Director: Robert Zemekis
Cast: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover, Thomas F. Wilson
Synopsis: Marty McFly (Fox) is your average 80’s teenager with a less than ordinary scientist friend, Doc Emmett Brown (Lloyd). The Doc invents a time machine out of a De Lorean, and accidentally sends Marty 30 years back in time to 1955, where he meets the teenage versions of his parents and almost prevents them meeting. This leads to an adventure travelling back and forth through time over three films, meddling with the time lines then trying to repair them.
Given that it is the start of the new year (and that I was given this set as a very generous gift from my brother-in-law for Christmas!!), I thought it was time to look back on a franchise that looked back, then forwards, then back yet again before going really far back until we were actually back. If you have seen the entire three films, I assure you, that sentence makes perfect sense!!
The first film in the trilogy is by far the best. It is a great stand-alone story with a large slice of nostalgia courtesy of the 1950’s setting. Marty is caught in numerous fish-out-of-water scenarios, where he manner of speaking, his dress sense, and his taste in music all come into question. Many of the gags relating to this are obvious, but performed so well as to remain amusing. More humour is milked from Marty almost destroying his own timeline when his mother falls for him and not his father. This is clearly an uncomfortable situation for Marty with some hilarious results. The film is also not shy on action, with Marty “developing” the first skateboard to outwit a bunch of bullies, culminating in a thrilling climax as Marty and a younger Doc try to get him back to 1985, harnessing the only adequate power available in that period, a lightning bolt.
I used terms above to denote comedy often, because beyond all the sci-fi elements, this is exactly the genre this film sits comfortably in. It is due to this that the numerous coincidences that occur in the film are forgivable, as the film never takes itself to seriously. So the fact we hear all about Marty’s parent’s history the very night that he travels back in time, and the fact his girlfriend wrote a note on a pamphlet telling him exactly where a lighting bolt will strike all makes perfect sense.
The other two films only really work as a pair, so I will discuss them together. Despite the fact the sequel was set up in the first film, this was not a story that benefited the first film. While the films remain enjoyable, and there are many good comic elements throughout, the attempts to generate humour by repeating the same scenes in different time periods (history repeats, etc), all these seem to do is remind you how well these scenes played in the original, and the sequels are poorer for it. The newly introduced conceit of Marty’s repeated line “Nobody calls me chicken” does have an eventual payoff, but the amount of times it gets him in trouble, surely he would have learnt his lesson a lot sooner. I think Part 3 is smart in developing an entirely new setting of the Wild West, but still, I often wish it had remained a single film and that sequels had been rejected, just like as was done for E.T. The latter film holds a special part in everyone’s heart, whereas Back to the Future, hoverboard scenes notwithstanding, was a great film that was marred by what followed it.
The BluRay upgrade is understandably beautiful. Simple gags like Doc’s attempt to look younger are even more humourous with the clarity of High Def. Also, when the SFX do kick in, they look as glorious as any effect created for a modern audience… impressive for a film made almost 30 years ago.
This set is great for anyone that still loves flying De Loreans and fluoro future baseball caps. Nostalgia for this film series does carry good will a long way. Definitely worth a revisit, this is not a case of childhood memories by marred by the more mature eyes of adulthood.
3 stars out of 5