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Film Review: Back to the Future

Updated on December 4, 2015

Background

In 1985, Robert Zemeckis released Back to the Future, based upon a thought by producer Bob Gale of whether or not he would have befriended his father had they attended school together. Starring Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover, Thomas F. Wilson, Claudia Wells, James Tolkan, Marc McClure, and Wendie Jo Sperber, the film grossed $389.1 million at the box office. Nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Original Screenplay, Best Original Song, and Best Sound Mixing, the film won the award for Best Sound Effects Editing, the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, and the Saturn Awards for Best Science Fiction Film.

Synopsis

Teenager Marty McFly accidentally sends himself from 1985 to 1955 in a time machine that his friend, Doc Brown, built out of a DeLorean. Stuck in the past, he needs 1.21 gigawatts to get home as well as make his parents fall back in love.

Review

A great and enjoyable film, Back to the Future is quite possibly the most notable time travel movie there is, considering all the celebrations of the series there were in October 2015. As the one that started it all, this film certainly does establish its use of series-defining time travel jokes and tropes, demonstrating that the ripple effect of how changing the past affects the future even in the smallest details, such as the film’s mall. In the beginning of the film, Doc is holding his experiment at Twin Pines Mall and he mentions it used to be farmland, known as Twin Pines Ranch, belonging to Old Man Peabody. As Marty flees the farmer and his shotgun, he drives over a pine tree. Thus in the future, it becomes Lone Pine Mall. And with all the time travel, it becomes a very tight film, seeing as nothing exists to just exist. Everything that happens serves to foreshadow and set up later events. Before Marty even goes to Twin Pines Mall, he’s given a flyer by a woman attempting to raise money to save the clock tower. He just so happens to have all the information he needs later on that will help him get back to 1985 in his pocket when Doc freaks out about generating 1.21 gigawatts. There’s also Lorraine telling the kids that if George hadn’t been hit with her father’s car before the dance, then none of them would have been born. Initially, it feels like a filler conversation, only serving to show that the romance has gone out of Lorraine and George’s marriage. Turns out it sets up half the plot. And when Doc asks for confirmation that George actually stood up to Biff, it shows that he’s realizing that the timeline may have been so altered that his reading of Marty’s letter may not have as drastic effects than he initially thought. His response of “what the hell” when Marty asks about it could just have been the simplest way of explaining it.

Interestingly too, Doc in 1955 calls the time machine the only invention of his that ever worked. However, his fuming over the large mind reading device may have caused him to miss that it could have been a partial success that needed a bit of tweaking. The great distance part is true, seeing how he came 30 years from the future, but other than that it seems jumbled. But with Marty not in the best state of mind and his head swimming about being in the past, his mind is all over the place, so the question that he wants Doc to buy a subscription to the Saturday Evening Post could refer to how he used a newspaper to verify that he’s in the past and the other suggestion that he wants Doc to make a donation to the Coast Guard Youth Auxiliary refers to how everyone thought he was a sailor due to his vest.

And with the help of Marty, George gets some wonderful character development. He starts off the film as a timid nerd more comfortable with watching or writing science fiction than social interaction and actually tries to spy on Lorraine through a window since he’s unable to tell her what he really feels. But with Marty’s help, he manifests his desires and is able to walk up and talk to her, though he’s stopped by Biff. However, being able to take the first step and talk to her helps in the climax when he can stand up to the guy as he realizes she’s in trouble and it’s the culmination of George overcoming his insecurities. It’s the chivalry he displays following when he asks Lorraine if she’s ok and helping her up that helps her realize she likes him. The kiss later, after he pushes away the guy who tried to cut in, ensures that he’s no longer going to be a doormat as well as creating a triumphant conclusion to the problem of Marty and his family’s future disappearing.

5 stars for Back to the Future

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