Film: Back To The Future Trilogy

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Film:

Back To The Future Trilogy

Director: Robert Zemeckis
Genres:
Distributor: Universal Pictures Video

Before he grew up and started to become a serious filmmaker, Robert Zemeckis created arguably the most unashamedly entertaining film trilogy ever with his Back to the Future series. It’s here that Zemeckis came closest to emulating his mentor Steven Spielberg, and here, too, that he showed his own talent for combining flashy visual effects and knock-about comedy. The vivacious screenplays, cowritten with Bob Gale, are chock full of forwards and backwards-looking jokes, 1950s nostalgia and wry nods to other movies. Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd, both…

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Before he grew up and started to become a serious filmmaker, Robert Zemeckis created arguably the most unashamedly entertaining film trilogy ever with his Back to the Future series. It’s here that Zemeckis came closest to emulating his mentor Steven Spielberg, and here, too, that he showed his own talent for combining flashy visual effects and knock-about comedy. The vivacious screenplays, cowritten with Bob Gale, are chock full of forwards and backwards-looking jokes, 1950s nostalgia and wry nods to other movies. Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd, both alumni of successful small-screen sitcoms (Family Ties and Taxi respectively), bring a frenetic energy to their roles, but also the warmth and likability needed to carry the audience with them through time.

Don’t try and unravel the time-travel thread running throughout, as that way lie paradoxes: just accept its inherent absurdity and enjoy the ride. Marty McFly travels from 1985 to 1955 in a souped-up DeLorean sports car (Back to the Future), then forward in time to 2015 and back to 1955 again (Back to the Future II), before going all the way back to the Old West of 1885 (Back to the Future III). Matters become progressively more complicated as actions in the past have repercussions for the future, and vice versa. Marty learns life-lessons and Doc finds love at last; the joyful, helter-skelter pace never slackens for an instant. —Mark Walker

On the DVD: Back to the Future travels through time to the DVD era with a three-disc set charting the much-loved trilogy in full, along with an abundance of special features. The real joy in this box set is the “Making of the Trilogy” featurette, which spans the three discs and offers a wealth of information on the films. The deleted scenes have not faired well with age, with the visuals and sound suffering immensely. On Disc One the anecdotes can be played along with the film as subtitles, which is more than can be said for the commentary with Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale recorded at the California University, which is simply a Q & A session—not played along with the movie—and would have been stronger as a filmed special feature. But all in all as three-disc sets go it doesn’t get much better than this—and you won’t need 1.21 gigawatts of electricity to enjoy it.—Nikki Disney

Barnes and Noble

The legendary DeLorean sports car makes one stylish, streamlined time machine in the Back to the Future trilogy, the ‘80s classics from director Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump). The first of the series is the strongest, telling the story of young Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox), a small-town teen in 1985 who takes an accidental trip back to 1955 in a time-traveling DeLorean built by eccentric, white-haired mad scientist Doc (Christopher Lloyd). Through a series of comedic missteps, Marty inadvertently keeps his parents (Lea Thompson and Crispin Glover) from falling in love, thereby threatening his own existence. Quite simply, this is the best time-travel film ever made, and it revels in Marty’s fish-out-of-water 1980s take on 1950s Eisenhower-era innocence. With their self-assured handling of clever plot twists and time-travel paradoxes, writers Zemeckis and Bob Gale earned an Oscar nomination for Best Screenplay. And while the plot ticks with Swiss-watch precision, at the film’s heart is an appointment with destiny, a single moment that sets the pattern for all the characters’ lives, expressed eloquently in the film’s central image of a tower clock stopped for 30 years by a bolt of lightning. Back to the Future Part II careens 30 years into the future (where the DeLorean has been made to fly) before Marty and Doc return to a nightmarish alternate 1985 (with shades of It’s a Wonderful Life) that that can only be repaired by another trip back to the ‘50s. Labyrinthine time-travel complications are the name of the game in Part II, capped off by a brilliant reprise of the tour-de-force climactic sequence of the first film. Back to the Future Part III catapults Marty and Doc back in time to the Wild West of 1885, where fun and games with genre conventions—cowboys, Indians, and gunfights—and a little romance (Mary Steenburgen is introduced as Doc’s true love) replace the plot complexities of the first two films. Fox and Lloyd anchor this series: Fox’s boyish charm and energy is completely in sync with the film’s buoyant spirit of fun, while Lloyd’s archetypal portrayal of a mad-but-loveable scientist stands, along with his stint on Taxi, as the signature work of his career. And while only the original Back to the Future can be considered a true masterpiece, the sequels have a refreshing unpredictability that puts the trilogy as a whole—along with the Star Wars and Indiana Jones trilogies—at the pinnacle of post-Hollywood New Wave blockbuster fun. Gregory Baird

Series Titles

Film:Back To The Future: Part 1 of trilogy

Back To The Future: Part 1 of trilogy

Robert Zemeckis

Filmmaker Robert Zemeckis topped his breakaway hit Romancing the Stone with this joyous comedy with a dazzling hook: what would it be like to meet your parents in their youth? Billed as a special-effects comedy, the imaginative film (the top box-office smash of 1985) has staying power because of the heart behind Zemeckis and Bob Gale’s script. High-school student Marty McFly (Michael J Fox, during the height of his TV success) is catapulted back to the 1950s where he sees his parents in their teens, and accidentally changes the history of how Mom and Dad met. Filled with the humorous ideology of the 50s, filtered through the knowledge of the 80s (actor Ronald Reagan is president, ha!), the film comes off as a Twilight Zone episode written by Preston Sturges…

Film:Back to the Future: Part 2 of trilogy

Back to the Future: Part 2 of trilogy

Robert Zemeckis

Critics and audiences didn’t seem too happy with this inventive, perhaps too clever sequel to the popular 1985 comedy about a high school kid (Michael J. Fox) who travels into the past and has to bring his parents together (or lose his own existence). Director Robert Zemeckis and cast bent over backwards to add layers of time-travel complication to this follow-up, and while it surely exercises the brain it isn’t necessarily funny in the same way that its predecessor was. It’s well worth a visit, though, just to appreciate the imagination that went into it,…

Film:Back to the Future: Part 3 of trilogy

Back to the Future: Part 3 of trilogy

Robert Zemeckis

Shot back-to-back with Back to the Future II, this final chapter in the series is less hectic than that film and has the same sweet spirit of the first, albeit in a whole new setting. This time, Michael J. Fox’s character ends up in the Old West of 1885, trying to prevent the death of mad scientist Christopher Lloyd at the hands of a gunman. Director Robert Zemeckis successfully blends exciting special effects with the traditions of a Western, and comes up with something original and fun. —Tom Keogh

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