BACK TO THE FUTURE TRILOGY
Review by Michael Jacobson
Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Thomas F. Wilson,
Elizabeth Shue, Mary Steenburgen
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Features: See Review
Length: 344 Minutes
Release Date: December 17, 2002
"So tell me, Future Boy, who's President of the United States in 1985?"
Reagan? The ACTOR?!"
Back to the Future ***1/2
year was 1985. Michael J. Fox was a
young actor who had earned television acclaim for his role on the television
sitcom Family Ties. Christopher
Lloyd was a veteran who had earned similar fame for his role on the sitcom Taxi.
Robert Zemeckis was an up and coming director whose film Used Cars
was earning a reputation as a cult comedy classic.
And Steven Spielberg was…well, Steven Spielberg.
four talents would unite to produce a time travel comic fantasy called Back
to the Future. And Back to
the Future would soon become the year's runaway box office smash and one
of the decade's most popular and enduring films…and, of course, the start of
remember being 16 years old and having the time of my life seeing this movie
over and over again. Why?
What was it about this time travel picture that made it stand head and
shoulders above the countless other time travel films Hollywood has churned out
over the years?
starters, the premise, which uses science fiction only enough to get us where we
need to go. Marty McFly (Fox) is a
typical teenager with rock and roll dreams, a girlfriend, and a family that's
a little out there, particularly his nebbish father George (Glover) and his
sullen mother Lorraine (Thompson). His
closest friend is the wild eyed scientist Doctor Emmett Brown (Lloyd), whose
latest excursion is his greatest…building a time machine out of a DeLorean!
fate puts Marty behind the wheel, he ends up in 1955…the ultimate fish out of
water! His only hope of getting
back to the future is the young Doc Brown, who has to rig the time machine to an
upcoming lightning strike in order to give it the power to go back.
Simple enough, but a problem ensues…Marty's presence in the past
accidentally prevents his parents' first meeting:
they therefore never fall in love, and never get married, throwing
Marty's whole existence into cosmic turmoil!
Can Marty play matchmaker to his teenage parents, avoid the wrath of
school bully Biff (Wilson), and make it back to 1985 before his whole future is
movie was and continues to be great fun. Director
and co-writer Robert Zemeckis crafted a unique twist on an old sci-fi standby,
and his energy plus his terrific cast made magic.
Fox and Lloyd are a perfect comic duo in any decade; their timing and
rhythm give their friendship the perfect positive energy, which helps drive the
movie through its remarkable presence. But
also good are Lea Thompson as the epitome of the version of our mothers we
don't want to think about existing, and Thomas F. Wilson as the oafish buffoon
Biff. Crispin Glover made his one and only appearance in the role
of Marty's father George here, and I would always miss him in the later films.
He has an oddball quality that was just perfect for the part.
course, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Marty's rock and roll triumph,
which A) showed how good a guitar player Michael J. Fox really was, and B) made
“Johnny B. Goode” as cool in the 80s as it was in the 50s.
It's one of the sequences that continues to work.
Not all of them pack the same punch after 17 years.
I wonder if modern young audiences even have a clue what Pepsi-Free was?
matter. Back to the Future remains
one of the 80s landmark films, and is just as much fun today as it was when it
hit screens then. A sequel was
a sequel is what we got, four years later.
Robert Zemeckis and crew actually filmed two sequels simultaneously,
designed to round out Marty and Doc's time travel adventures and take them
full circle. Which was fine in
retrospect. At the time, I remember
feeling quite cheated at the deliberate cliffhanger ending of Part II!
the first part ended, the Doc and Marty, along with Marty's girlfriend
Jennifer (played by Elizabeth Shue for the remaining films) were headed forward
in time in their DeLorean (neatly modified for future travel).
The reason? Marty has to
prevent his future son from making a terrible mistake, which also involves the
future offspring of Biff. Doc wants to get Marty to the right time and place so he can
fix the situation, and then get him home, since both have learned how dangerous
it can be to know too much about your future.
there, Marty picks up a sports almanac (awfully thin considering how many years
it's supposed to cover), with the thought of making a few bucks back in the
present time with a well placed wager here and there. But when he gets back, he finds his suburban hometown turned
into a nightmare. Crime is rampant,
his mother is married to Biff, and his father, George, is in the cemetery!
out Marty's almanac fell in the hands of the aged Biff of the future, who took
the DeLorean back to 1955 to put it in the hands of his teenage counterpart.
Now, in 1985, Biff is the richest man in town, and the town is all the
worse off for it!
only hope of restoring the future is to go back once again to 1955 and retrieve
the almanac from young Biff before any damage is done.
