Back to the Future (1985)

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Back to the Future (1985)

Post  BoG on Sun Mar 07, 2010 1:03 pm

Well, this was the biggest box office hit of the year - 1985 - and maybe it tells us something: combine a classic sci-fi plot involving time travel with comedy and you get a huge hit. But, it's not that simple; like many sci-fi films around this time, this emulated the Spielberg method, which was a golden touch for Hollywood back then. Director Robert Zemeckis may have added his own zest and zing to the proceedings, but it still copied Spielberg - almost an "aw gee whiz" approach to crowd-pleasing entertainment.
There aren't too many time travel movies around after the seventies, mainly because The Time Machine (1960), The Time Travelers (1964) and Time After Time (1979) films pretty much covered the subject. And, "Star Trek" used up the premise in its TV episodes and films, and there was even that "Time Tunnel" TV series in the mid-sixties. One option was to do such a movie with humor, pointing out the potentially absurd ramifications of traveling to your own past. So the main character of Marty McFly (Fox) ends up meeting his own parents when they were his age. Though this is a relatively tame comedy as far as teenage comedies of the eighties, there is the risky Oedipal element of Marty's own mother having the hots for him. This concept is then tossed aside near the end when, in a rather lame scene, his mom stops her advances because she suddenly feels like she's kissing her own brother. Disney (who passed on this) should have went with this after all - it's possibly the least offensive picture of the decade and probably also explains its huge popularity - everyone could enjoy it.
What elevates this above the common film are a few things: Crispin Glover's performance as Marty's father, both in younger & older incarnations, is deliriously eccentric; where everyone else is kind of in TV-movie mode, he's off in his own zone and hard to forget. There's an energy to the entire story thrust (from director Zemeckis), helped by Fox, who always seems anxious about something. The concept of time travel itself gets a clever redux here; we find out you can actually change reality in the present by your actions in the past - there's no mention of creating a parallel universe, for example. The ending is pretty strong, throwing in an extra whammy when we think things are over and everything is back to exactly the way it was. And it's very entertaining to watch Marty explore the fifties - we see through his eyes - the culture shock and making various connections between the older and new decades is a nice routine. There were also a couple of wildly funny moments involving Marty dressed up as an alien from outer space. BoG's Score: 8.5 out of 10.  The sequels were in 1989 and 1990. Doc Brown (Lloyd), Marty's mom (Lea Thompson) and big bully Biff (Thomas F. Wilson) would all return, but Crispin Glover would not reprise his role.
Trivia to the Future: Eric Stoltz was originally cast as Marty McFly and was fired just after filming began. There remains one quick shot of him in the film in an early scene, when McFly leaps into the DeLorean vehicle. The DeLorean needs to get to 88 mph to time shift. In early roles as Biff's henchmen are Billy Zane and Casey Siemazsko, who both went on to lengthy film careers; they would reprise their roles in the 1989 sequel.
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