Here we go again on Fishing in the Discount Bin, where I wind up blogging about one of the many movies I own and re-watch from time to time. I'm currently going the Back to the Future trilogy, so right now, we're on Back to the Future Part II. This was in my notes at July 4, 2015.
So, Back to the Future co-creators Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale never had a trilogy planned out. They thought Marty and Doc heading into the future to save Marty's kids would just be a cute joke to end the film with. But, when Back to the Future became a worldwide hit and a sequel was greenlit (and the end card "To Be Continued...." added to the VHS version of the film), it quickly became a cliffhanger ending.
As is the way with such franchises, there's not as much written about the development of the sequels as their has been the original film. What we do know is Back to the Future Parts II and III were originally intended to be a 3-hour time travel epic with the working title Back to the Future: Paradox. As director and co-writer Zemeckis was busy making Who Frame Roger Rabbit, Gale would write a draft of the screenplay, send it to Zemeckis for feedback, and then Gale would go back to the writer's desk to incorporate Zemeckis's feedback.
The first change Zemeckis made: he did like the segment in the Wild West. It introduced far too many new characters late in the film. Gale agreed, and decided to "do it properly." Of course, he wound up turning the Wild West segment into a whole other film, and thus Part III was born.
The second change Zemeckis suggested: he didn't like the segment in the 1960s. Originally, Biff was going to give the Sports Almanac to his younger self in his 20s. Lorraine was going to be a hippie, and George McFly was going to be a popular young college professor. Marty did the math in his head and realized that this particular day in the late-1960s was the day he was conceived, so he had to get the Sports Almanac back from Biff AND make sure his parents did the deed so he would exist. "Making sure his parents hook up to ensure his existence? That's just the first film again," pointed out Zemeckis.
Zemeckis's counter-proposal: this was a sequel to a movie about time travel. How about if, instead of the 1960s, Doc and Marty go back in time into the first film, and now they have to make sure the first film happens without a hitch? Gale agreed, and thus became the new third act for Part II. On the running commentary, Zemeckis calls it one of the most intriguing premises he ever had for a film, and regrets not being able to explore it more.
Part II is more of a special effects film. The first film only boasted 26 special effects shots. But for the sequel, the trip to 2015 required a lot more of that visual finesse. Of course, we all remember the flying cars and the hoverboards, but it's true cutting edge special effects came in having a lot of the actors interact with their younger selves thanks to time travel. Industrial Light and Magic had to invent an all new kind of camera -- the Vista Glide system -- in order to render it at a quality never seen before.
Back to the Future Part II came out in November of 1989, and I saw it over Christmas vacation. It was one of the first movies I saw without parental accompaniment. My brother and I went to see it, while my mother took my little sister to go see The Little Mermaid. I remember the excited recaps my brother told me after seeing the first one all those years ago, but I had to pretty much drag him to see it. Although, he was excitedly recapping it to Mom on the drive home.
Despite being remembered as the lesser of the trilogy, it certainly made its mark. I mean, here we are, in the year 2015, the future that the film visits, and this year began with several articles and editorials discussing what it predicted right and what it got wrong. At least once a month I see another website proclaiming, "We've made hoverboards a reality!" As I tweeted not too long ago, I thought the one thing in the film that was the most attainable was a 1980s-themed nostalgia diner, but I have yet to see one.
Granted, I can see why it's looked down upon. It is the darker of the trilogy. There's a greater focus on action than comedy this time out. One podcast I recently listened to described it as little more that retconning to connect the first film to the third. But there's some good stuff in there. What I really like is this is the only film in the trilogy where the DeLorean time machine works as it should. No big deal about how to power it. Just put in when you want to go and BOOM! You're there. Nothing but Doc and Marty on another adventure in time.
But damn it, I'm still mad at Robert Zemeckis. You said hoverboards were real! And they're not.