George, Lorraine and Marty McFly.
Back to the Future is one of the best time travel films ever made. The movie opens in 1985, where everything mentioned or even briefly referred to is relevant to the rest of the movie. The film makers covered all their bases to make as concise a time travel movie as possible.
Marty McFly is a skate boarding 17 year old who has high hopes for his band, and a camping trip with his girlfriend. He is also friends with a eccentric scientist, Doc Brown, who instructs him to meet him at a mall parking lot late at night. Marty shows up, but so do some Libyan terrorists. To get away from them, Marty jumps into the Delorean, that Doc Brown has turned into a time machine, and he ends up in 1955. Once there, he looks up the young Doc Brown to help him get back to the future. Before doing so however, he runs into both his father and mother, who are then his same age. His father is a shy science fiction writer, while his mother is smitten with Marty, not realizing he is her future son.
The first time I watched Back to the Future, it took me on a nice trip to the 50s. The songs, clothes, cars and pop culture references were all nostalgic from a world I never knew, but had heard about from my parents. It still does that, but now it also takes me back to 1985. This movie features songs, clothes, cars and pop culture references from the 80s. Fox wears a vest early in the movie that is mistaken for a life preserver by the folks in 1955. That type of outerwear was very popular in the 80s. There is also a scene where Fox is at a diner counter and asks the guy to, "Give me a tab." The man behind the counter responds, "Tab? I can't give you a tab unless you order something." That scene made absolutely no sense to my 16 year old who had never heard of a Tab soda or a Tab as an IOU. The movie also created a catch phrase that lasted for several years. "Yo McFly!" Became a taunt, just as Biff says to George.
Fox is the star and is in nearly every scene. He plays it all straight and does a decent job, but it is however, the rest of the cast that really make this movie work. Lloyd is hilarious as Doc Brown. His questions about the future gravitational pull, and his facial expressions steal many scenes. He provides this movie with most of it's laughs. I think he should have earned a supporting actor nomination. If Whoopi Goldberg could get one for Ghost, then Lloyd certainly deserved one for this.
The heart of the movie lies in the hands of Crispin Glover as Marty's picked on father. As Marty is playing the hero and getting all the attention, it is George McFly who earns your pity and eventual respect. His character has the greatest story arc, and two of the best lines. Under Marty's instructions, George approaches his future wife and nervously says, "I'm George, George McFly. I'm your density. I mean... your destiny." Later in the movie he finally stands up to the bully Biff, "Hey, you! Get your damn hands off her!" You really cannot help but root for George.
Back to the Future has many memorable scenes and situations. The awkward scenes of Marty and his mother smack of incest, but are not at all offensive. The way in which George and Lorraine eventually get together is not forced. The one and only scene that gave me to pause was when Marty sings Johnny Be Good at the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance. He is in a hurry to get to the clock tower, but has time to sing a song? The scene is played for laughs, but it would not have hurt to cut it. The next scene has him arrive at the clock and Doc Brown questions him on how he had time to change clothes. It is not a bad scene, although Fox is a bad singer, it just seemed unnecessary in an other wise very tightly paced film. It is a minor point in an otherwise perfect piece of celluloid entertainment.
Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future.
Okay, first off I can hardly believe that it has been 25 years since this movie was released! It's been almost as long since it came out as Marty travels backward in time! Christ I feel really, really old all of a sudden. As you referred to Eric, when Marty goes back in time everything about the fifties is supposed to seem odd and quaint, only now so do the eighties.
You're also right Eric about everything that gets mentioned in the beginning of the movie playing a part later. In fact, it happens so much that it's almost laughable. You don't have to wonder if something mentioned will be come back into it because all of it does. One cute little reference that I never picked up before is that the name of the mall where the Delorean goes back in time is named Twin Pines Mall at the beginning of the film, but when Marty goes back to the fifties he hits and kills a pine tree so that when he returns to the future the mall is now named Lone Pine Mall. It's only there if you notice it, but it's a nice little Easter egg if you do.
Another thing that I never noticed before, possibly because I hadn't watched it in years, is just how much the movie is one giant oedipus complex. I mean Marty's mother is sexually attracted to him and his father looks up to him as a better man. It couldn't be any more blatant.
Crispin Glover and Christopher Lloyd are both standouts, but I think you downplay Michael J. Fox's contribution, Eric. Sure, he's often the straight man to the zany antics of the supporting cast, but he's the glue that holds it all together. He's likable and believable in the part. Just FYI Eric, that's not really him singing at the end of the film in the scene you felt wasn't needed. I didn't mind it, sure maybe it could have been trimmed a little, but the whole movie is so well paced that I didn't feel as though this scene slowed it down in anyway.
It's been so long since this movie was released that I'm only surprised that a remake isn't already in the works. In this one Marty would be going back to the 1980s. It would never be as good as the original, but that's certainly never stopped Hollywood from remaking movies in the past.
Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future.
I too enjoyed seeing this movie again after many years. It holds up well as it features a talented cast and was cleverly written with all the loose ends being tied into one big bow by the end. For a fantasy time-travel movie it is well thought out.
One thing that stood out now is just how quaint and old-fashioned the 1950s are shown to be. The farm family that discovers Marty after he crashes into their barn, for example, acts like they have never seen a car before. Sure it is futuristic looking compared to the cars they would have been familiar with but surely they would have been able to recognize it as a car.
I thought the town looked familiar. It was the same back lot they used for the town in Gremlins. Both of which are now classic 80s movies. Another interesting piece of trivia is that this movie marked the debut of Billy Zane. He plays Match one of Biffs’ teenaged cohorts. I liked how they subtly represented the changes in race relations that took place between the 1950s and 1980s. In 1985 the town has a black mayor whereas in 1955 it was inconceivable.
The Oedipus angle never crosses the line of good taste. Just when it almost begins to make the audience squirm they pull back from it. Lea Thompson is very good and she is the only one that acts different as a teenager than as an adult. Both George and Biff have exactly the same personalities at 17 as they did at 47 at the beginning of the movie. Eric is right however that George gets the biggest emotional arc.
This movie takes you on an exciting adventure that mixes nostalgia with laughs. The scene where Marty pretends to be an alien in order to convince his dad to ask his mom out to the dance is hilarious. “Last night, Darth Vader came down from planet Vulcan and told me that if I didn't take Lorraine out that he'd melt my brain.”
I also agree that Christopher Lloyd steals many scenes. He and Fox make a great comedy team. I like how he channels Dr. Frankenstein when he excitedly hollers, “It works! It works!”
Back to the Future was the highest grossing movie of 1985. It remains as entertaining today as it did way back when that actor Ronald Reagan was president. I wonder if the sequels hold up as well?
Photos © Copyright Universal Pictures (1985)