Tuesday, 20 October 2015

In praise of..Back to the Future

Today is October 21st 2015, the furthest day in the trilogy of Back to the Future films. Things are not quite what they seem or how Robert Zemeckis imagined they would be through 1989 eyes or 1985 eyes to be more exact as Marty McFly, his girlfriend Jennifer and Doc Brown take off in the DeLorean outside of his house and travel into the future to save Marty's children.

The 2015 envisioned by the filmmakers is nothing like now - no flying cars, no hoverboards, no self-tying shoes - the closest thing they got right is the Chicago Cubs being close to the World Series, the baseball team are currently in the semi-finals versus the Kansas City Royals.

But why is there all this fandom about this date? Why is it holding its own two days after the release of the final trailer for Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens.

Whereas Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and Star Trek have fans who are close to the point of feverish delirium and hysteria, the Back to the Future (BTTF) fans are not like that considering it was a huge box office success.  In some ways, the BTTF trilogy is a set of films held in great affection due to the passion it was made with by Robert Zemeckis starring one of still most under-rated Hollywood stars of the late 1980s and a perfectly cast film.

The film is reliant upon the characters of Marty (Michael J. Fox) and Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) and their friendship is prevelant across the trilogy, in essence a bromance more than a paternal relationship, Marty and Doc are best friends. Yet we are never told how they first met, we just believe that they are best buddies so it incorporated the buddy action genre of Lethal Weapon by taking two different strands of society - young and old - and bonded them together. Usually someone like Doc would be an outsider to a youth like Marty, a person you avoid instead Marty embraces his eccentricities.

The film was somewhat under the radar in 1985 with not a lot expected due to the lack of success for Zemeckis' previous films although Romancing The Stone did do a dent and gave the greenlight to BTTF. Yet it shot out of the gate and was a blueprint for forthcoming blockbusters; high concept, fast cars, funny scenes, action scenes, music and a kick ass theme tune in Huey Lewis and the News' The Power of Love, a seminal track of that summer and a song they are defined by.

The film is one of those that you can watch again and again, and still be struck by the freshness and zest of the production; the attention to detail in the production design of 1950s Hill Valley, the care in the script to poke fun at science fiction in that era (My name is Darth Vader! I come from the planet Vulcan!) and how Marty ends up teaching his parents how to be better people and not turn into the alcoholic Mum and stepped upon Dad they are in 1985 at the film's beginning.

The film is probably held in such esteem and appreciation by the film going public because it is a stand alone trilogy. There are no prequels, no sequels forthcoming. The destruction of the DeLorean at the end of BTTF3 is a knife through any notion of there being a reboot or reimagining. We do not need it, we are happy with the three films we have; unlike say Star Wars and Trekkie fans who are constantly salivating at the thought of something more to add to the universe.

Where those fans want an ever-expanding universe, the BTTF universe is restricted to a three film, five year span that was glorious, funny, spell binding and set the trend for what you can do if you get it right and have the right amount of faith put into you.

It remains one of my top 3 films of all time, and will continue to be so as it stars one of my favourite actors at the height of his powers in a seminal sort of role. And who would not want to be Marty McFly on his skateboard in 1955 avoiding Biff and his cronies.

Its a film full of dreams and showed you that dreams can come true. Marty dreamed of a better life, a chance to play on a stage in front of people and a better homelife. By chance by going back in time, he achieved that. And oddly in the aspirational 1980s of Greed is Good era, all Marty wanted was a family full of affection, his dreams become a reality but the film is fittingly shot like a dream.

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