On July 3rd, 1985, Back to the Future made its theatrical debut. The story of teenager Marty (Michael J. Fox) and crazy, wild eyed scientist Doctor Emmett “Doc” Brown (Christopher Lloyd) was a time travel adventure across two different periods, with a difference of 30 years in the film.
The movie would go on to be a pop culture phenomenon that fans would adore, families would cherish, and people would live by. Here now, in the year 2015, there is more merchandise for the films than even the cast and crew behind it could imagine. People are restoring DeLoreans to look like the famous time machine. Hoverboards are wanted by everyone. There’s board games, action figures, drinking glasses, ice cube trays, and so much more dedicated to the tales of Marty and Doc.
In 1985, no one could’ve imagined the impact that the movie had on audiences. In fact, going in, Back to the Future almost seemed like a different beast altogether. This was mainly due to the casting of an actor for Marty. Michael J. Fox was the number one choice for the skateboard-riding guitar player, but due to scheduling conflicts, director Robert Zemeckis and writer Bob Gale had to seek other talent.
Eric Stoltz was the first person to step into Marty’s shoes, but the young actor took a “method” approach to the part and ultimately did not meet what the crew desired in the role of Marty. Michael J. Fox altered his schedule to come on board, and in the infamous words of his character, “History is gonna change.” It certainly did.
Fox’s comedic timing in the part meshed perfectly with Lloyd’s character, and the two created a duo that was matched without fail. It is so bizarre to think that Marty could’ve been somebody else but thankfully it wasn’t to be. Despite some setbacks, Back to the Future hit it big in the summer of 1985, and the cliffhanger ending of Doc, Marty, and Jennifer (then Claudia Wells) rocketing toward 88 miles per hour left open a door for sequels.
So we went to the past in the original film; how about the future in the next one? In 1989, fans were treated to a glimpse of 2015, which featured skateboards that didn’t need wheels, cars that flew, thumbprint pads for door entry, self-tying laces, and way more beyond our wildest dreams. In fact, the DeLorean itself had received an upgrade, being able to convert to a flying car, a sneak peek of which is given at the end of the original Back to the Future. Back to the Future Part 2 covered three time periods, layering actions with whatever happened in the original film in 1955. However, since nobody knew that sequels were going to take place, all the pieces made for the back lot 1955 in the first film had to be restored or rebuilt for the second.
In addition, we also set foot back in 1985 during the middle of the film for an alternate timeline that is due to Biff (Thomas Wilson), the bully of Hill Valley, rising to power thanks to a Sports Almanac from the future. Therefore, in Back to the Future Part 2, we go from 1985 to 2015 to an alternate 1985 to 1955 to…well…I’ll get there in a bit.
The second installment of the trilogy was equal parts complex, dramatic, funny, and exciting. Personally, I don’t know if I like the second movie or the first one more. Some days it varies. As far as sequels go, Back to the Future Part 2 plays it smart as compared to safe, and is easily one of the best follow ups in movie history. Despite its clever plot and the work devoted to it, Back to the Future Part 2 failed to meet the success of its predecessor.
The trilogy pressed on, as director Robert Zemeckis had filmed part 2 and part 3 back-to-back. At the end of part 2, due a lightning striking the DeLorean, Doc Brown ends up in 1885 (aka the Old West), and Marty goes back to retrieve him. The two form a plan to get back to 1985 but romance intervenes. Clara Clayton (Mary Steenburgen) begins to steer Doc off course as he falls for her, but he realizes his true choice is to get back to 1985 and leave the Old West behind him. The film concludes with an exciting train sequence that is utilized to get the DeLorean up to 88 miles per hour.
Most people frown upon Back to the Future Part 3 as being the black sheep of the trilogy. It is not as memorable as Part 1, nor as creative as Part 3. We really just have Marty and Doc to spend time with, and not the collective group of characters we know from Hill Valley that appeared in the previous two films. The DeLorean barely gets any screen time, and the special effects are pretty much saved for the end, whereas Part 2 had an abundance of them. To a lot of people, it feels like a step backward.
