Film - Back to the Future II


Nate McKenzie revs the De Lorean up to 88 mph and remembers the film we're all celebrating today, Back to the Future II...

It is now October 21st, 2015 and here I am impatiently awaiting news stories about the arrival of two oddly dressed teenagers and one wild-haired older gent in a 30 year old DeLorean. Because, let's face it - if it really happened, someone will notice. There would be 10,000 Vines and at least as many Youtube videos within minutes of the appearance of Marty, Jennifer, and Doc Brown. It would be pretty... heavy. (sorry)

There are hundreds of reasons that people are in love with the film and people have written about those hundreds of reasons hundreds of times. While we await confirmation, I decided to pay homage to the film on Back To The Future Day. The DeLorean, self-lacing Nike Mags, and Hoverboards have all been commensurately fawned about. Here are my top five personal reasons for my fandom.

Cafe 80's

From Lou's To Leggings.

Why did Zemeckis and Bob Gale make a "Cafe 80's"? Why wasn't it Cafe 50's? Being set in the future, why not make it something that no one has ever though of besides a diner/jazzercising bar?

Answer: because no decade loves itself more than the 1980's loves itself.

Anyone who grew up in that era is downright smitten by the fashion, trends, and pop-culture from that ten year span. But it is poignant that a movie that was made in the 80's already knew that the 80's were awesome. What better way to showcase that in a movie which, over and over, pays homage to itself than by combining Lou's Cafe (from the 1950's timeline) and the workout facility from the original 1985 timeline? Not to mention, it would be pretty cool to be able to order food from a Max Headroom-esque Michael Jackson or Ronald Reagan. Just don't expect me to do so while on a stationary bike.

As an aside: Lucky for me, there are "barcades" (bar + arcade, obvii.) throughout the States now that cater to the 80's obsessed like yours truly. My personal favorite is 16-Bit Bar in Columbus, Ohio (the greatest city since Rome was sacked). They show 80's classic films and tv shows while I play Pac-Man and sip on drinks called the Kevin Bacon (contains actual bacon) and Punky Brewster (does not contain actual Soleil Moon Frye). There's no Pepsi Max, but if BTTF2 isn't prophetic it's at least trendsetting.


Sagan Stamp Of Approval

Astrophysicist Carl Sagan called Back To The Future II "the greatest time travel film ever made". He was impressed with the way the filmmakers handled the overlapping timelines and kept them consistent in each alternation. That is extremely hard to manage, especially since scientists can't even completely agree on all the rules of time-travel. A lot of films muddle timelines and overlap them and they end up convoluted (like Terminator, for example). But BTTF2 manages them terrifically.

If you haven't watched the film in a while, the title alone can be confusing (How do you go back to a place you haven't been to??), but therein lies the rewatchability; it's fun to revisit and watch the timelines unfold and begin to make sense again.


K.I.S.Z: Keep It Simple, Zemeckis

As BTTF2 was being filmed, CGI was becoming popular as a means to more realistic graphics and special effects in the industry. However, very little of BTTF2 was CGI as Zemeckis chose to use as many practical effects as he could. That decision has helped keep the film from looking dated upon subsequent reviewings.

It is easy for a filmmaker to rely too heavily on CGI and end up taking the viewer out of the story with scenes that are obvious green-screen shots. Even some newer films don't pull off the computer enhanced effects very well. It is a testament to Zemeckis' vision for the movie that one can watch it even now and escape into the story without being reminded that it was made at the beginning of the CGI boom.

Even Donnie Darko was a fan, saying, "I love that movie, the way they shot it. It’s so um… like, futuristic." Who among us would argue with Donnie Darko?

Feel like arguing? Consider that the movie holds up so well to the test of time that there isn't real talk of remaking the films. With dozens and dozens of planned remakes of classic films that is a real testament to BTTF2's staying power. That sound you hear is a microphone dropping.

Jaws 19

Hillvalley Easter Eggs

They aren't all by-the-definition Easter Eggs, but there are some grin-inducing tidbits in BTTF2.

When Marty first enters Hillvalley's town square from the alley he encounters a movie theater playing Jaws 19 in 3-D. Everyone remembers this. Spielberg directed Jaws and Executive Produced the BTTF trilogy. But after Marty is "attacked" by the hologram shark he says, "The shark still looks fake". This is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the criticism that Steven Spielberg received after Jaws was released in 1975. I assume those critics are the same people that bitch about plot holes in films today.

The next cut has Marty looking into a storefront window. Among the "antiques" in the shop are a Jaws Nintendo game box and a Roger Rabbit plush doll. Robert Zemeckis wrote and directed Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Christopher Lloyd played Judge Doom in the film.

In Cafe 80's, Marty shows a couple of kids how to play an arcade game called Wild Gunman. One of the young boys is Elijah Wood, in his first film appearance. Even Wild Gunman is actually an allusion to the third Back To The Future film, in which Marty is sent back to the Wild West and ends up in an old fashioned street shootout. Crack shot, indeed.

Also, two of the TVs in the cafe are playing Family Ties and Taxi. Michael J. Fox famously starred as Alex P. Keaton in Family Ties and Christopher Lloyd played Reverend Jim in Taxi.

Further into the film, Marty's girlfriend Jennifer encounters her future daughter Marlene. Marlene is actually played by Michael J. Fox.

There are a lot of other winks and nods to films and pop-culture in the film but these are my personal favourites.


McFlying Under the Radar

A number of films focus on teenagers who seem ordinary but deep-down have something special about them which ends up thrusting them into extraordinary circumstances in which they become heroes. Specifically in the 80's we saw Alex Rogan as a savant video gamer turned intergalactic hero in The Last Starfighter. In WarGames, David was a computer wiz and figured out how to prevent global nuclear annihilation. Regular Joes becoming something great is a recurrent theme because a lot of people respond to it.

The thing I find so special about Marty McFly is that he isn't really special. He is a bit undersized, so he gets bullied by Biff. He's not overly intellectual, he's kind of neurotic, he isn't an athlete (unless you count his mad Hoverboarding skills), and he isn't a rich kid playing world-protector like Bruce Wayne. He's just a normal high school kid who inexplicably is best friends with the most brilliant scientist of all time and gets drawn into an extraordinary series of events. Marty rises above his averageness and saves the day, but he does so without ever becoming what can be called a "hero". He isn't an anti-hero either because he is a good guy. He's a protagonist, sure; but he is more time-travelling janitor, cleaning up other people's messes than heroic savior.

That is why he is so affable and relate-able and one of my all-time favorite characters.

If Back To The Future II was made now everyone would want to know exactly how the Flux Capacitor works and the backstory about how Doc and Marty became such good friends and plenty of other things that don't matter. Because these days, people like to ruin awesome things by being pedantic.

If anyone tries to deconstruct and ruin one of my childhood film staples, though, they'll find me on their doorstep with a Kirk Gibson Jr. Slugger 2000.

Now, I must go back to the...

news wires.


Images -

Powered by Blogger.