If you’ve been around me enough you know I have an absolute love for the ‘Back to the Future’ trilogy. I’ve probably watched the original film more times than I can count, and I’m a fan of the second two films as well. I’ve quoted the film, read comics, played games, rode the ride, watched the cartoon. I once had Doc’s OUTATIME license plate from the DeLorean as an iPhone cover. I love these movies. I’ve often stated that ‘Back to the Future’ (BTTF) was the reason why I got into filmmaking.
The main character’s name is Marty McFly, and if you’ve been living under a rock for the past 30 years, the story is about how Doc Brown invented a time machine, out of a DeLorean, that Marty takes into the past and meets his parents and ends up spending time in the past. He spends so much time that he inadvertently messes up how his parents first meet and has to rework history by having them fall in love in order not to be erased from existence. Pretty heavy stuff huh?.
And seriously, I wanted to be Marty and go into the past or future or both. I loved time travel. And when reality set in that I couldn’t get myself into a movie nor would there be a time machine popping into my life, I started wondering “how could I make someone feel this way about a movie?” and it was at that point that I realized I needed to get into filmmaking in order to give someone the great feeling I had inside about this movie.
While I was too young when the film first came out in theaters, years later I was able to watch the movie on VHS and the rest was history (pun intended). Now, I don’t remember what specific date or time II first came across the VHS copy but I remember where I was. My parents and I were living in Newark (boarding with Bloomfield) not too far away from a small library annex for the Newark Public Library across from the old First Avenue School. Not only were we able to borrow books from the library but also borrow copies of a few select movies. I don’t remember who I was with, either my father or mother, but I was scrolling through the collection of videos and I landed on BTTF. Whoever I was with said something along the lines of “that looks good, why don’t you borrow that.” So I did.
I believe I was reluctant. I wasn’t a fan of just picking up any movie and thought I’d give it a shot and if I didn’t like it I would just put it back in the container and take it back. I can remember my apprehension to picking up ‘The Neverending Story’ and how crazy the box was for that and how it could look scary as well. In hindsight, not so scary, but back then I was pretty scared. And I just didn’t know what to make of this movie, looking at the cover you see a guy jumping out of a futuristic looking car (I had never seen a DeLorean in real life) with fire and staring at his watch. But I knew Michael J. Fox from ‘Family Ties’ how bad could it be.
I popped the movie into my VCR, watched it in utter awe. Marty McFly was able to travel back to the fifties, he met his parents, had to get them together, and make it back to the present (which was 1985). This was the ultimate dream. To me this was the ultimate adventure. Somehow time travel was in my blood, I loved the concept of it, and somehow this all just made sense. I wanted to be Marty McFly. He was cool.
I stated a few paragraphs above that I don’t remember when I first saw BTTF, but I remember that at the end of the movie it said “To Be Continued…” and I remember seeing commercials for ‘Back to the Future 2’ (BTTF 2) with multiple Michael J. Foxes, hover boards, and more time travel shenanigans. The kicker was that BTTF 2 was already out on VHS and we had to go rent it because the library didn’t have it. Now I did a little bit of research and I found that BTTF 2 was released on VHS on May 22, 1990. So, in and around that date was when I must have seen the first movie, not sure exactly, but I do know that I was about 8 years old.
Now, let me think about that for a moment, I was 8 years old. BTTF has been in my life for over 25 years. I have had been enthralled by BTTF, studied it, watched every scene, dissected lines and gobbled up everything I can about the behind the scenes and making of. Again I repeat, I love these movies.
I might take a lot of flack for this, but the first time I saw ‘Back to the Future 2’ I didn’t like it. To my 8 year old might, it was really confusing, and if you haven’t watched it as many times as I have, you might also be extremely lost. But, now thinking about it, I feel as if that was my first foray into a multiple viewing movie (a movie that requires multiple viewings), to completely understand everything that was thrown at you. It didn’t take too long before I also fell in love with Number Two and understood it for the truly unique film that it was.
In film, music, or whatever platform you express your art in you either give the audience exactly what you did before and run the risk of upsetting them for giving them a complete copy or you go so far in a different direction that they will be not be happy. It’s a double edge sword for anyone who has ever produced something, chances are you will be criticized regardless of how much effort you put into it.
Two had a great plot of alternate universes created when time travel is misused and how Marty and Doc had to travel back to the exact date that the original film took place and not interfere with what the other Marty and Doc were up to in order not to disrupt the space time continuum. And I did all that from memory…BTTF 2 had great future special effects (I love the use of practical effects-effects that are done on set during production as opposed to post-production. I have become less of a fan of CGI as I’ve gotten older and I just cling to anything that has practical effects) along with cutting edge effects to merge not only multiple Michael J. Foxes but also splitting the screen with footage shot from the original and footage shot for the second one. Overall, a lot of hard work went into some great shots.
We rushed to the video store (then everyone had videos, you could literally borrow or rent them from anywhere) and the closest place was a supermarket, Pathmark, that had a video rental section and they didn’t have it. They wouldn’t have it for quite some time.
Shortly around this time that I can remember seeing a billboard with a car being pulled by horses. And it didn’t make much sense. I don’t believe I had seen the movies at this point, but at the end of Number 2 you see a quick tease using some footage from III (some of which never makes it into the final cut. They had me here. Next installment, somehow, someway, I have to see this movie.
Finally, the movie came out on VHS and I remember going to one of the video stores and getting the movie and not being able to watch it. The next day just happened to be a school day and I ended up going home sick (I honestly was sick as I remember being taken to the doctor and given soup) and I layed there and watched the movie from beginning to end. I remember loving III even more than the other two movies, but that was an age where in my mind sequels were better than the predecessor.
This wasn’t a bad movie at all, I loved the western theme, this led me to love aspects of westerns (unfortunately after this movie came out there would be few and far westerns that were produced by Hollywood) and honestly, I love this movie. But it definitely felt like the end, and led me to understand a trilogy. Something that would be explained even better with Scream 3 and the rules of a trilogy. How when a trilogy ends, nothing is safe, while no one dies is BTTF 3, the Delorean is destroyed, Doc gets married and this adventure ends. But in a typical hollywood ending.
I love hollywood endings, ie happy endings. I’m not a dark, realistic, person. When I go to the movie and hunker down my hard earned cash, I want to be taken to a world that I wouldn’t normally see in my everyday life. I don’t want to see realistic things happening. I want to be taken into the past and meet my parents, I want to be rushed to the future to help my kids, I want to battle the bully in an alternate universe and be sent way too far back into the past to the old west. This series had it all.
It also doesn’t act like a typical 80’s movie. Although it was filmed in the 80’s, I feel as if it is timeless (funny that I could say that about a time travel movie). It isn’t a film about the 80’s, but a film that TAKES place in the 80’s. 1985 isn’t the year that the movie came out, but the year that Marty has to go back to. This is a timeless movie because you can pop it into your VCR, Laserdisc, DVD player, Bluray player, or Digital and watch and be taken out of reality and just for a brief period of time be transported into this journey through time.
Additionally, this doesn’t fit anywhere, but while I’m on a BTTF kick, I’m just going to add this: despite the fact that the actual vehicles aren’t that good and the fact that they are all “historic” now, I’ve always loved the DeLoreans. I’ve never had a “dream car” but if I had enough money I would like one of these, one without the time machine props attached to it. Hell, I’d even love to just drive one once around the block just to say that I did!
While there will hopefully never be another Back to the Future, sequel or remake, I will always look fondly at the trilogy as a series of movies that have had such an affect on my life, that it altered my history by making me take notice of such great filmmaking that I wanted to go into film myself. Ultimately leading me to study film but would lead me to meet the love of my life. Which if you fast forward to the present we now have a son! And trust me, I will one day show him the series, even though I feel it won’t have the same affect on him as it did me, but he’ll have to watch it. Who knows, maybe it’ll be an inspiration to him as well.
But I guess I can’t look into the future because honestly, “No man should know too much about his own destiny”.