This leads to the delightful complication of two Martys running around in
1955, and two Doc Browns as well!
picture leads to a deliberate cliffhanger, forcing fans to await the third
installment. That bit of
manipulation aside, I think I, like most audiences, was a little taken aback by
the darkness of Part II. Though
it was still a marvel to look at, and imaginative, there was very little fun to
be had. The stakes seemed higher
this time around, and the worlds Marty and Doc found themselves in were
surprisingly unpleasant given the nature of the first film.
was only left to hope that it would all work out in the end…
to the Future Part III ***
in the end, Marty went back even further in time to try to rescue Doc from the
Old West when a malfunction with the time machine trapped him there.
Though he makes it there in good shape, the DeLorean rips a fuel line.
How will the pair ever make it back when gasoline won't be invented for
decades, and no way to get the car up to the right speed for time travel?
there is another problem. Marty
returns with the news that Biff's ancestor, Mad Dog (Wilson again), will shoot
Doc Brown in a few days' time in a dispute over some money!
Can Marty prevent this tragedy from happening, save his OWN neck from the
wrath of Mad Dog, and get back to the future?
And when Doc falls in love with the new local schoolmarm (Steenburgen),
will he even WANT to go back?
to the fun and magic of the first movie. Though
it's not quite as fresh the third time around, the spirits are higher and the
laughs have returned. Fox and Lloyd
continue to work wonders with their chemistry, even though by this picture's
year, 1990, it was getting a little weird to keep hearing 1985 referred to as
the present date. And though
Zemeckis may have cheated audiences with the ending of Part II, there is
no cheat with the finale of the trilogy. Part
III ends triumphantly and appropriately.
retrospect, watching the three films together as a trilogy is a more satisfying
experience than seeing the sequels spaced apart in their original theatrical
run. There is less time to feel the
bitterness of Part II before picking up with Part III.
The flow between those films works perfectly when viewed one after
characters, fun premises, plenty of time travel and lots of movie magic…it's
no wonder fans keep going Back to the Future time and time again.
Lewis not only croons “Power of Love” in the first movie, he also makes an
appearance as a rather geeky looking teacher…keep an eye out for it!
did an impressive job in bringing these movies to DVD…the anamorphic
widescreen transfers make the films look brighter and cleaner than any previous
home video version I had seen! Colors
are natural looking, and images are generally sharp and clear with no
distortions or bleedings. Even the
many night scenes come across with cleanness and integrity…only a few shots
here and there seem a tad murky, but nothing distracting.
By the time you get to Part III, rest assured, everything is
running on all cylinders. High
the 5.1 mixes for the movies are well done.
The .1 channel and the rear stage are used mostly for special effects
sequences, but sometimes you'll hear even simple acoustical tricks like reverb
and echo in back of you to open up the listening experience.
The dialogue is mostly on the front stage, and even it is mixed up a
little from time to time, using the left and right channels instead of just the
center. The spoken words are clean
and clear, but the contrast between the bigger audio sequences and the dialogue
oriented ones make the talking sound just a tad thin by comparison.
Dynamic range is fairly strong…when Marty hits his power chord at the
beginning of the first movie, it's never sounded so strong!
extras are plentiful, but I have to admit, I was a little disappointed to learn
that the rumor of commentary tracks including Robert Zemeckis, Michael J. Fox
and Christopher Lloyd was only that—a rumor.
All three films contain commentary tracks by co-writer and producer Bob
Gale and producer Neil Canton. They
are good and informative listens, but oh, what fun it would have been to listen
to the other three!
the discs aren't completely missing their contributions.
Michael J. Fox discusses his experience on the trilogy in fresh interview
footage on disc one, accessible through a special icon that pops up during the
movie from time to time for about the first 25 minutes or so (click fast!).
“Making the Trilogy” is spread over all three discs, and contains new
interviews with cast and crew for discussions of the movies.
Original production featurettes are also included.
Robert Zemeckis joins Gale for a live Q&A session track for each
are also some behind-the-scenes segments involving the special effects from
Industrial Light and Magic, designing the DeLorean, make-up, testing the
hoverboard, storyboards and production designs, archives including photos,
conceptual art, marketing materials and props, and a pair of music videos for
Huey Lewis and the News' “Power of Love” and ZZ Top's “Double Back”.
Rounding out are outtakes for each film, deleted scenes, and an
“animated anecdotes” feature that allows you to peruse trivia and fun facts
while watching the movies. The third disc also includes a FAQ for the series, where the
creators address some of the fans' most pressing questions (mostly about time
travel anomalies). Their answers
are pretty good for the most part.