“Back to the Future” Movie Review

Time to get back on track with my New Year’s resolution. So how about we continue with a blast from… the future? Okay, that came out wrong. Whatever. This now-classic sci-fi dramedy from director Robert Zemeckis was originally released on July 3rd,, 1985. The film surpassed all expectations and went on to earn over $381 million worldwide along with an ecstatic critical response. Co-written by Zemeckis and producer Bob Gale, the Oscar-nominated screenplay was conceived from Gale’s wondering about how his parents actually met. They initially had a tumultuous experience trying to get major studios to fund the project, which was considered “too tame” for many of them. Thankfully, Steven Spielberg got his production company Amblin Entertainment to back it and through the use of his magical Hollywood powers, it finally saw the light of day. By now, most of you probably know the premise: Marty McFly, a delinquent teenager in 1985, is friends with an oddball scientist named Doc Brown. Brown has recently created a time-traveling machine out of a DMC DeLorean, which goes to any desired point in history once it speeds up to 88 miles per hour. During the night of their first test run, Marty is accidentally sent back 30 years to 1955 and inadvertently breaks up his parents’ first meeting. To save his own existence, he tracks down Doc Brown from 1955 in an attempt to restart the DeLorean to go home… while simultaneously rekindling his parents’ romance. Here, I find myself in a situation similar to that of my review for The Shawshank Redemption. No, I have definitely seen Back to the Future many times prior to my resolution, but it’s essentially the same scenario. It’s extremely hard for me to review it objectively, and I’m almost positive that there’s nothing I can add that hasn’t been said before. But similarly, I just can’t resist the urge to write about it. So yeah, Back to the Future is a classic that is essential, required viewing for all film fans out there. Considering everything that happened during production, though, it’s a miracle we’re talking about it in such high praise. Although Fox is completely distinguished as McFly, a full month’s worth of filming was done with Eric Stoltz in the original role. Then, he was abruptly dropped and the producers had to work around the schedule for the sitcom Family Ties in order for Fox to make it work. (He was the original choice of Zemeckis) Even more baffling than that, though, is that the DeLorean wasn’t even the first design for the time machine. Instead, a regular refrigerator would have been the one converted and an atomic explosion would have been needed to send Marty back home. Who knows what history would have been like if the plot of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull had been adapted 20-plus years beforehand? Luckily, we don’t and I’m happier for it. As mentioned before, it’s impossible to imagine anyone playing Marty McFly other than Michael J. Fox. He manages to capture all of the anxieties, charisma, and reactions of a teenager rarely found in most coming-of-age stories… at least when it comes to time travel. Opposite him, Christopher Lloyd is hilarious and buoyant as Doc Brown, helping create one of the most memorable lead duos in cinematic history. He’s somehow able to make some of the most tech-heavy dialogue sound completely normal, informing his young comrade, “If my calculations are correct, when this baby hits 88 miles per hour, you’re gonna see some serious shit.” Meanwhile, James Tolkan plays one of the meanest teachers ever to grace the silver screen and Thomas F. Wilson hams it up as Biff Tannen, an iconic bully if ever there was one. The absolute scene-stealer here is Crispin Glover as Marty’s dad George. An eccentric nerd to end all others, the amount of quirkiness and believable traits the actor attributes is uncomfortably realistic. Also realistic in this film is the special effects, a hallmark of almost any Zemeckis picture. The ethereal folks over at Industrial Lights and Magic managed to craft a tight, local-based time travel movie using only 32 VFX shots, which is significantly smaller than most live-action blockbusters released in the modern era. Because of this, virtually every visual effect has aged incredibly well over the years… with a single brief exception. Another trademark of the director are long-take dolly shots, carried out here by cinematographer Dean Cundey. It never feels distracting in the least and adds more personality with some imagery it lingers on. But just as important is the editing job by Arthur Schmidt and Harry Keramidas, who both manage to keep the tension palpable. Relatively early, we see a well-shot scale model that not only delivers necessary exposition but also sets up the final act. And when the climax comes, the way they cut between shots makes my palms sweat and my fingernails shorten every time. Some movies are only as good as their music, and Alan Silvestri’s musical score is one for the ages. With piercing horns that would make John Williams blush and fast-paced percussion, the main theme fits perfectly into the relatively small-scale story even though it sounds as though it belongs in a massive epic. It helps to boost the momentum and remind the audience of Marty’s limited time left in 1955. Some themes you just remember the movie that it’s from, others you can’t possibly imagine the world without. And Silvestri’s work, my readers, falls into the latter category. Even all these years later and after so many re-watches, I really don’t have any problems or complaints about this movie. For all intents and purposes, this has everything that I want when it comes to movies and pure entertainment. Extremely likable characters, fantastic visuals, an unforgettable score, quotable dialogue, a simple yet effective story, and passionate commitment from all parties involved. Back to the Future is a carefully crafted, breathtaking cinematic extravaganza for all ages. I usually hate the old saying, “They don’t make them like this anymore.” But in the case of Robert Zemeckis’ classic film, it’s true; they really don’t. And hopefully, they’ll never remake it.

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