A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 128 – Back to the Future II

Back to the Future II – July 6th, 2010

Okay, so let’s address something first. Yesterday, word swept through Twitter that it was the day Doc Brown set the DeLorean for at the end of the first movie. So we said “Hey, cool, let’s put in the trilogy.” And we did. And when we got to the end we thought “Huh, that’s not right.” So I poked through the wikipedia article and found the year 2015. Yeah. In this one (and at the end of the first one) they go to 2015. Turns out it was all a mistake. Oops! But we’ve already started the trilogy so we’re just going to motor on through.

So this time we’re not going into the past, we’re headed into the future of Hill Valley. Marty, Doc Brown and Jennifer head into 2015 to keep Marty and Jennifer’s kids from going to jail. Of course, Jennifer’s only there because that’s how the first movie ended when they didn’t know they were going to be making a sequel. So she gets knocked out early on, then again later, and misses the vast majority of the movie. Lucky her.

Granted, it’s supposed to be goofy, but it’s all just a little too goofy for me. It’s also hilariously dated, given that this is 1989’s view of what 2015 would be like. I guess we’ve got five years to get hoverboards, hovercars, personal fusion engines, telephones back on street corners and 3D movies… Oh, wait. It’s just that it doesn’t work terribly well for me. This has always been my least favorite of the three. There’s the whole physical comedy aspect of it, and then there’s the retro-future thing, and then Marty’s new obsession with not being called a chicken and then there’s the convoluted back-and-forth time travel plot involving a sports almanac and Biff and changing the future. See, here’s my problem. For all of Doc’s high ideals about using the time machine to witness events and see cool stuff, he’s perfectly willing to go changing the futures of Marty’s kids for the better. So changing things is okay, but only the things Doc wants to change. But even that isn’t the big problem. The big problem is that the plot is just plain messy.

Marty goes into the future and finds out that his son and daughter are headed to jail if he doesn’t stop it, which is what Doc brought him to 2015 to do. So he stops that, but in the course of doing that, he meets up with a now-elderly Biff who sees the time machine. Jennifer wakes up and ends up back at the family house and sees that her and Marty’s future lives kind of suck. Biff steals the time machine and goes back in time to give his past self a sports almanac which will allow him to get rich, thereby altering the future. Marty, Doc and Jennifer go back to the present, but Biff’s fucked it up already and so they need to fix all that while also fixing the future. It’s got this bizarre mix of pop-fluff and dystopia. The present as ruled by Biff is pretty hateful. Like, not just unpleasant, but loathsome and full of domestic abuse and coercion. It was more than a little uncomfortable to watch.

Marty and Doc end up back in 1955 eventually, giving us the past, two presents, a future and eventually even more past to deal with. I do like an alternate timeline, but it’s all just so muddley in this. Fortunately, there is some good stuff. Michael J. Fox is, as always, fun and having a great time as Marty. And Christopher Lloyd gets to do the mad scientist thing again as Doc Brown. Truly, the very best bits of the movie are his. Thankfully the bits in 1955 are fun, like they were before. I think the root of the trouble is that they had to work off of the ending of the first movie, which established that they were going to the future, so they got stuck with that. But then they wanted to go back to where the heart of the first movie was and that meant using Biff to tie it all together. Since I find Biff odious on a much deeper level than I think the movie really intended, I’m not that thrilled with that.

And then Biff gets ditched and things don’t get tied up and there’s a cliffhanger and the promise of a part three in the old west. As if we didn’t have enough plot to follow.

July 6, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Back to the Future II

July 6, 2010

Back to the Future II

As with many sequels this movie tries too hard. There’s a whole lot of stuff going on, and it doesn’t all make much sense. Actually I’ve always felt that this movie is three movies. Which is why it feels so convoluted and uneven.

First there’s the future – which was set up at the end of the previous movie. Marty and Doc go into the future to stop Marty’s son from going to jail. There are a whole lot of jokes about what the future will be like, which were goofy at the time but are even stranger now, just five years before 2015, which is the year they go forward to. We don’t have hoverboards or hover cars. We don’t have universal thumbprint identification. We do have 3-D movies but they’re not holographic.

There’s also an awful lot of product placement in the future segment of this movie. Pepsi, Nike, Pizza Hut and Texaco all get big promotional plugs, and they don’t feel subtle or understated either. It’s almost as bad as the Taco Bell plug in Demolition Man (famous for being re-shot in different markets to promote different products.)

It’s all played for laughs of course, but the plastic fantastic future of the movie was never my favorite part.

Then we go to a horrific apocalyptic 1985. This is the real set up for the movie. It’s also where the movie starts to suffer from sequelitis. In the first movie Marty is trying to get his parents together to keep from going out of existence. In this movie his motivation is to prevent this awful alternative present from coming into being, so the film makers have to sell us on just how much is at stake. I understand that perfectly well, but even so I think they go a wee bit overboard. The “bad” 1985 is a war torn gangland full of biker gangs and armed school proctors where Marty’s father is dead and Biff has married his mother. It doesn’t have many laughs, and even those that they try to insert don’t work too well. (Such as Lorraine’s grotesque fake bosom.)

Which (finally) leads us to the third portion of the movie where Marty and Doc go back to 1955 to steal back a sports almanac from the future that Biff has back then. This is when the movie actually begins to get good and work as a proper follow up to the first movie. The final act of this movie takes place in and around the climactic events of the first movie, and all the best parts involve action from the first movie happening in the background and foreground as we see things from a slightly different angle. It’s very much Robert Zemeckis in his own element as he does all sorts of clever green-screen and split-screen setups to get multiple versions of Marty, Biff and the Doc all to meet up with each other.

I do enjoy the whole quest for the almanac with its twists and turns and back and forths and bits of misdirection. Ultimately however it is all too quickly over. After all the build up of the first two thirds of the movie the payoff seems almost too short. And of course the last few minutes of the movie are all the set-up for the final movie in the trilogy with Doc Brown trapped in the old west. So even after the climax of the movie when the major trouble with the alternative present have been solved you end up feeling let down.

There’s some cool stuff in this movie, but ultimately it’s just not as fun as the first or third films. Second movie syndrome.

I am, however, very curious about the implied missing time with Doc Brown between the first movie and the second. It’s intimated through things like his “emergency money” fund (a briefcase with bills from all sorts of different times) that the Doc has been busy exploring all over the place before coming back to get Marty. I’d kind of like to see the “Doc Brown Adventures” as he goes from time to time correcting wrongs and being generally outrageous while doing it. It could be a whole television series. I think I’d really like that.

Oh, Wait. They already have that show. It’s Doctor Who. And, yeah, I love it.

July 6, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment