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Back to the Future Trilogy Blu-ray: US vs UK Version

Updated on May 6, 2011

As a long-time fanatic of Back to the Future, I didn’t think it would be possible to be disappointed by the 25th Anniversary Blu-ray release. Little did I know that the North American set is shoddily slapped together and shockingly inferior to the U.K. version. At the end of the day it is the movies that matter. However, fans in the U.S. and Canada need to be aware that the U.K. version discs works just fine on a region A player. You have a choice, so why settle for a second-rate product?

The U.S. disks... silk-screened by amateurs.
The U.S. disks... silk-screened by amateurs.

Why the U.S. Release Sucks

You may wonder how the U.S. packaging could possibly be bad enough to warrant such a rant. After all, the embossed cover looks really appealing. Think of it like a turd wrapped in a candy shell. It looks great on the outside so it flies off the shelves. Once you open it, the realization that you were ripped off by the fine people at Universal Studios sets in.

The outer case opens up at the front like a book revealing the special features. At this point things still look promising. Inside the slip case is another (redundant) cover that looks identical to the first except that it lacks embossing. It opens up to reveal a trifold case with one Blu-ray disc and one digital copy on each of the three sections. This is when the disappointment kicks in. The discs look they were silkscreened by dazed High School kids. The one-colour printing job reminds me of the earliest, bargain DVDS.

Behind the main Blu-ray discs are digital copies. In my eyes digital copies on physical discs is horribly obsolete. No one I have talked to cares about having these extra discs included as watching a motion picture on an iPhone is an exercise in futility (unless traveling). Even if you did want to do it, correctly formatted video can easily be extracted from the main disc with software like DVDFab. It’s obvious that the film studios like to maintain the illusion that they are in control. Ripping a Blu-ray that you legally purchased shifts too much of the power into the hands of the consumer.

Now, we come to the truly annoying, frustrating “feature” of this set. Through a feat of modern engineering they made it astonishingly difficult to remove the discs from the case. One wrong move by a drunken friend can result in a broken disc and a worthless Blu-ray set. Folks on youtube have posted videos instructing others how to safely remove the discs. If that is necessary, it’s clear that they’ve made it too difficult. Amaray cases perfected DVD storage long ago, so it is pretty pathetic that they’ve managed to fobble it up in 2010.

Ahhhh... that's better.
Ahhhh... that's better.

Why the U.K. Release is Vastly Superior

The outer case looks similar to the U.S. version except this it has an eye-popping metallic finish that really makes the Back to the future logo pop. Once you open it up, you are greeted by a visual feast that trumps the U.S release in every way. It is a quad fold case. The first section includes a colour booklet, while the other three each contain a Blu-ray disc. There are no digital copies which to me is an advantage. They are next to useless for most people 99 percent of the time and yet manage to compromise the presentation in the U.S. version. Getting rid of the digital copies all together was a good decision.

The Blu-ray discs look terrific and truly make the U.S. discs look lame by comparison. Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) is featured on each disc wearing different garb to reflect the themes of the movies. My only complaint is that rating logos clutter up the design. Arbitrary laws imposed by the government are to blame so it’s not fair to blame the studio for this point. Behind the discs is blue-tinted eye candy from the films. The background artwork complements the discs perfectly.

The discs are situated on a standard spindle. People in the U.K. are sure to take this for granted but after struggling with the discs in the U.S. packaging, it makes all the difference in the world.

The Verdict

In the days of the internet we live in a global society. We are no longer limited to purchasing what is offered to us in a close geographical area. For this reason, there is no conceivable reason to choose the U.S. release over the U.K. version unless you are in love with digital copies. With PAL and NTSC standards out the window, more and more Blu-ray discs work with players anywhere in the world. The U.K. version of Back to the Future is region-free. Don’t hesitate to take advantage of this new ability.

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