Book - Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History

The Defective Inspector hops on a hoverboard and reads Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History from our friends at Titan Books...

I’m no movie expert and I sure as hell am not a bookworm but the great and powerful council residing within /Garbage-file knew I was doing work on the Back to the Future game for THE BIG DAY (21st October 2015 is the day Marty arrived in futuristic Hill Valley for the first time). So knowing I had interest in this movie they threw the book at me, literally. The last time I read something for pleasure was when I was given the specials menu at a local restaurant. But seeing as this book encompasses a movie which gets my flux capacitor fluxing I decided to do my job for once without arguing and read a damn book.

There is a paradox about writing about this book, not to say explaining it will LITERALLY cause an alternate timeline but I feel you, the readers, will have a future not as fulfilled if I reveal too much. So if this review seems short, I am sorry, but trust me on this.

A piece of the past which made Back to the Future
I keep saying book, what I should be saying is timeline. This surprisingly large and heavy piece of literature is more than just an autobiography or “some guys” concept of events, it has pieces of the past, present and questionable future scattered throughout it. Officially this has been written by Michael Klastorin and Randal Atamaniuk but you can see how the 2 of them have looked over what is now decades of nerdy history to push together this piece of work. The title is also a little misleading. “Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History”, it makes it sound like it’s crammed with nothing but photos and descriptions of said photos and that would be both wrong and insulting.

Again I must stress that if I say too much it would be a crime, even with that in mind there is SO much to take in and express. I considered myself a fairly up to date guy in all things McFly but consistently I was proven wrong when flicking from page to page. It wasn’t so much that new concepts were thrown in my face but more that I could see Back to the Future being formed, I could see the photos of Gale and Zemeckis hunched over cameras, facing actors and looking longingly at perfect props. Often the photos are related to the time, not so much events. There are not photos of Zemeckis and Gale arguing with Sid Sheinberg while Steve Spielberg giggles over the fact their initials match. Frankly if someone was taking photographs at that stage I’d be amazed and slightly concerned…

Envelopes, storyboards and photos. I had a nerd-gasm over this.
One thing that is made VERY clear in this book was Back to the Future was a labour of love for everyone, not just big actors like Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox, not just for the directors or screenwriters, not just for the stunt doubles and set producers, but everyone. This book takes you through every single high and low of every step. Clearly the battles were greatest at the start and it reflects in the content, about 50% of this 200+ page behemoth is about the first movie and it went from Professor Brown, a monkey side kick and a Coca Cola powered time machine to the Mr Fusion fuelled fantastic feature film it is today.

It revealed alternate futures I never knew could have existed. To touch on but a few there is the introduction of Eric Stoltz, the possibility of there never BEING a DeLorean… TWICE… John Cleese playing Doc Brown and an atomic bomb, it’s all a bit too much for me. What’s more is the book taught me something I never knew. It taught me, when it comes to movie creation, I am thick as manure and even worse I was content being that. Questions were being answered that I never even thought of; why does Crispin Glover have such a bad reputation with the movie? Why precisely did Lea Thompson not appear in the 1st sequel? How did they hover board fly? How did they make Doc Brown look YOUNGER?! That’s the beauty of this book, it does more than answer questions and it poses them pre-answered.

dollar bill
Another good question, why isn't this a real currency?!
I also have to appreciate the tone of writing, it was written in a very narrative and chronological manner. Rarely was there a push or a shove towards feeling a certain way, it lets me make my mind on how to feel about events. That being said there was a fairly large number of mentions of how Michael J. Fox was the most bouncy enthusiastic loveable actor in the universe (Though, for record, I have immense respect for Tom Wilson after reading this) but it generally kept to form. More so it does not just rely on people wanting to know about the actors, it makes damn well sure you appreciate all the work that may have gone unnoticed, the crewmen, the editors, to the set designers and creators, all of them get fair mentions beyond “OH and they did this, good for them”. You can see there was actual care and consideration for those roles, making sure the rigorous schedule which made Back to the Future possible was credited to EVERY member of staff and their efforts.

Want to know my favourite part? All the little things inside. Little things you say? Mad you say? MAYBE I AM! But I have a holograph card which works like the faded family photograph in Back to the Future 1, I am the one with the replica document letter warning Doc Brown he’s going to be shot, I am the one with the ol’ western equivalent. I AM THE ONE WITH A BIFF TANNEN DOLLAR!

Point is, crazy yelling aside, I have gotten so much from this book both figuratively and literally and for that I am humbled to be given it to review. Thanks to /Garbage-file and Titan Books I have seen the driving force behind one of my favourite movie trilogies, I have read the opinions of various cast members, I have been better informed about the movie making process and, most importantly, I have a small piece of history…. It’s not the dollar, it’s the written chronicle of 2 men, hundreds of staff, thousands of man hours and one amazing car.

All images are taken from a crude camera phone held by a VERY giddy Inspector and Titan Books.

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