Back to the Future Part II

  • Title: Back to the Future Part II
  • Director: Robert Zemeckis
  • Date: 1989
  • Studio: Universal
  • Genre: SF, Comedy
  • Cast: Michael J Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson
  • Format: Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format: NTSC, Region 1

“You’re not going to believe this! We’ve got to go back to 1955!” — Marty McFly
“I don’t believe it.” — Doc Brown

The second part of the Back to the Future Trilogy actually improves with repeat viewings. The first film in the Trilogy ended with Doc Brown showing up in a futuristic outfit, and telling Marty he needed to help his kids in the future. Marty, Jennifer, and Doc Brown head to 2015 — a very futuristic 2015. There Marty has to prevent his son from getting involved in a robbery that will send him to jail for 15 years. Also, the Marty of the future is a broken man (like George McFly in the beginning of the first film) – all because he cannot stand to be called “chicken” – this point will be returned to later. Having rescued Marty Jr., Doc Brown and Marty (our Marty) are ready to pick up the sleeping Jennifer and return to 1985, when Jennifer is picked up by the cops and brought home. However, while picking her up — old 2015 Biff steals a 50-year sports’ almanac from our Marty (the 1985 Marty) and goes back to 1955, giving it to his younger self, which starts a chain of events including the destruction of Hill Valley in to a cesspool of violence, the murder of George McFly, Lorraine McFly’s forced marriage to Biff, and Doc Brown being committed. Marty must prevent this from happening — without old Biff knowing, and without interfering with his slightly younger self’s time travel mission to get his parents together. He barely succeeds but is stranded in 1955 when Doc Brown and the DeLorean are sent back to 1885 (the Old West).

The second Back to the Future movie is a great deal grimmer than the first – showing awful events happening to good people. And whereas the first movie ended with our Marty’s life being much better – this film ends with him being stranded. However, there is a preview of the next film prior to the closing credits. (NOTE: Yes, I’ve seen it. I like it. But, unfortunately, I don’t own it – a bit of a mix-up getting DVDs of these films!)

However, one important thread is Marty’s knee-jerk reaction to being called “chicken” — this will cost him dearly again and again (it’s the reason he’s so broken when we meet him in 2015).

One thing I didn’t like was Jennifer being under-used to the point of ridiculousness! She goes with Marty in the Doc’s time machine — then is knocked out, and left various places to sleep. Also, by the Doc’s own explanation — when Doc Brown and Marty arrived in the alternate 1985 – they can’t go back to 2015 because of the time-line split, so they have to go back to 1955, wait for Old Biff to give Young Biff the Almanac – then take the Almanac from Young Biff. But how did Old Biff get to the original 2015 – if it had already changed, for Marty and the Doc to have the DeLorean back? Old Biff should have arrived in a different 2015 — just like Marty, at the end of the first Back to the Future film arrives back in an 1985 that’s different for the better. And Doc’s explanation for leaving Jennifer and Einstein where they are – the time stream will change around them and they won’t notice – also makes little sense. How does the Doc know he left them someplace safe and stable?

However, the inter-cutting between the new events happening in 1955; and the events of the first film is extremely well done. I also had to wonder — did Marty tell Doc Brown about him dying at the mall in the first film?

But still, a good movie – and it adds to the mythos of the trilogy.

Recommendation: See it!
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Next Film: The Band Wagon

Back to the Future

  • Title: Back to the Future
  • Director: Robert Zemeckis
  • Date: 1985
  • Studio: Universal
  • Genre: SF, Comedy
  • Cast: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover
  • Format: Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format: NTSC, R1

“The appropriate question is – ‘When the hell are they?’ ” — Doc Brown

“Are you telling me, you built a time machine – out of a DeLorean?” – Marty McFly

One of my favorite films that I remember seeing in the 1980s. I even had a copy on VHS tape for awhile. When it came to getting the movies on DVD, though, I had the worst luck (and I’m still missing the third film).

Back to the Future combines good special effects (meaning competent), humor, and great characters in an excellent story. There are also threads of deeper meaning – such as the importance of self-confidence and the need to believe in one’s self and one’s own talents and dreams – and the importance of standing up for oneself against bullies. For example, Doc Brown believes so much in his time machine, he spends everything he has to realize his dream. Whereas – Marty and George McFly both have the same lack of self-confidence and fear of rejection that prevents them from following their dreams – George’s dream to be a writer and Marty’s to be a musician/rock star.

The odd thing about watching the film now is that the scenes in the “present” – 1985 – at times seem oddly anachronistic (Marty’s cassette-tape walkman for example; or the sheer size of his video camera); whereas the scenes in the 1950s don’t, because that feels more like a historical film. However, the film doesn’t feel dated because of the great characters. And, of course, the humor works extremely well to keep the film entertaining and fresh like it was when it came out.

The basic plot is as follows: Marty (Michael J. Fox) is a “typical” American teenager – he has a girlfriend, problems with his folks and family, and problems at school. His best friend is an eccentric inventor named Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd). Marty meets up with Brown at a local shopping mall in the middle of the night, where Brown demos his newest invention – a working time machine. However, one of the components needed to kick-start the electrical generator in the time machine is plutonium – which Brown steals from some Libyan terrorists. During the experiments – they show up, Doc Brown is killed, and Marty jumps in the time machine to escape (it is, after all, a sports car). Marty arrives in 1955, where he accidentally prevents his parents from meeting. He must then get them back together, and help Doc Brown to find a way to return the time machine (and himself) to the future. Due to some changes in how George (Crispin Glover) and Lorraine (Lea Thompson) meet, get together, and fall in love, when Marty returns to the future – he finds his life slightly changed, for the better.

This film has a lot of detail and craft found in three different eras (1985 before Marty time travels, 1955, and 1985 after Marty time travels) – set dressing, costumes, and the locations of downtown Hill Valley, Marty’s home, and Twin Pines / Lone Pine Mall. It also, ironically, has a device relatively common in 1985 used for time travel (the DeLorean) that almost immediately thereafter disappeared (The car was a flop). This, by pure coincidence, is like the TARDIS in Doctor Who – based on the once common-place police box, now almost solely identified with time travel and an SF TV show.

The performances are also great. Michael J. Fox is wonderful as the breathless, panicky, lacking in self-confidence Marty McFly. Christopher Lloyd is great as the eccentric, slightly nuts, Doc Emmet Brown. And both Crispin Glover and Lea Thompson do a really good job playing three different versions of Marty’s parents.

Recommendation: See it!
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Next Film: Back to the Future Part II