I think we can all agree that Back to the Future Part III is not as good as Parts 1 or 2. But is it as terrible as some people claim it to be? Not really. It takes some chances that really pay off, and when compared to other final trilogy films it’s actually quite good.
The first big chance this movie takes is placing the characters and audience to a more foreign time: the Old West. 1950s Hill Valley didn’t seem that far off from the town in 1985, just cleaner and nicer. Hill Valley of 2015 [original timeline] felt familiar to the viewer because it still felt 80s-esque, and thankfully we weren’t left in alternate 1985 for too long. But Hill Valley as a frontier town is very different. It’s smaller, dustier, and lacks basic technology. The only familiar landmark is the courthouse, but its famous clock doesn’t appear until halfway through the film. Still, the result is fun. While I’ve never been a big fan of Westerns, there is something entertaining about watching people riding horses, chasing wagons, and climbing over train cars.
The second big chance is shifting the focus from The McFlys to Doc Brown. We are still introduced to Marty’s relations, but their story takes a backseat to the budding romance between everyone’s favorite crazy scientist and schoolmarm Clara Clayton. I think this love story is cute, and refreshing to see people over the age of 20 falling in love for the first time.
In fact I’d say I really only have two gripes about this movie, and both will probably seem nitpicky. For one, Lea Thompson returns as Marty’s great-great-grandmother. This bothers me, because genetically it makes no sense that a paternal grandparent would look exactly like his mother, unless the McFly’s are more prone to incest than the first movie leads us to believe. Yeah, a totally silly thing to take issue with, but it doesn’t completely ruin the movie for me (I have a similar love/hate relationship with the science in X-Men, so look for that in, like, five years). Secondly– and this one nearly does ruin the movie– Doc goes on and on throughout the film about how he’s going to destroy the time machine once he and Marty return to 1985 because they keep messing up the past. Yet in the final scene he’s driving a new time machine. What the hell, Doc? Has love made you completely stupid and you’re just completely throwing caution to the wind? You have a wife and children to think about now! Take your own advice and destroy that steampunk time train!
I really feel bad for this film. It had to follow one of the best comedies of all time and then a really solid follow up. There was almost no chance for this film, the expectation would’ve been enormous. I really enjoyed it though. One of my favourite things about the Back to the Future series was that it keeps going in new directions. After going into the past for the original and then to the future in the second instalment, the third Back to the Future film takes us way back into the past. Back to the old west. Now this is a really different film from the first two, and I think that’s what rubbed people the wrong way with it. People don’t like change at all, they’re far more comfortable watching the same thing in different colours over and over again. That’s why there are so many sequels and reboots happening all of the time. When a movie truly takes risks, like Back to the Future 3 tries to do, it is usually rejected by audiences. This is a shame because there is a lot of fun to be had here. Michael J. Fox is back as the time travelling teenager Marty McFly. He is great and really owns the role now after playing the character three times. He goes back to the year 1885 to save his friend Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd), who got sent there by mistake after lightning struck the DeLorean Time Machine. Mary Steenburgen also joins the cast as a love interest for Doc Brown.
It’s really interesting to see McFly’s home town Hill Valley in 1885. The audience has seen this film in so many ways throughout the series. We’ve seen the 80s version, the 1955 version, the technologically advanced 2015 version and now we get to see the town in its infancy during the 1800s. There are a lot of cool references in this film. Like seeing Marty’s hard as nails school principal as a kid with his Sheriff father teaching his son all about discipline. We see Biff’s grandfather, Buford Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson). He is menacing, just as he has been all series. There are quite a few tongue in cheek shout outs to the present in this film. Marty’s name he chooses in the old west is Clint Eastwood, at the time known as a badass action hero, it’s very amusing when the citizens of the old west think it’s a dumb name and Eastwood couldn’t possibly be a tough guy. ZZ Top also make an appearance as a folk band at a city gathering.
I enjoyed this film. It doesn’t reach the heights of the first two, but that doesn’t mean it’s a turkey like I hear so often about this third instalment. I really like the story. Putting McFly and Doc Brown in really unfamiliar surroundings is very entertaining and Fox and Lloyd still have really great chemistry together. I also like the idea that they would use a train to get up to 88 miles an hour when they need to get home to 1985. It was really their only option, but the final sequence when they attempt to go back to 1985 is action packed and really entertaining.