Continuing our time-travelling adventures, here’s the latest post about the Back to the Future franchise, highlighting the long-awaited, much-anticipated sequel that finally resolved the first movie’s cliffhanger and gave us a peak INTO the future…
At the end of the first Back to the Future, we were teased with the concept of Marty McFly and Doc Brown travelling into the future in a time travelling DeLorean that could now fly! However, for many years a sequel seemed like it would only live in our imagination. In 1989, we finally got what we wished for…and were actually promised two sequels within a year of each other!
The Back to the Future sequels lack the total genius quotient that the first movie had but are still great fun and offered up some new cultural observations and iconic cinema. They are also vastly different movies from each other and their flagship original, with Part II moving at a frantic pace between three time periods as well as an alternate timeline while Part III resides largely in the old west.
Back to the Future Part II flings us into 2015 right away with what we think is the movie’s premise…saving Marty McFly and Jennifer Parker’s children from ruin. That future shows us the promise and prosperity that seemed like the perfect midpoint on our way to the science fictional futures seen in Star Wars and Star Trek movies (and a total escape from the dystopian futures seen in many other films). For a child of the ’80s, it was exactly where we thought things were going, the logical next leap for the first generation with home computers, wireless communication and the continuing modernization of home and personal gadgetry.
Of course, here we are 20 years later from the release of BTTF2 and a mere six years away from 2015 and alas, no flying cars or hoverboards. The latter was one of the aforementioned cultural contributions made by the second BTTF movie. Every kid heard the rumor about how the hoverboards were real and would soon be made available. The movie was adventurous in its vision of the future and yet also kept one toe planted in reality, making it all seem so accessible. (Of course, it goofs in other areas, like suggesting that faxes would be part of the highly advanced technology of 2015.)
BTTF diverges from the aforementioned future premise when it introduces heavier time travel concepts into the mix and brings the concept of alternate timelines and paradox to the mainstream audience. The concept wasn’t new but was mostly the stuff of comic books and science fiction. Television shows like Lost and Heroes as well as franchises like Terminator and Star Trek have furthered this agenda by continually provoking thought on the promises and perils of time travel. But to the best of my knowledge, BTTF2 helped bring it to the mainstream when it returned Doc and Marty to a twisted alternate 1985. It was one thing to get this type of storytelling from an X-Men comic book or an H.G. Wells novel, but from a popcorn movie? Yet here we are 20 years later and it’s an almost commonplace storytelling convention. (Heroes employed it so regularly that it grew stale with much of its audience!)
At the time, the movie certainly stacked up well to Back to the Future. Our generation wasn’t viewing things with an overly critical eye. In retrospect, it’s still a largely entertaining piece of film. I can’t heap the same type of overwhelming praise I gave the first film because Part II didn’t transcend the genre or the film era like it’s predecessor did. But it fulfilled the important popcorn quotient.
By the end of the ride, Doc is bolted back to 1885 and Marty’s stuck in 1955 again. This time we only had to wait six months to see the resolution. But that’s a conversation for another day…