Title: Back to the Future
Genre: Time Travel Comedy
Watched: March 29, 2011
Summary: Still a jewel box of a script.
Because my second novel is about time travel, I’ve been trying to read and watch (or re-watch) as many time travel books and films as I can (not that I haven’t previously mined the genre). Although I’ve probably seen BTTF 15 times, it’s been a few years, more than 10 for sure.
I bought the new blu-ray Anniversary Trilogy too. This is a NICE restoration. The film looks as good as it did when I saw it right after getting back from summer camp in 1985, maybe better. And this was a slick slick film at the time. Really, other than a bit of noticeable rotoscoping, it could be a 2011 film.
Except it’s a lot better. The script and the editing make sense!
Because this is a few years before Top Gun would precipitate the precipitous marketing-driven decline of filmmaking, BTTF is simultaneously incredibly commercial and incredibly good. This script, by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, is tight tight tight. I can only imagine how many passes it underwent because there is not one line out of place. You all know the story, but if you watch it again pay attention to how in the first 5 minutes everything you need to know is setup. Marty’s parents met in 1955 when Grandpa hit George McFly was his car (“We never did understand what he was doing on that road anyway.” Lorraine says). They go to the “Enchantment under the Sea Dance.” That same year Doc Brown got the idea for the time machine. Libyans have stolen some plutonium, it’s under Doc’s bed. In the next 5 minutes Doc teaches us everything we need to know about the time machine. Bang bang, all the ducks are lined up.
Then all this setup pays off over the next hour and a half. Every line. When we see that George McFly is in the road because he was a peeping tom and falls out of the tree, it’s oh so much funnier knowing that this is how he met his wife. And knowing that, when Marty screws up that meeting… changes are set in motion. Changes he has to fix. The parallelism between the present (1985) and past (1955) are contrived and slapstick but a joy to watch. We here about Uncle Joey in jail in the present, we get the “get used to that view” wisecrack about baby Joey behind the crib bars. We’re used to it now, we’ve seen it a lot of times, but this is a clever clever script.
And the casting couldn’t be better. For this kind of lovable goofball, Michael J. Fox is deservedly beloved. Christopher Lloyd steals the show with his over the top Doc (“Thank God I’ve still got my hair!”). Lea Thompson is a babe as Marty’s mom. Great writing great acting, what more could we want? And we have top notch production, music, and effects too. None of it looks dated on blu-ray.
Very interesting now, 25 years later, realizing that the 1985 of the story is almost as far back in time now as the 1955 was then. And 1955, that’s 56 years ago! Wow. So in a way, that adds an extra time travel jump to the whole thing. Which gets even more amusing when we pick up again with Back to the Future II and it’s 2015 setting!
LOL Where are the hoverboards?