Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Back to the Future: Second thoughts

If you're going to make a car into a time machine, do it with style. And always pack spare stolen plutonium.

GOTTA GET BACK IN TIME to write up full second thoughts!

There have been a lot of things to analyze in the movies so far. Not this time. I don't know if it's a positive or a negative that Back to the Future delivers the whole plot on a tray before it's 15 minutes in, but either way there weren't going to be any surprises. I came into the movie knowing practically nothing and I could still say "he's going back in time, to the dance, he's going to change history, run into his parents, it'll be 30 years ago, the night of the clock tower" and so on.

No surprises, therefore (until he started disappearing anyway, and some of how the ending plays out) but a lot of good fun. The lead, Marty, is charismatic and likeable when put into an awkward situation; there's a lot of good-natured, stress-free action backed by a theme that sounds more appropriate for blasting off into outer space than outskateboarding a truck full of bullies; and the humor is vastly inappropriate in a way that isn't crude but just so so so AWKWARD. Just about everything in the movie put a smile on my face, from George's swaggering "GIMME A MILK" to Doc Brown's mad wacky crazy eyes to Lorraine being a closet rebel with a hugely imappropriate cause.

This will never be a great movie. It's too broad and puts all the pieces in place so far before the story that the actual plot isn't the carrier. Instead it was just me knowing what could come of what was laid out and clutching my side in pain and laughter as it all played out. So there's no criticism here, it just kind of starts slow and is mainly a comedy. I liked it a lot. The characters are mostly used well - I understand why Jennifer gets left behind, even though it's a bit unfortunate, but the one surprise to me was the principal. He knew both McFly boys, I was sure he'd have a larger role to play in being a pain. I also thought, when we were introduced to Lorraine's family, that they might kick around a bit more, but I'm glad they didn't. The story didn't need them, didn't need George's family, it worked with who was there.

There are undoubtedly a lot of references that just swooped right over my head. I'd love to be familiar enough to go back and see them and get an even bigger (and hopefully by that time less painful) chuckle. I did figure that they would show the parents as flawed and human - George actually misses the mark here, he's such a noodle and WHAT IS WITH THAT HAIR - but I think it's awesome that Lorraine's actually a driving force in the film. She's the troublemaker par excellence - she's looking for a bad boy, opportunities to rebel, a bit of intrigue, and she actually chases them. Which is horrifying in context but hilarious. :D

I've got to ask, though - what do the changes in the past mean for Marty's present? He would have been raised differently by a more confident father and a mother who doesn't feel like she settled. Did that change his personality, or did being in the past keep him in a bubble? He certainly didn't realize his family would be like that. Also, does George still believe that Darth Vader commanded him into the rest of his life? That would be sad, hilarious and completely in character - behind that slick exterior I'm betting the man's still some form of pasta.

Anyway, that's it for Back to the Future, until I'm persuaded to look at the sequels. In the meantime, looking ahead to more Star Trek and then Conan the Barbarian, all I can say is: where we're going, we don't need roads! BRRRZRRRRM!!!


  1. Alien/Aliens
    Predator/Predator 2
    Monty Python and the Holy Grail
    Monty Python's Life of Brian

    Do you have a list somewhere that we all can add to (and get curated by your friends for order)?

  2. There's a tab above the post called "The Big List." It's filled with alphabetized recommendations. All of those films are there.

  3. Okay so... the writer of this series had a lot to say about how time travel worked, but the gist of it is, when Marty returned to his home "time," he took the place of the Marty who was raised by the more confident and successful George. It was not a full displacement, but a slow, gradual change. Like how his family was slowly disappearing from the photo, that's how Marty's "new" memories would come to him, over a course of days until he WAS that new Marty, with more vague memories of his original life.

    Call it... temporal inertia. Or super-time. There's a sense of cause and effect in the universe that interacts with laws of physics that were impossible to observe before Doc invented time travel.

  4. In my opinion, all the setup in the first 15 minutes is definitely positive. It's a remarkably succinct way of setting up a problem that has a solution to work towards.

    Yeah, George is still a noodle, but at least now he's got some meatballs.

  5. I think you'll enjoy the sequels, and they actually form a very coeherent whole. If you intend to see them I would recommend seeing part II earlier than later, but III can wait.

  6. You should at least check out the second film. Firstly, it has a lot of pop culture references. Almost as many of the first film, actually. And secondly, it's next year!!

  7. "This will never be a great movie. It's too broad and puts all the pieces in place so far before the story that the actual plot isn't the carrier."
    Bzzzt. First time your opinion is objectively wrong on this blog here. Objectively I say! This is a very great movie with its theme of *your parents were just as dumb kids as you are now back in the day*. That's one of the most important things to realize in life, especially for children and teenagers. BttF1 executes this universal concept well while wrapped up in an entertaining scifiish coating, which is what makes this one of the great movies of everything ever.


    1. Yeah, well... I think my particular viewpoint sort of skews how I read the movie, you know? Just because it's about parents and... yeah. I liked it a lot, it's definitely a really fun movie, but I was hoping to be a bit more surprised and a bit less ready for most of it. Comes down to what you like in a movie, I guess.

  8. I think a lot of the stuff that's really good in this movie (and in the sequels) is seeing all the references *within* the movie itself, where you can see how they changed the past. The one that comes to mind immediately is the fact that at the beginning of the movie, they are testing the DeLorean in the parking lot of the "Twin Pines Mall," but at the end, it's the "Lone Pine Mall" because Marty drove straight through one of the trees when he was escaping from the farm. There's a lot of little stuff like that in the movies if you pay attention.