Back to the Future (1985)

Article 4927 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-13-2015
Directed by Robert Zemeckis
Featuring Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson
Country: USA
What it is: Comic time travel story

A teenager accidentally travels back in time thirty years, and interferes in an event that caused his parents to meet for the first time. He now not only has to find a way to get back to his own time, but also has to bring about events to cause his parents to marry or else he will fade from existence.

As far as this movie-watching project of mine goes, the times when I feel the most uncomfortable with it is when I’m forced to revisit a movie I’ve seen before and for which the outlook I had from that viewing differs sharply from the current critical outlook of the movie. At this point of time, this movie has a very high reputation and is considered one of the great science fiction classics, whereas I came away from my first viewing with some disappointments. There’s a certain high-tech and slick cuteness to the proceedings that I didn’t care for, I didn’t find the performances of Lea Thompson and Crispin Glover in the 1985 incarnations of their characters convincing (though I had no problem with their 1955 incarnations, the ones in the present looked and felt too much like young people trying to pretend to be old people), and I was especially annoyed at the double climax; after resolving the issue involving his parents (which had both personal and existential impacts), I was ready for the movie to end, but the whole action sequence of him returning to the present felt to me like it was just jerking us around with the movie’s fairy dust.

However, watching the movie again does amend my feelings somewhat. My objections to the cuteness and the portrayal of the parents still stands, but I realize that I misunderstood the purpose of the second climax. Rather than being a mere diversion to extend the length of the movie, I realized that the real center of the second climax is the survival of the Christopher Lloyd character, and that added the extra level of dimension that I missed the first time. Actually, I’m surprised I missed this; for both viewings, my favorite thing about the movie was Christopher Lloyd and his performance as Dr. Emmett Brown. I’ve never been a big fan of Michael J. Fox, though I have no issues with his solid performance here. However, I did find it interesting to realize this; the movie initially takes place in 1985 and then shifts to 1955, thirty years earlier. This year is 2015, so I’m watching it thirty years later. That means that the present of this movie is just as distant in the past as the past of this movie is from this movie’s present. This being said, I couldn’t help but notice some of the elements in this movie that make it seem quaint; the Delorean time machine itself, the reference to Pepsi Free (the product placement here certainly didn’t help that drink), and the Fotomat at the mall; it immediately occurred to me that you don’t see any of those around anymore.


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