A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 127 – Back to the Future

Back to the Future – July 5th, 2010

I am going to begin by promising I am not going to go getting mired down in paradoxes and plutonium and all the nit-picky things that are obviously going to come up in a movie about time travel. Too easy and also too complicated and I don’t want to spend the whole review going “But wait, if Marty… huh…”

So, obviously this is the 1985 time travel classic starring Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd and the coolest DeLorean ever built. Fox plays Marty McFly, a teenager whose eccentric friend, Doc Brown (Lloyd) invents a method of time travel and who accidentally ends up getting stuck in the past, messing up the future, and then having to fix it. The conceit of the movie isn’t just the time travel and Marty being totally out of his element in 1955, it’s the whole thing with Marty meeting his parents as teenagers and getting all mixed up in the beginning of their relationship.

You can’t think too hard about the whole thing. It’s a movie about a time paradox, what with Marty messing up how his parents met and slowly erasing his and his siblings’ existence. Which we’re shown through the oh-so-clever device of a photograph of Marty and his siblings in which each member of the family fades out from the top down. Very specific paradox, you see. And as I said, I’m not going to get mired in the specifics of it. If you poke it too hard, it’ll pop. This isn’t supposed to be hard sci-fi full of nuts and bolts and real scientific theory mixed in with the technobabble. It’s supposed to be a fun movie about a kid meeting his own parents and having to get them together, with a ridiculous and over-the-top time machine as the gimmick. And it succeeds at that quite admirably.

Most of the movie takes place in 1955, with a good deal of humor coming from Marty’s “futuristic” 1985 clothes and his requests for Tab and Pepsi Free, and his utter shock at meeting his parents and then his horror when his own mother falls for him. It’s the whole fish-out-of-water routine, and Michael J. Fox plays it to the hilt. Of course, he’s given some fantastic – if cheesy – stuff to work with, like the bit where he invents the skateboard and when he plays guitar at the dance. But through it all he has this great look of wonder and horror and confusion on his face, like he can’t quite decide between the three. The whole middle chunk of movie is pretty much played for laughs, but also some light tension with Marty and Doc Brown trying to fix what Marty messed up as well as time things right to get Marty back to 1985.

Now, Doc Brown is really the star of the movie. Aside from the DeLorean, of course. Christopher Lloyd does a good bizarre character (and I’ve got to note here that the Oscillation Overthruster from Buckaroo Banzai – which Lloyd is in – was modeled after the Flux Capacitor in this movie) and Doc Brown is one of the best. Wild-haired and all big over-blown gestures and impossible ideas, Doc Brown is the quintessential friendly mad scientist. When confronted with Marty in the past, while he’s initially skeptical, once he’s brought around he throws himself completely into the whole thing. There is no half way for Doc Brown. How on Earth did Marty even make friends with him in the first place? Well, probably because Doc Brown looked him up, right? After all, they met in 1955.

Remember, don’t think too hard about it. It’s a paradox. But it’s also a fluffy paradox. In this, the first movie of the trilogy (which wasn’t intended to be a trilogy at the point when it was made), the dire consequences of time travel are all dealt with in under two hours of screen time. Sure, the end hints at something horrible in the future but as far as the bulk of this movie is concerned, time travel makes everything fan-fucking-tastic! Marty’s father has been transformed from a weenie who lets his supervisor push him around at work into an author who gets things done. His mother’s drinking problem is non-existent and she likes Marty’s girlfriend all of a sudden! His siblings are productive members of society and he’s got his very own 4×4. Time travel will solve all your woes! But only if you’re Marty McFly.

July 5, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , ,

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