Monday, May 08, 2006

Back to the Future

I absolutely enjoyed watching Robert Zemeckis’ Back to the Future (1985). A friend of mine described it as “the definitive 80s movie,” and I have to agree with him. Difficult to classify in terms of genre, the film contains elements of action/adventure, comedy, and sci-fi. In essence, though, Back to the Future is about people: the theme of self-confidence plays a central role, and the story draws upon the curiosity people commonly have about what their parents were like as kids.

In 1985, Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) manages to turn a DeLorean into a time travel machine. His teenaged assistant, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox), accidentally gets stuck in the year 1955 and puts his own existence at stake by preventing his parents from meeting. Marty must enlist the help of Doc Brown’s younger self to fix the time machine and make sure his parents fall in love. With only a week to accomplish everything, time is slipping away quickly…

As might be expected, the film’s timeframe provides plenty of opportunity for pop culture jokes. In one particularly funny episode, Marty pretends to be an extraterrestrial and “tortures” his seventeen-year-old father with a Van Halen cassette in hopes of convincing the cowardly boy to ask his mother to the school dance.

Also amusing is Marty’s guitar playing at said dance. His virtuoso rendition of Chuch Berry’s “Johnny B Goode” goes over spectacularly well, but he receives stunned looks upon breaking out a Jimi Hendrix imitation.

Setting the film thirty years in the past serves a number of purposes for the director. Logically, for Marty to be a teenager in 1985, his parents had to be teenagers in the 1950s. To put it another way, the setting is a necessary part of the plot. It’s also unusual for a 1980s film, because the 1950s were generally considered too recent for a “historical” setting. After all, some audience members would remember growing up during that decade (as did Zemeckis). Still, the setting probably contributed to Back to the Future’s success. All in all, this film is definitely worth watching.

Great quotes:

  • "When this baby hits 88 miles per hour, you're gonna see some serious shit.”
  • "Chuck. Chuck. It's Marvin - your cousin, Marvin BERRY. You know that new sound you're looking for? Well, listen to this.”


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