Why I will forever be in love with Back to the Future
Welcome to my latest blog, this is the big one, the one I’ve been waiting for all my life.
If you asked my mom “what has been your son’s favorite movie since he was four years old?” she will, without batting an eye, answer with “Back to the Future of course!”
Why the hell am I so obsessed with this movie? For me, it goes beyond loving it; BTTF has affected the way I love all films. It’s the one movie that started my interest in movies, and it started my insane fascination with time travel. So, I feel it’s finally time to stop being so dang critical about things, and just write a blog that is an outpouring of my heart as to why this movie means so much to me, and what’s so damn good about it. Being that this one will be a tad more in depth than my usual pieces, I’m going to break it into categories/reasons for my love of BTTF.
A Change of Plans
Robert Zemeckis was half way into shooting Back to the Future with Christopher Lloyd playing the iconic Dr. Emmett L Brown and the great Eric Stoltz as Marty McFly. At this point a lot of people who are big movie buffs know about this tale, but in all honesty this is one of the craziest stories ever told to me about films, and one of the reasons I find BTTF to be THE lightning in a bottle movie.
Zemeckis knew something just was not working with his film. It wasn’t the script, it wasn’t Doc; it wasn’t even the bat-shit crazy Crispin Glover. He knew deep down Eric Stoltz was not fit for Marty. Zemeckis and writer/producer Bob Gale wanted Michael J Fox from Day one to be Marty. Trouble was he was stuck shooting Family Ties, and had to regrettably decline their offer. But, after Spielberg gave him one final pep talk, Zemeckis swooped onto the set of Family Ties and begged Fox to do Back to the Future. With some insane scheduling around the shoots of Family Ties, Fox was able to play Marty, and Eric Stoltz was sent to be Vincent Vega’s drug dealer. History was made.
Is your name Marty McFly?
Fox’s performance as Marty is one of the most legendary comedic performances of all time. The way he talks, his facial expressions, and the chemistry he has with nearly every character in the BTTF universe makes it so obvious as to why Zemeckis wanted him so badly over the star of Fly 2 (sorry Eric!). When you watch BTTF you cannot even fathom that Fox is pulling this role off, while at the same time he’s acting on 2-4 hours of sleep wherein the only time TO actually sleep is when he would be driven between the sets of BTTF and Family Ties. It’s a testament to Fox’s commitment as well as his belief in the ingenuity of the script. Looking back, no one in there right mind can seen Marty be played by any other actor (but trust me the footage exists).
Now don’t worry, I will get more to the story lines and why I think they work VERY soon. But you need to truly understand that without Fox there is no trilogy, there is no comedic legend; there is only a dramatic actor who doesn’t truly fit in a role, and a brilliant script that could not be successful due to casting choices. Marty is both the lead as well as the lynch pin to making the film work.
You can keep your Jake & Elwood, or your Bill & Ted, but in my eyes nothing can match the chemistry between Doc and Marty. The way Marty’s realistic outlooks and immense sarcasm bounce off Doc’s eccentric behavior and wild ideas is just perfectly structured for comedic gold. In the later two films of the trilogy, it also sets up for some heavy dramatic scenes such as Marty and Doc realizing the pit falls of ever creating the time machine in part 2, or in Part 3 with the realization that one of them could be potentially killed in the past.
Over the course of the trilogy they both perfectly go through these arcs that mirror each other. Marty is stuck in 1955, needs to get back to his girl, and then needs to help Doc who is stuck in 1885. Then in the second half of part 2, and most of part 3 Doc is the one first stuck in 1885, falls in love with a girl, and then by the end needs to help Marty be convinced about serious repercussions that could come with tampering with time. It’s a great relationship that is perfectly balanced out by both it’s comedic and dramatic moments between the two.
The Story Part 1
The first Back to the Future film is to me the most original script of all time. It features a nuclear-run time machine, Libyans, a pine tree breeder, a musical number, and references to 50’s pop culture just to name a few of it’s aspects.
The dialogue is sharp and extremely clever especially the ways Marty behaves in the ’50s as well as how people treat him based on his odd futuristic attitude. The idea of someone being stuck in a different time/place and using it to comedic effect is a convention that has since become overused and boring (nearly every Tim Burton film, Black Knight, Austin Powers 3, etc…); but in BTTF it is used in a much more subtle way that works on so many levels for the integrity of the film. Marty isn’t stupid, he’s just obviously very confused, and once the first few days of life in 1955 is over, he’s learned to shut his mouth, and the “displacement” jokes are finished with.
Delving more into the story, the main plot is so simple: what were your parents like in high school? It’s something all of us have wondered at one time or another. Bob Gale was able to show us how we could see for ourselves in making us travel back in time and experiencing it first hand. It also takes its time travel very seriously. All of the little things you do wrong, can change the future in both large and small manners. A good fried of mine once said “it’s the little things that make the movie” well for me, the little things always crack me up in BTTF. Whether its the Twin Pines Mall becoming the Lone Pines Mall when Marty accidentally runs one of the trees of in 1955 or how Marty dresses in the radiation suit and claims to his father he is Darth Vader from planet Vulcan, every little detail about Back to the Future leaves me on the floor in hysterics. The devil is in the details, and they prove how much care and consideration Gale/Zemeckis put into their script.
