There isn’t much you can say about Back To The Future that hasn’t been said already, such is its wide reaching appeal and charm. What’s not to like about its characters, its adventure story, its exploration of fate and family?
For a classic film there is a lot that has indeed been said. But, for the sake of argument, I’m going to chip in with my two cents regardless.
If you’ve never seen Back To The Future before, it is the story of Marty McFly (Michael J Fox), youngest son of George (Crispin Glover) and Elaine (Lea Thompson) and faced with the fact his parents never amounted to much. He’s friends with Doc Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd) who invites him to the Twin Pines Mall late at night to film his latest experiment – a time travelling DeLorean. It’s something to do with the stainless steel construction making the flux… never mind.
After an unfortunate encounter with some Libyans who want their plutonium back, Marty travels back to 1955 in the DeLorean and, lacking fuel to make the return journey, has to seek out a younger Doc Brown to help him get back… to the future. At the same time he interacts with his young parents and his presence means that his future existence comes under threat. No pressure then.
Inevitably time travel stories have plot holes you can drive a DeLorean through, and Back To The Future is no different. What matters is that it’s fun and it’s entertaining. It’s infinitely quotable and filled with enjoyable performances from each of the main cast. Zemeckis and Bob Gale’s script starts with time travel as its concept but it’s really about the characters, about family. It’s also about meddling with the timeline and making your future better for yourself without much effort. Let’s not dwell on that one, it could spoil all the fun.
Christopher Lloyd will perhaps always be known for playing Doc Brown. He’s a classic mad scientist, a ball of frantic energy and invention as his mind works at double speed. Ironic given Lloyd’s introverted, quiet nature in reality. Brown gets most of the best lines (1.21 GIGAWATTS?!?!) and his incredulity about teenager’s lives is a joy to watch.
At the other end of the scale is Thomas F Wilson as Biff Tannen, a typical bully – all muscle, no brains. He and his gang are timeless archetypes. Whether it is 1955, 1985 or even 2015 (as you’ll see in Back To The Future: Part 2) they are people who exist at all points in history.
Of course you can’t discuss Back To The Future without mentioning Michael J Fox. Coming into the project six weeks into shooting to replace Eric Stoltz. It’s hard to imagine anybody else in the role as Fox is a likeable, personable presence. Initially puzzled by his journey to 1955 he soon adapts to this different way of life and bonds once more with Doc Brown.
Put simply, Back To The Future is a popular classic of cinema, and stands up to repeat viewings. Now make like a tree, and get outta here.