Wannabe rocker Marty McFly accidentally travels back in time (via his pal Doc Brown’s Delorean) to the year 1955. Problems arise when his giddy mother unexpectedly falls for him, (changing the course of his future). Marty is forced to do everything he can to get his parents to fall in love before he disappears from existence. On his journey he is assisted by the 50’s version of Doc who agrees to help send him Back to the Future.
Back to the Future is nowhere near the greatest film of all time. That being said, it sure is the most fun and entertaining. Just imagine being thrust back in time to meet your own parents when they were the same age as you. That was the idea put forward by writer Bob Gale when he found his parents’ old yearbook. BTTF re-teamed Gale with his ‘Used Cars (1980)’ director, Robert Zemeckis, and was produced by Steven Spielberg, who both men had written ‘1941 (1979)’ for the previous year. Unfortunately both films had been critical and box office flops. Luckily something about this time-travel comedy was different. Not only was it a comedy, it was also an action/sci-fi,/romance movie all rolled into one that crossed genres.
The teenaged protagonist of the story Marty McFly, is played perfectly by a then 23 year-old Michael J. Fox. The first glimpse we see of him are his white Nike runners with the classic red swoosh as he enters Doc Brown’s garage. A garage filled with clocks of every make and model. What else would you expect in a time-travel movie? As the film progresses, we learn more about the character of Marty, the wannabe rockstar with his band the Pinheads and avid skateboarder (a skill that comes in handy back in 1955 AND in 2015 for the sequel). However, his hopes for rockstar status are soon diminished when a judge for the high school dance tells him he’s “just too darn loud”. That judge is portrayed by none other than Huey Lewis, the singer of two tracks featured on the soundtrack.
The mentor to Marty is the illustrious, self-proclaimed inventor, Dr. Emmett Brown (as played by Christopher Lloyd). Thought to be a quack by most, he finally fulfills his dream of actually inventing something that works, a time machine built out of a DeLorean. The idea came to him after hitting his head while hanging a clock in his bathroom. When he awoke, it came too him…the Flux Capacitor, which is what he discovers makes time-travel possible. Unfortunately his first trip to the future is cut short when he is shot down by a group of Libyans (the guys he got the plutonium to build his time vehicle from).
The antagonist comes in the form of Biff Tannon (played by the surprisingly nice Thomas F. Wilson). He begins the story as more of a slight annoyance when he crashes the McFly family car and blames it on a blind spot in the windshield. Upon Marty’s journey to the past, Biff becomes a huge thorn in his side as he turn out to be just as big a bully in the past as he is in the future.
Crispin Glover and Lea Thompson, who play Marty’s parents both in the past and the future, round out the rest of the cast. Glover plays George, the uber-nerdy father that any kid would be embarrassed by, and Thompson plays Lorraine, the mother who seems to have never had a day of fun in her life. Back in 1955 George is ever so much the nerd, but you discover that back then Lorraine was actually wild and a total boy-chaser, and unfortunately Marty is the boy she’s chasing. Cue Freud.
Though not having much screen time, Marty’s love interest, Jennifer Parker (played by Claudia Wells, and later by Elisabeth Shue in the two sequels), is the driving force of the movie and his main reason for wanting to get “Back to the Future”.
The other important character of the film is its music, both popular and instrumental. As earlier stated, Huey Lewis lends his rock flavour to the picture with his hits “Power of Love” and “Back in Time”. Even though “Back in Time” fits as a song about time travel, it fails in its attempt by stating the plot and characters too often. “Power of Love” on the other hand is perfect without it being stated outright. The power being sung about is the whole point of the film. Love is what Marty wants to get back to, and what he needs to happen to his parents so he won’t be erased from existence.
Other artists featured on the soundtrack are Eric Clapton with “Heaven is One Step Away” and Lindsey Buckingham’s “Time Bomb Town”. The rest of the movie features classic songs from the fifties era, and we are also treated to a live performance by Marvin Berry (Harry Waters Jr.) & the Starlighters at the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance, where Marty again shows his musical talents (with some help from singer Mark Campbell as his singing voice) to make sure that George and Lorraine share their first kiss.
Frequent Zemeckis collaborator, Alan Silvestri, composed the score for the film. His music works perfectly as it exudes the emotion of the story and has given me goosebumps every of the 80 plus time I have watched it (seriously!). I find it hard not to hum the main theme when driving fast on the highway and wishing that my Toyota Corolla had hover conversion. It’s hard to find a film as enjoyable as Back to the Future nowadays, and I think you get something new from every viewing. I can remember the annoying years between 1985 and 1988 when the film would be aired on one of the local channels on a Sunday around noon. I would get so thrilled watching Doc back up his Delorean, tell Marty “Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need…roads!”, watch the tires fold up and have his amazing time vehicle come crashing into my TV screen…only to have the worst three words in the English language at the time slide across the screen…“To Be Continued…” (Come on! I was 9 years old when Part 2 finally came out). Though the two sequels were good and it was fun to see Marty and Doc in the future (2015) and in the Old West (1885), they never quite equaled the original. It gave us a taste of what is what like for our parents growing up in the 50’s and on watching it again today, you get a sense of your own nostalgia and feel like you’re back in the 80’s once again. Heavy!
TO BE CONTINUED…