What is the greatest time machine in all of popular culture? There are two contenders for this title and one of them is a major factor in the brilliance that is Back to the Future. It goes without saying that the DeLorean is a character in itself that you cannot watch the Back to the Future series without thinking about it as one.
The first adventure of Marty and Doc, taking the former from 1985 to 1955 and nearly destroying his parents marriage in the process, and erasing his own existence in the process, is one of those movies that would be Exhibit A in a court case to determine why the 1980’s was probably the greatest decade for Hollywood blockbusters.
Funny, sweet and filled with imagination and adventure, wonderful characters, an iconic music score and some of the best scripting for a blockbuster, it is hard to imagine the decade without it. To top it all off it even has a smash hit theme song, like nearly every movie did during that time, in this case supplied by Huey Lewis and the News.
In reality, nothing about Back to the Future should really work, or at least come together the way that it does. It’s an 80’s movie that primarily takes place in the 50’s, it was plagued by the problem of having to replace its original leading man shortly after filming began, it was written, produced and directed by a duo of filmmakers who had made nothing but box office duds, and every studio in town turned it away, the majority for thinking was it was too innocent and family friendly in an era of raunchy teen comedies and that it was a better fit for Disney, only to have Disney turn it down also because it they thought it was too raunchy.
In the end, it was the perfect fit for Steven Spielberg to produce under his Amblin Entertainment umbrella. The laughs are thick and fast, the characters and the actors inhabiting them are wonderful and it mixes both younger actors like Michael J Fox and older thespians such as Christopher Lloyd to perfection.
The friendship at the heart of the film, and subsequent sequels, is the icing on this deliciously great cake of a movie. Whilst many have questioned how a sixteen year old boy and a fifty something eccentric man could become close friends the way they do, it’s hard not to simply just go with it because Fox as Marty and Lloyd as Doc Brown inhabit their roles so fantastically well that to try to pick holes is to break apart the movie’s sense of magic.
The chemistry is wonderful, the duo inherently charming and they carry both this and the follow ups so damn well.
The rest of the film is filled out with a divine supporting cast, including sweetly layered performances from Lea Thompson and Crispin Glover, the former wonderfully staying the right side of lust obsessed with Marty and the latter so delightfully odd that it’s a shame that Glover and the creative talent behind the scenes fell out the way they did when it came to Parts II and III.
Thompson in particular brings a wealth of sweetness to a character who in lesser hands could have come across as somewhat creepy, the pay-off coming during the kiss in the car that Disney executives apparently crapped themselves over when reading the script, thus turning the project away. Her realisation is comedy perfection and her subsequent falling for George, and George’s own subsequent ability to stand up for himself, makes both performances a beating heart at the centre of the film.
It also has one of the best all time villains in any movie series. Thomas F Wilson as Biff is pretty much the Darth Vader of the Back to the Future universe, a big bad who isn’t technically a “big bad” as such, simply the school bully who is a mere thorn in the sides of our characters, but what a thorn. His dastardly behaviour would reach new heights with Part II, almost predicting some recent world events, but that’s a story for the next entry of the Bucket List; here we have a character who simply makes you boo at the screen, hate with a passion, but you know the series would be a truly lesser place without him, the big butt head.
For a film made released in 1985 and set thirty years earlier, Back to the Future has aged incredibly well, gotten better with age and subsequently finds itself being discovered by future generations who have kept the film alive. It seems to get more popular as the years have gone on and, even better, every subsequent viewing is even more brilliant and satisfying than the last.
COMING SOON: “It’s leave you idiot. Make like a tree and LEAVE!“