johnlink ranks BACK TO THE FUTURE (1985)

Arrived in Maine and started to get situated. I left my family behind and came up to try and find a place to live. In the meantime, I am camping out on this island and having a swell time. Can’t say I’m roughing it though. I did watch BACK TO THE FUTURE on my laptop in a tent.


I watched BACK TO THE FUTURE (1985) on 8.22.14. It was my fourth viewing of the film, and first in probably a decade.

Some 80s films are very dated. Their references are less than popular now. Their music is silly. Their clothing is sillier. Their teenagers are often annoying. The parents are stupid and obtuse.

BACK TO THE FUTURE should have some of these trappings. Yet, almost a full thirty years later, it does not. Thanks to the atmosphere set by Director Robert Zemeckis, this is a fun world where nothing feels out of place. Even having young people play themselves as adults (Lea Thompson and Crispin Glover) should fail. But the world is so true to itself, that it works. It is the rare movie that can walk the line of comedy, sci-fi, gimmicky settings, and action. Yet this movie inexplicably pulls it off.

The story, if you have yet to find this series has a young seventeen year old named Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) going back in time to 1955 thanks to a time machine invented by his friend Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd). There, Marty encounters his mother (Thompson) who falls for him instead of his Dad (Glover). Marty has to figure out how to get back home, how to reunite his parents, and how to avoid the bully Biff (Thomas F. Wilson).

There are things about this movie which shouldn’t work. The time travel stuff is scientifically laughable. Even if we can’t agree on how cause-and-effect in time travel work, it wouldn’t be how it is presented here with a photograph slowly fading away. Yet this is done in a way which doesn’t detract from the fun at all. Further, it is eye-opening to note the way the 80s dealt with rape as a bothersome thing that a villain might do in a light-hearted PG rated family comedy.


But those things don’t hurt this movie at all. Instead, there is an interesting dynamic that happens now as we look at a movie made in 1985 (now thirty years ago) which considers an era thirty years prior to its contemporaneous setting. It is interesting how far from Utopia this film’s 1985 was. Businesses are closed all over the place, Marty’s neighborhood is covered in graffiti, everyone is drinking Pepsi Free, and jerks are running the show. Marty has to go back thirty years and fix things so that his 1985 can be the perfect world. There really is more to this movie than meets the eye!

The makeup in this is quite good. Thompson and Glover play their parts with a certain cheesy showmanship which, again, should not work. It is a miracle that Zemeckis managed to combine all of this eccentricity, oddball humor, and incest-centered comedy and managed to mine gold from it. There is also not enough credit given to the way Fox, only 24 when this movie was made, drives this thing with constant energy and power. He really does anchor this film.

The script is really smart as well. If you were running a class on how to set up and pay off jokes, this is a script you should be teaching. Some of these are obvious (like Biff having the same conversation with Marty’s Dad in both eras) and others are nuanced (like the Twin Pine Mall turning into the Lone Pine Mall after Marty runs over one of the trees in 1955). While Zemeckis works magic on this film, the script deserves a whole lot of credit for being as smart as it is (even if the time travel stuff is a copout).

I didn’t realize how much I both like and respect BACK TO THE FUTURE  before this viewing. It really is a wonderful marriage of smart, funny, and entertaining. I can’t wait to see how the other two hold up…




FINAL SCORE: 8.25 out of 10

~ by johnlink00 on August 23, 2014.

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