“Back to the Future” hails as one of cinemas most recognizable movies; a blockbuster when it exploded into the theaters in the summer of 1985, and a mainstay as one of the best films you will ever watch.
“Back to the Future” is the signature piece for filmmaker Robert Zemeckis, who was shockingly just 33 years old at the time, and has since boasted two sequels (both unwatchable) theme park rides, and a measly billion dollars in profits.
The story is one of the most famous to tackle the often-used theme of time travel, but does so in a comical and non-scientific sort of way. Its cast flawlessly; no better actors could have possibly been selected for the leading roles, and also contains multiple stop, rewind, rewatch scenes scattered from start to finish.
The atmosphere of the story brings the viewer back in time as well – to the 1980s – with shopping malls and theaters, clunky camcorders, fashion, vernacular, and even the time machine itself – the gaudy sports car the DeLorean, with gull-wing doors and flashing nonsensical computers, and the 1950s soda shop diner and American innocence.
One of cinemas most enjoyable pairings of talent comes in the form of Doctor (Doc) Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd) and high school musician and slacker Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox). The bond between these two is real, and one can tell that each actor has a fondness for the other off set as well. There is no legitimate reason that the wide-eyed wild-haired scientist would be best friends with a high school student – and we’re all the better not knowing how the buds became buds.
Christopher Lloyd’s debut came a decade prior in the classic “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest” but the role of Doctor Emmett Brow is easily his best and most identifiable character. Michael J. Fox blossomed into a megastar in the 80s, with the Marty McFly character being his first as well. Its interesting that the lead role almost fell to actor Eric Stoltz, with Zemeckis’ top choice Fox being committed to the television series ‘Family Ties.’ Many scenes were filmed with Stoltz in the role of Marty McFly before a unanimous decision was made that he just didn’t fit the part. By this time Michael J. Fox was able to accept and the rest is history.
An opening slow pan shot reveals Doc Brown’s lab and his innovative though seldom working inventions. We get the sense that Doc Brown is eccentric and well meaning in his scientific attempts, and when he reveals to Marty his latest invention – a time traveling sports car – we can actually believe he has finally succeeded with a breakthrough. “Where the hell are they?” Marty asks after the car and Doc’s dog vanish on the initial test run. “The appropriate question is when the hell are they!” Doc replies with a smile.
The catalyst of the story occurs when Marty travels back to 1955 and inadvertently interferes with his parents first meeting and subsequent falling love, getting married, and having children. Marty’s feisty young mother Lorraine (Lea Thompson) winds up crushing over Marty and thus endangering McFly history. “Doc, are you trying to tell me that my mother…has got the hots for me?”
The film successfully highlights two very distinctive periods in time – the mid 80s and the mid 50s, where Marty befriends his pathetic nerdy father George (Crispin Glover) and draws the ire of school bully and McFly personal tormentor Biff (Thomas F. Wilson). Marty must work his charm with women to successfully get George and Lorraine together, or risk himself having never been born.
“Back to the Future” has excellent replay value, from its continuous loop of humorous moments, like 1955 Doc Brown disbelieving that Ronald Reagan is the current president, or young Loraine referring to Marty as Calvin Klein because the designer’s name is written all over his underwear. Robert Zemeckis includes numerous Easter Eggs and subtle changes that you may not pick up the first time you watch, which is fine as its a perfect excuse to watch it again and again.
“Back to the Future” is an outstanding movie on all fronts and can easily be enjoyed by all ages. It ranks as one of my personal top 10 all time favorites, and rightfully sits high in its place in cinematic history.
by – Matt DeCristo