OK, I’ve calmed down since watching Back to the Future. I can be a bit more objective about Part II, because while I have a soft spot for it as well, it’s kind of a different movie than the first. Not that that’s a bad thing, it’s just different.
For starters, I just now realized how funny it sounds when the characters talk about 2015 as being some far off distant date. Then I did some googling, and found a Back to the Future countdown clock, which reveals that the date which Doc, Marty, and Jennifer travel to– October 21, 2015– is just under two years away as of this writing. I used to watch this movie as a kid and think, “WOW! 2015 is so far in the future!” Now I hear it and I just feel old. Do you?
Also, 2015 looks so 80s. I mean the 80s are having a bit of a comeback (think high waisted shorts, neon, and oversized shirts with leggings), but I don’t think 2015 will look nearly as retro as it does here. We definitely won’t be watching Jaws 19, but we could see the Cubs beat Miami, just not in the World Series as this movie predicted (they’re both, unfortunately, National League teams). All this makes me wonder how dated some of today’s futuristic movies will look in 25 years.
And man is this movie dark compared to the other two! Don’t get me wrong– I love the alternate 1985 plot, but you can’t deny that Hill Valley under Biff’s rule is terrifying. Roving gangs. Graffiti covering everything. A corrupt police force. The school has burnt down and nobody seems to care. It’s madness! A substantial portion of this movie lacks the good natured fun of the first and third, and it’s quite jarring.
What this movie does well, though, is seamlessly merge the events of BTTF with what’s happening here. I can’t even imagine how daunting this must have been to storyboard, re-stage all of the 1950s scenes, and film actors playing multiple roles in the same scene (Fox plays at least five different characters). The result is a lot of fun to watch, with real tension created as you watch the characters deal with setback after setback.
Oh, and did I mention Michael J. Fox plays Marty’s daughter? Damn, those McFly genes are strong.
I don’t remember when this first came out, but there must’ve been some pressure on this movie. How do you follow up one of the most popular teen comedies of all time and not let your rabid young fan base down? I understand that a lot of people didn’t like this sequel or the third instalment, but I really liked them both. I love that this film tries to go in a different direction than the first one. Instead of jumping back in time 30 years, Marty McFly is now going forward to 2015. There are a heap of tongue in cheek references throughout this possible future that I really love. Some of my favourites are the giant Jaws shark eating Marty as he waits outside a theatre (this film is produced by Steven Spielberg) and creating a baseball team in Florida to get beaten by the Cubs in the 2015 World Series (there are two Florida teams now, but in the late 80s, this would’ve seemed outrageous). It’s really strange to think 2015 is only a year away. I remember watching this as a kid think it was so far away, but here we are almost there, and we still don’t have any hoverboards!!!
Michael J. Fox is back as Marty McFly and he’s as charming as ever. This film would’ve been particularly difficult to film for Fox. When he’s in the future, he plays not only his older self but also his son and daughter. For the final sequence, his character goes back to 1955 and several of the scenes from the original film had to be reshot exactly the same way but from different angles to show what was happening in the second movie. It must’ve been very hard to get each shot the same as the original. Director Robert Zemeckis does a really good job of capturing the fun and excitement of the original, but it’s also different enough to keep an audience entertained.
Christopher Lloyd also returns as Doc Brown and is as eccentric and fun as he was in the original film. My only real complaint is that Fox’s girlfriend Jennifer is played by a different actress. I really don’t like it when actors change roles between films. It’s a minor problem though as the replacement, Elisabeth Shue is delightful.
The expectations on this film would’ve been so big, but the movie delivers. It’s a solid follow up to one of the best comedies ever made.