#29 Back To The Future

(1985, Robert Zemeckis)

“Woah, Doc, this is heavy”

Back To The Future was a hugely popular movie of the 1980s, which is still loved to this day. It kick-started the career of Michael J. Fox and has become forever linked with the DeLorean, now one of the most iconic movie vehicles of all time. But how well has it stood the test of time?

In essence, Back To The Future is a fun 80s comedy about Marty McFly, a teenager living in Hill Valley, played by Michael J. Fox. He’s friends with Dr Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd), an eccentric scientist. Doc Brown one day informs him of an exciting new invention he’s been working on, which he reveals to be a time machine built out of a Delorean DMC-12. Due to a run-in with a group of Libyan terrorists that Doc Brown obtained plutonium for, Marty ends up accidentally travelling back in time to 1955, the year his parents met. After inadvertently preventing this event, Marty slowly begins to be erased from history unless he can correct this as soon as possible.

First off, BttF is very 80s: the fashions, the music, the dialogue. It feels very much like a product of its era; however, it doesn’t feel dated. Much like Trainspotting, it retains a strong aesthetic sense of the time it was made, but also still tells a story that can be enjoyed years on. Of course, in this case, the aesthetics are tied into the plot rather nicely as a direct comparison to the 1950s, and so it works all the more effectively.

The film is also highly entertaining. It makes no attempt to be a particularly heavy discussion on the quantum mechanics of time travel, nor does it consider the philosophical implications of the Butterfly Effect. Instead, it chooses to take these difficult scientific speculations and make a wacky comedy out of it. It plays around with the time travel concept, but keeps it as simple as possible. It exists purely to entertain, not to spark debate.

The dialogue is sharp, and very quotable, and the script is tight. There are a lot of clever moments here, such as when Marty talks about owning two TVs in 1955, prompting a general sense of disbelief, or the hijinks that arise from his interactions with his teenage mother and father. There are a million opportunities for things to fall down here with the convoluted love triangle and the time travel concept, and yet everything holds together perfectly.

There are some cheesy and unnecessary moments, mind. Suggesting that Marty invented Chuck Berry’s entire sound is one such event, as well as a few attempts to make Marty look like an especially cool teenager. There is also little explanation as to why a 17-year old would be hanging round with an eccentric scientist in the first place. But these moments do little to affect the overall enjoyment of the movie because everything else is so much fun.

It’s hard to dislike Back To The Future. I’m seriously trying to find fault, but everything is so minor, and when the film overall is as memorable and as enjoyable as it is, it’s a bit silly to recommend improvements. It achieves what it set out to do, and does so in a way that made it a justified classic.

Starring Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover, Thomas F. Wilson & Claudia Wells
Written by Robert Zemeckis & Bob Gale
Produced by Bob Gale & Neil Canton, executive producer Steven Spielberg
Music score by Alan Silvestri, songs by Huey Lewis & The News
Cinematography by Dean Cundey
Edited by Harry Keramidas & Arthur Schmidt

Favourite Scene: Marty sits down to dinner with his mother’s family as a teenager, and slips up numerous times with lines about owning two TVs and having seen a 50s TV show before. It’s hilarious.
Scene That Bugged Me: There’s a big dramatic moment that suggests Marty still has something left to do before he’s fixed time, only for it to fizzle out moments later. It all seems a bit pointless.

Watch it if: You want to see some serious shit when a DeLorean hits 88mph
Avoid it if: You’re allergic to the 1980s

Originally posted on Blogspot Friday 23 December 2011

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Posted on April 11, 2012, in 1980s, Comedy, Sci Fi and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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