While on the surface, Back to the Future is a film about a kid getting back to the present, it’s more deep down about the appreciation for his parents, and who they were as kids before they had him. What their dreams were, what were their passions, and then the child of the parents is able to support his parents desires, and in doing so, makes them better people. It’s not just about seeing how funny your parents as kids were, it’s the importance of being a family and supporting one another…even if you’re mom is trying to put the moves on you.
One of the biggest things that does it for me, is a great ending. Back to the Future has one of the biggest mind blowing endings in film history.
Stuck with this crazy plan of getting his parents back together at their prom, Marty’s attempt of taking advantage of his mom is stopped by a deus ex machina: Biff. Biff nearly rapes Marty’s mom while his cronies lock Marty in a car trunk only for Marty’s dad, George, to finally stand up for his woman (much thank to Marty’s constant pep talks). In doing so he gets the girl and all is okay…right?
Marvin, the prom band’s leader and guitarist sliced his hand. Marty’s parents’ first kiss was on the dance floor during prom (which we heard about in one of the opening scenes in a brilliant piece of writing which explains THIS is how they truly fell in love).
So, if there’s no music they can’t dance, if they can’t dance they can’t kiss, and if they can’t kiss, they can’t fall in love, and I’m history.
Hey man the dance is over…unless you know someone else that can play the guitar?
In a hilarious turn of events, Marty plays lead guitar at his parents prom, and even though a shitty little redhead tries to get in the way, he is able to see them finally kiss for the first time, and everything is finally okay! Right?
Well Marty wants to go out with a bang, and play something that REALLY cooks. He leaves his parents prom rocking out to Johnny B. Goode, and bolts out the door for the grand finale.
More conflict is a-foot, Marty needs to convince Doc that he has to know about the future or else his life is at stake. This is just a culmination of how epic this film can be. Not only did Marty have to bring his parents back together, but now he has to attempt to save Doc’s life, AND then hopefully make it back to the future.
The music is what really guides this scene. Original compositions of the score done by Alan Silvestri has a much more serious and straight forward tone, but after a ton of notes were given to him by Zemeckis, Silvestri gave the score a more humorous theme. The overall score sometimes satirizes itself as to how absurd the plot gets. This is, most of the time, heard within Doc’s theme. But, by the time the climax begins, the score is full blown epic and serious in tone, and really gives the finale an incredible flow.
Finally, the lightning strikes, Marty gets sent back in time, and Doc reads his note, successfully saving his life. All is well with the world, and Marty can live happily in 1985 with his beautiful girlfriend Jennifer, and a brand new 4×4.
The Story Part 2
After much begging from Universal, Zemeckis finally agreed to make BTTF part 2 and 3 back to back. While I’m not the biggest fan of part 3, I love part 2.
Part 3’s biggest flaws is it’s lack of ingenuity. The unique humor is still there, a different feel from the first two is apparent, but everything feels much more stale in comparison to 1 and 2. The conflicts just aren’t on such a grand scale like 2 (don’t worry I’ll talk about 2 after I vent about 3) and Marty kind of becomes a whiner until the last 20-30 minutes of the film. It’s definitely the weakest of the trilogy, but nonetheless an enjoyable film and a satisfying conclusion.
And the reason I won’t delve into Clara is because I honestly don’t mind her as much as most people. Sure she can be a bit bland sometimes, but that kinda reflects Doc’s main interests. If she was eccentric, and wild like Doc it wouldn’t fit the relationship. She brings him more down to earth and gives him a better balance.
Now that I have that crap out of the way, let’s talk about Back to the Future Part 2 (don’t worry it won’t be that lengthy). Part 2 is one of the most ingenious uses of a sequel, just as great as the climax of the first movie, the score, and everything else in this blog that I’ve been drooling over.
The idea of putting a section of a sequel to take place during the events of the first movie is something that only a time travel film can truly pull off without coming across as cliched or overused. Just like most sequels, the stakes are higher, the sets/locations are on a much grander scale, and the uses of time travel is all over the place.
The over-the-topness of how 2015 looks, Biff’s rise to power, and Marty and Doc traveling to 1955 makes this a very overlooked and unique sequel. Everyone claims the plot is too convoluted and it could be too silly, but I really feel those people just don’t grasp the concept of how amazing the time travel was used in this one. Ignore the spoofing of the ’80s pop culture, and the extreme costume, and you get a wonderful sequel that, to me, is much better than the straight forward Part 3. I still get chills every time i see Marty climbing across the scaffolding while he sees himself playing Johnny B Goode down below. It’s just a fun movie plain and simple with amazing uses of technology well beyond its years.
On one last note, one of the biggest reasons I remain a loyal lover for this trilogy is the decency of the creators to love their work as much as they do. Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis have written contracts that only they can approve of any adaptations of the film that people want to create. They know it doesn’t merit a Part 4 or a remake or any form of money grabbing scheme Universal wants them to do. Henceforth, Back to the Future can remain as one of the lone great properties that will hopefully forever remain untouched and unscathed by Hollywood.
I know, this was a long one, and I really hope I was able to justify why I love these movies so much. Without Back to the Future, I really doubt I’d be into time travel is much as i am now, and it probably would have been another 4-5 years before I decided that my life HAD to involve film in some way shape or form. Much to my mother’s chagrin, it happened sooner than later thanks to Marty & Doc.