Back to the Future (1985)
Release Date: July 3rd, 1985 MPAA Rating: PG
Director: Robert Zemeckis Actors: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover, Thomas F. Wilson, Claudia Wells
t’s 1985 when young guitarist and skateboarder Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) looks to his elderly friend, bankrupt inventor Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd), for random science experiment adventures. The origin of their relationship is never clearly defined, although Brown is like a crazy but well-meaning uncle. Meanwhile, Marty must contend with the embarrassing timidity and pushover nature of his father George (Crispin Glover), provoked by lifelong bullying from supervisor Biff Tannen (Thomas Wilson), the old-fashioned thinking of his mother Lorraine (Lea Thompson), and a timorous attitude toward his own rock ‘n’ roll musical compositions.
The eccentric, frizzy-haired, lab coat-adorned doc calls upon Marty to swing by the Twin Pines Mall to unveil his most recent invention, a modified DeLorean that, thanks to a plutonium rip-off and the creation of the Flux Capacitor, has the ability to travel through time. Scruffy dog Einstein is the first candidate for the machine, which proves to be a complete success. The doc has always dreamed of visiting the future (25 years into the future to be exact), but just as he sets up the journey, the band of murderous Libyans that provided the plutonium catch up with the him and gun him down. Marty barely escapes by hopping in the vehicle and accidentally blasting himself back into 1955. There, he must seek out the younger version of Dr. Brown to aid him in a return to his proper time.
The trip into the past is visually enthralling, with large sets and plenty of vehicles to recreate the ‘50s. This is also where the most hilarious comedy arises, stemming from Marty’s familiarity with future events, odd fashion, his positive and negative influences and interference with the future (such as unintentionally inventing the skateboard), and the mirroring of how past characters (including all of Marty’s family) behaved in their youths – cleverly paralleled with identical dialogue. His frequent hesitation with giving up too much information, awkwardly holding conversations with his parents as teenagers, and trying to convince the doc that he’s from the future thanks to an invention he has yet to invent, is comedic genius. Since the tone of the film is so lighthearted, goofily excessive amounts of makeup mirthfully decorate the younger actors to disguise them as the older versions of themselves – a technique far funnier than casting different people.
“Back to the Future” is by far one of the most competent time travel movies ever made, addressing even the most common loophole, which concerns characters from the future affecting the course of the past, leading directly to the presumed unaltered present – as well as the multiple versions of each role created by introducing numerous timelines. And it doesn’t seem terribly complex in the context of the film. The Butterfly Effect is purposely addressed for the sake of preventing Marty from meddling with anything that might disrupt what is supposed to happen, along with apprising of the danger of any man knowing too much about his own destiny. This is given a slight twist when necessary, with an explanation moderately conceptualized as Marty’s siblings’ gradual disappearance warns of his own existence being threatened. In a brilliant subplot, he’s forced to mend the past that he’s unwittingly recalibrated by devising a way to reconnect his future parents and stifle Lorraine’s accidental fixation on him. Directed by the capable Robert Zemeckis, executive produced by Steven Spielberg, and featuring a superb cast and Academy Award-nominated script, “Back to the Future” is an unforgettable, thrilling, laugh-out-loud funny, spectacularly entertaining cinematic treasure.
– Mike Massie