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Masterpiece Memo: Back to the Future

I simply could not resist again pouring my nostalgic words out about a film I have written about before. And you would have to go as far back as Marty McFly did when you first saw Back to the Future at the cinema. Right? Now 30 years on, this, for me and many others I am sure, has not lost any of it’s appeal. It may even mean more now, as we seemingly change as the movies we love get older but evolve in a different way. From our perspective or their place in cinema’s history. Movies you watch when you were a kid. Then a teenager. And an adult. Again and again. I have no idea how many times I have seen Back to the Future. Never got bored, always entertained. From boy to man I can firmly say this is why we go to the cinema. You might say, without trying to be funny, it has not really aged. And if it has, then aged like a favorite wine. I’m sure I said that about Raiders Of The Lost Ark too not long ago. That’s for another write-up altogether.

Watching Back to the Future even now, in my late thirties, I am still enthralled and impressed by the whole time-travel scenario in a small town. And you can probably find me saying aloud every ten minutes how brilliant this movie still is. Scratch that, every five minutes. Two minutes? This come down to the fact that is not just a damn good adventure, but a genuinely funny comedy. I am driven along for the ride, sure, and I am laughing as we go. And how many movies have we seen since 1985 about the acclimatizing to the a vastly altered or unfamiliar time? And how many execute it as well as Back to the Future? It is still refreshingly compelling to see Marty, for the most part, discover elements that would blow your mind, like seeing you younger father or mother, like how your hometown has changed (or not), like the changes in television (“What’s a re-run?”), music, or everyday language (“heavy”). 

Knowing how it will all work out (if slightly differently for Marty when he returns to the “new” future) is no spoiler with repeated viewings, it still carries a weight of originality. He won an Oscar for Forrest Gump (I really, really still don’t want to talk about it), but this might have been Robert Zmeckis’ best piece of directing (barring Who Framed Roger Rabbit). And the music by Alan Silvestri is surely recognized everywhere, and has been ever since. A real uplifting, edge of your seat score. Your internal soundtrack when you are having an inspiring, great day. A perfect fit for such an exuberant journey were the hero’s getaway transport is a skateboard (cool!), and the villain is a family friend in the end (aww!). A special shout out to Huey Lewis and The Power of Love. You don’t need money, don’t take fame, don’t need no credit card to ride this train. Yeah, good luck getting that out of your head now.

Michael J. Fox’s appeal was obvious, now and looking back, a pleasant enough young every-man, somehow wimpy, but somehow cool. Marty was not perfect, a bit of a goof, clumsy, something of a nerd, yet with a charismatic appeal and genuine, natural likability. And those are just some of the reasons we love him. It is hard to imagine who would have played this part other than Fox if this movie where to be made today. No, we do not need a remake.

I won’t ramble on about the casting, then, just to say that it is pretty spot on. And there is no place or relevance in where they may be now. They were there then. That’s what counts. What really counts. One thing I would say, and this is not necessarily challenging her acting skills or screen presence in any way, but it is a little bit of a shame (for a boy with a ridiculous crush) that Elisabeth Shue was cast in the following two movies. I doubt I am not the only one who preferred Claudia Wells, the original Jennifer. Swings and roundabouts.

As for Christopher Lloyd, this might be the one franchise we all remember him for the most. I find every scene he is in worth paying attention to. And quite naturally I might add – especially when he is perhaps not even speaking dialogue or just hovering wide-eyed in the background. A cracking, classic comedy performance, excitable and energized. His character shows the true comedic impact of going back and forth in time, and the bizarre reality of mad science – even though he made this happen.

My side-note to that, without in any way disrespecting the visual narrative (never!), is how he ages, or does not really age that much, in the 30 years. In fact, he looks almost the same. Or at least, not thirty years older / younger. But, it simply does not matter. Just wish I had some of what he had. Michael J. Fox, too, is older than Crispin Glover, his one-screen dad, and the same age as Lea Thompson, his on-screen mother. Jus’ sayin’.

Of course I saw this back in 1985, and remember my dad saying “Let’s go back to the future” as we got out of the car (not a DeLorean), a lame joke now perhaps, but he was referring to the actual cinema. And I was 8 years old, so that’s okay, and I am sure I laughed. I doubt I actually thought my witty dad was saying this movie I was about to see was the future of cinema. Though, he might have been onto something had he meant that. Like many kids I loved go to the movies, couldn’t wait to get sat down and for the lights to dim. I still get that buzz today.

I do remember, though, after seeing Back to the Future, exactly how I felt about the movie. It was exciting, it was cool, it was genius. I know, too, I have loved if ever since. And as the years go by, and I see the movie again, I am reminded me how much I love it. I am not the only one who feels it deep down when Lorraine and George get together again, just moments after he floors Biff. And I appreciate how very amusing it still is that Marty’s mother had a crush on him – even how that premise looks now as I, popular culture, and society has changed in 30 years. The movie has poise, humor, a real feast for the imagination and entertainment levels.

Back to the Future is a movie that will never fall off the shelf. It is a movie you kind of grow up with and idolize, or at least it is for me, someone of my generation, the childhood era of the Star Wars films. Even reading back what I have written it almost feels like a fanatical, exhilarated kid is pouring the words onto the page. Did I want to time travel and have Doc Brown to bail me out at precisely the right second? Yes I did. Want to be like George and Marty, even when they weren’t cool? Yes. Take the adorable Lorraine to the school dance in the fifties? Absolutely. Have Biff wax my car? Yep. Watch the movie again? Of course. Maybe with my kid, when she is a little bit older. Or maybe now, after I finish writing this. There’s no reason, too, why we all can’t have a Back to the Future marathon for the movie’s 30th birthday. You pick the time, quite literally, and I will be there.


One Comment

  1. steve50 steve50 September 2, 2015

    While I didn't have the same response to the film as you did, Robin, your post makes me want to go “back” and watch this movie again. Good stuff.

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