All 3 movies digitally restored in HD, all-new bonus features and a limited time only digital copy (on three discs) this gorgeous deluxe edition has everything but extensive liner notes on paper. As we go deeper into our digital world, DVDs are abandoning the traditional paper essays for everything being condensed into uniform packages that need machinery to bring you to that world. Thus, this extensive essay will be that replacement guide, will give you insight on the boxed set that you won’t find elsewhere.
As much as I’ve watched the films repeatedly there are flaws inside these diamonds, perhaps intentional flaws which help make for mass appeal while denying purists a “Citizen Kane” of fantasy films. As James Cameron was able to get his motion pictures to surpass their scripts, Avatar and Titanic generating more funds than any other films in recorded history, one wonders if director Robert Zemeckis had gone hard-core fantasy, had he taken the entire project into his Contact realm, believable and thought-provoking. Alas, just as The Wizard Of Oz didn’t get the deserved sequels in the time period when Victor Fleming’s masterpiece took years to be fully appreciated, Contact also missed the opportunity to continue to tell its tale. But Back To The Future does keep on giving, especially with the bonus tracks, deleted scenes, never-before seen nuclear test site ending and so much more.
“The other me that helps the other you get back to 1985” Christopher Lloyd says to Michael J. Fox. “You must be very careful not to run into your other self” Doc Brown explains as he opens up a huge money wallet with dollar bills from many different times. No one ever hears how the Doc got so wealthy, all we know is that the enemy, Biff Tannen (creepy antagonist played by Thomas F. Wilson) is to be denied being rich and famous so that Doc and Marty can have all the fun.
Stolen plutonium from Libyan terrorists is an awkward way to begin a family movie, but – truth be told – it is an adventure film disguised as a flick for the general public. Back To The Future is more of a tongue-in-cheek exaggeration of Sci-Fi meets black humor, taking director James Whale’s nightmares and filling them with color, catastrophe and redemption.
The dysfunctional McFly household that Michael J. Fox has to run from is Leave it To Beaver in reverse, doing to middle America and fantasy films what Spinal Tap did for rock musicians – total wild-eyed parody. Yet, as hinted at above, no one can deny the commercial success of the Back To The Future series and this boxed set is a well-deserved and long-awaited accomplishment. One could see the late Divine playing the role of Lorraine Baines McFly, or George McFly for that matter, and get away with it. The characters are built on cringe-factor idiosyncrasies and twisted peculiarities that magnify human frailties, needing the escapism that time travel provides…get away from reality, go back into the past and change the future for the better.
Robert Lee Zemeckis is a brilliant director and one could only hope that he go back to his Back To The Future idea with the seriousness that he gave Contact. The goofy asides that made his Forrest Gump such a hit (and, at the same time, probably made many a viewer question if they should laugh at such naiveté) are the indulgences that make repeated viewings less appealing to me, but what do I know? Zemeckis clearly had his finger on the pulse of society and the mainstream gobbled up this fascinating adventure into psychology mixed with sci-fi. Call it Psych-ience Fiction…psyience fiction for short! It’s a mini-Star Wars without the overwhelming exhilaration of a “Return Of The Jedi” or “The Empire Strikes Back”, taking Flash Gordon to the next level, a landmark of Science Fiction movie making that Back To the Future could have rivaled with a few tweaks and advanced ideas.
The AMC televised reruns give four stars to the first installment, two stars to the second and three stars for the third. A pretty good barometer. Marty McFly is the cool anti-hero, but Doc Emmit Brown is so out-to-lunch that the logical mind which stops suspending belief; has to wonder if anyone realizes how insane he truly is. Doc Brown is as crazed as Marty’s mom, Lorraine McFly, probably the two zaniest people in the drama, and what does that say about Marty with his major influences being so hell-bent on self-destruction?
Ah, but the time machine. Brilliantly played by John DeLorean’s famous car three years after the real DeLorean’s 1982 entrapment drug bust, another tongue-in-cheek you can’t do that and get away with it moment that works just fine.
The Time Continuum disrupted…everything “skewed into this tangent creating an alternate 1985”. The look at 2015 is as off-the-mark as George Orwell thinking far ahead in his 1984. We won’t have skateboards that fly in five years…perhaps a visionary world of 2115 would have been more appropriate. But the instant anachronism aside, going to 1955 to an alleged 2015 and back to 1985 is thirty years forward and thirty years backward was pretty unique and kinda concise. The saxophone in the Enchantment Under the Sea dance might as well be lifted from the Mos Eisley Cantina in the first Star Wars (1977) where Obie-Wan says “You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.”
Biff Tannen is that villainy, in a Three Stooges sort of way. The slapstick comedy probably helped the commercial success, much like Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine taking the credible writing of Forrest J. Ackerman and adding the televised Batman’s Biff POW and BAM exclamation points to the detriment of the art.
When Marty looks at Old Biff-from-the-future’s cane in Doc’s house the thunder sounds exactly like that in The Matrix when Morpheus is talking to Neo about “the real world” in the simulated reality. “Son of a bitch stole my idea” Michael J. Fox says, “The whole thing is my fault.” The Waichowski Brothers indeed stole ideas from every great (and not so great) science fiction picture, Galaxy Quest, Star Wars, The Terminator etc. And didn’t Neo think things were his fault? The Back To The Future trilogy is as much an inspiration for the Matrix Trilogy as anything else the Waichowski’s chose to borrow from. Doc is Morpheus, Marty is Neo, the teacher and the student, or the manipulator and the errand boy, it works well with both trilogies. Keep in mind that the original “trilogy” series in fantasy films, in my opinion, were the three Boris Karloff Frankenstein pictures – Frankenstein (1931), Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and Son Of Frankenstein
(1939) where Karloff played the monster. Yes, like the Superman series, these films scattered themselves into multiple sequels, but the three part story was most succinct in its ability to entertain, tell a story and have hidden philosophy and hidden messages play mind tricks, keeping all the great film series that chose the three-fer popular generation after generation.
Back To The Future is the anomaly. Its shading of genres keeps it outside the norm, not as sincere as Frankenstein, as bold as Star Wars, as hard-hitting as The Matrix (and didn’t The Matrix sequels absolutely copy the Back To The Future formula of filming both sequels at the same time?), this time transport film supercedes The Time Travelers Wife and filmed versions of H.G. Wells The Time Machine. Doc Brown upgraded from his DeLorean car to a Jules Verne Train. What I’d like to see is a parallel universe Back To The Future, not going where George Lucas chose to go when he took Star Wars several steps back, but moving forward, taking the concept of Back To The Future to a world without George W. Bush, a world without the specter of George Orwell’s 1984, a brave new world where people can change the future for the better. Now that would be something to rival the eventual Avatar trilogy.
Joe Viglione is the Chief Film Critic at TMRZoo.com. He was a film critic for Al Aronowitz’s The Blacklisted Journal, has written thousands of reviews and biographies for AllMovie.com, Allmusic.com and produces and hosts Visual Radio. Visual Radio is a fifteen year old variety show on cable TV which has interviewed John Lennon’s Uncle Charlie, Margaret Cho, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Felix Cavaliere, Marty Balin, Bill Press and hundreds of other personalities.