However, as far as three-quels go, Back to the Future Part 3 is a ton of fun, and if you can’t enjoy it on that reason alone, then obviously there is no changing your mind. It completes the trilogy in a way that it needs to be completed; all the loose ends are tied up, there is a happy ending for all our characters, and without it, we wouldn’t be able to see a time traveling train!
Back to the Future Part 3 released in 1990, book ending the Back to the Future saga. Ever since then, there has been talk of remaking or rebooting the franchise for new audiences. There also has been a discussion of a true sequel. Christopher Lloyd said he’d definitely be up for a Back to the Future 4. On an aside, he’s actually revisited the character of Doc Brown for many different reasons, whether it be commercials, short films, or cameos, so clearly he’s embraced the role and would have no problem stepping in the shoes of Doc Brown yet again. It is also worth mentioning he also returned to play the Doc in a live action portion of the Back to the Future cartoon, which ran from 1991-1993, and gave us details and directions during Back to the Future: The Ride which closed down shop in Orlando, Florida in 2007.
Still, despite his interest, I hope nothing major comes to change what already is. The Back to the Future Trilogy is a complete film series that feels perfect, timeless, and one that cannot be remade or redone in any way. I can sense that Hollywood is itching to do something with the property, but director Robert Zemeckis has said that he will allow that only “over his dead body.” In an era when everything is being retooled for a new generation, it is great to see that Back to the Future still hasn’t been touched and that Zemeckis himself won’t allow it.
These movies have had a profound effect on my life, which is why I don’t want them to be tainted. I can watch them, day in, day out, without ever tiring of what is going on. The movies bring me cinematic joy. I squeal whenever I see a DeLorean in real life. The need to buy every toy or piece of merchandise related to the series is something I face every day. I have books on the topic, detailing trivia or products made dedicated to the franchise. Hey, and I met Christopher Lloyd, Doc Brown himself, which was amazing, and a memory I’ll never forget because of my love for Back to the Future.
Why are we talking about these movies so much lately, you may ask. Well, October 21st, 2015 is being called Back to the Future day. If you are not aware of why it is called Back to the Future day, it is because Marty and Doc travel to the future in Back to the Future Part 2 on that very day. These films have had such an effect on the world that we are dedicating 24 hours to it. Has any other film carved out a day for its memory? Not that I can think of.
Cinemas will be showing the films back-to-back-to-back in honor of the day. DeLoreans will be parked on streets and in malls in various locations. Fans will dress up like various characters from the movies, clutching their replicas of infamous items from the series. The flux capicator, the hoverboard, possibly a stuffed animal who looks similar to Einstein (Doc’s dog), a Biff Tannen’s Pleasure Paradise drinking glass…need I go on?
We celebrate these movies because ultimately they identify everything we love about film. Within the Back to the Future trilogy, there are moments of friendship, love, sadness, and triumph. There’s tension and comedic relief. There’s a beautiful score (composed by Alan Silvestri) and a rocking soundtrack (thanks in part to Huey Lewis and the News) to go along with it. There’s also a sweet car too! What more could you ask for?
In the words of Doctor Emmett Brown, “The future hasn’t been written yet. No one has! It is whatever you make of it! So make it a good one!” It is with this thought that the Back to the Future series ends, and I think it’s fitting that this look back ends the same way.
Thank you, Back to the Future, for making the past 30 years something special. I’m sure you’ll make the next 30 a good one too.
Now where’s my hoverboard?
Logan J. Fowler is a senior writer and video game editor on Pop-Break.com. He contributes his thoughts every week for Trailer Tuesday and ABC’s The Goldbergs.” Logan’s “kid at heart” nature has led to his discussion about pop culture that many geeks love to talk about, including superheroes, Super Mario Bros., Pixar, and Muppets, among other things. In addition, one of his first pieces for the site, “Top Ten Comic Book Movies,” was picked as a “Freshly Pressed” piece by WordPress and remains one of the site’s most well-read articles. Many of Logan’s friends have said that he moonlights as Spider-Man but this is so not true. Wait, are those police sirens I’m hearing?! Gotta go! -thwipp-