Just forget the words and sing along

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Fishing in the Discount Bin - The Back to the Future Trilogy

 Welcome back to Fishing in the Discount Bin, where I just go off on one of the DVDs I own in my collection.  This week, one of my all time favourite franchises, The Back to the Future trilogy.  No doubt I'll revisit this in the future and look at each film individually.  But until them, just some bullet points on why I like it.  This entry is originally dated March 6, 2011. 

Something a little different for Fishing in the Discount Bin. I finally broke down and bought the Back to the Future trilogy on Blu-Ray. I don't have the HDTV yet to fully take advantage of the films in high-definition, but I love the trilogy so much that I figured "What the hey?" So I had a very drawn out weekend catching up with the trilogy (Part 1 on Friday, Part 2 on Saturday, Part 3 on Sunday), so rather than do what I typically do, which is recount the plot and add a paragraph summing up my thoughts and feelings, I thought I'd just jot down some random thoughts and reflections on the trilogy.

Because hey, we've all seen the trilogy, right? Like I wrote about Ghostbusters not too long ago, Back to the Future is just part of the background noise of my childhood.

Part 1
As I've blogged in the past, out of all the films I own, and all the films where I've read "making of" stories, the story behind Back to the Future is the one I find the most compelling. I won't recount it here. Well, maybe just the story of how they came up with the original idea.

Co-writers Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale wanted to do a sci-fi movie. They wanted to do a time travel movie, but they couldn't figure out what the hook should be...what it should be about. Then, one day, Gale was helping his parents clean out the attic. He found his dad's old high school yearbook, and flipping through it, discovered that his dad was the students union president. Gale thought to himself, "My high school was so big, I never knew the students union president. I wonder...if my dad and I were the same age, would we be friends?" He told that tale to Zemeckis, and Zemeckis said, "Yeah, I think I know what you're getting at. It's like your mom saying she never kissed a guy until she met your dad, and then you find out she was the school slut." And that's when they realized they had their hook: a teenager from the present day goes back in time and meets his parents when they were his age.

Everything about that film is just brilliance. That great sequence in the beginning with Marty skateboarding to work and The Power of Love playing. Hell, whenever I play The Power of Love on the air, I usually intro it by saying, "Oh no! Marty McFly, you're late for school!" And the skateboard chase in the middle of the film. Usually credited with finally bringing skateboarding into the mainstream and making it a full-blown fad for the rest of the 1980s.

And the ending. The ending still makes me stand up and cheer. Everything is just so perfect. The way the music swells, and the DeLorean taking to the skies...it's just so perfect. As the legend goes, Zemeckis and Gale never planned for a sequel...they just thought that Marty going into the future to meet his own kids would be a cute joke to end to the film.

Part 2
Part 2 is always regarded as the lesser of the trilogy, but I still like it. I remember seeing it in the theatre. My Mom took my sister and my sister's friends to see The Little Mermaid. But because it was a multiplex, my brother and I were like, "Screw that! We're going to see Back to the Future 2!"

One of the things I like about #2 is it's the only one where the time machine works perfectly. There's no plot device of "How are we going to power it?" or anything like that. They need to go to another era, they just jump in and go.

The future of 2015 just looks so nice. Damn it, I still want a hoverboard. The future predicted by that film is just 4 years away...how come I don't have a hoverboard yet? Some of the things did come true...digital cameras and flat screen TVs for one, but not a lot else. I wonder when someone is going to build a 1980s-themed retro diner. I think I'll do that.

And the third act, where it's back in the 1950s, and Marty is sneaking around making sure that his past self can still make it Back to the Future. Sheer genius. Again, going back to the tale, originally the end was going to take place in the 1960s, with Marty meeting his parents as hippies, but director/co-writer Zemeckis was all like, "No, this is lame. Here's a thought...since we're doing a series of movies about time travel, we have a unique opportunity. How about if he has to go back in time into the first film, and make sure the first film goes off without a hitch?"

And again, yet another perfect ending. We re-create the climax of the first film, with the DeLorean going back to the future, and then Marty runs around the corner to talk to the 1950s-era Doc. Again, I remember it getting a huge laugh in the theatre.

Doc>> But it can't be you! I just sent you back to the future!
Marty>> I know, Doc, you did, but now I'm back. I'm back FROM the future!

And Doc faints, the music swells, "To Be Concluded" flashes on the screen, and we get a teaser for Part 3.

Part 3
Ah, Part 3. My birthday movie for my 13th birthday. I've always gravitated toward sci-fi films, and my dad towards westerns. Back to the Future Part 3 is one of the few films we both enjoy. "Hey son, where'd you learn to shoot like that?" "7-11." That line still makes my dad laugh after all these years.

One thing that always struck me about part 3 is how similar it is to the first film. I was reading some recent criticisms of Return of the Jedi, about how the characters are faced with a similar goal...namely, destroying the Death Star again. Same thing with part 3. Once again, they're trapped in the past with no way to power their time machine, there's a dance, there's an epic fight with a bully. It just matches so many of the story beats of the first film.

But still, it leads to another great climax and another great ending.

And yeah. That's the trilogy.

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