absolutely be resisting her: her own son.
What a bundle of adorable!
And finally, there’s Thomas F. Wilson as Biff Tannen, the bully that harasses Marty’s father from high school onward and is now Marty’s problem in 1955. Wilson plays Biff tough enough to be a threat but also stupid enough to laugh at.
My lunch money surrenders, good sir.
THE SPECIAL EFFECTS:
For a sci-fi movie, there actually aren’t that many special effects shots, but the time travel looks eighties-tastic.
Coolest. Car. Ever.
There are also some ripple effects seen throughout the film, which… vary in quality… but– okay, I’ll show the hand.
There’s also some lightning and miniatures and whatnot, but even the practical effects are great. How great? Well, I didn’t spot a road that doesn’t actually go anywhere for a whopping 51 viewings. Only today did I realize that some of these lights aren’t street lamps; they’re totally using forced perspective to trick your brain.
That stunt driver needs to hit the brakes right about now.
THE “NONE OF THIS MAKES ANY SENSE!” MOMENT:
Marty’s disbelief at his temporal displacement causes him to wonder if perhaps he’s dreaming.
“Okay, McFly. Get a grip on yourself! It’s all a dream! Just a very… intense… dream…“
I still love this movie, and I always will.
Nothing. That is it. We’re all done here. No more time travel for this guy. Time Out is finished.
Unless you were hoping for a Best Of or something…
Want more time travel? Head on over to the Time Out archive.