Back to the Future

Back to the Future

Great Scott! One of my favourite films was on telly last week, and I think the best way to enjoy Back to the Future is whilst eating your way out of a hangover with the help of some friends and pizza. Now let me just say that the sequel isn’t bad, but the final of the trilogy is just awful so stay away! As with everything I seem to do, Den of Geek or some better cooler Sci-Fi nerds have already written about it.

BTTF follows young Marty McFly – “Isn’t he a dreamboat?” – in his mundane middle class life. His siblings are losers and his parents have a depressing relationship that involves his mother Lorraine hitting the booze, whilst his father George crumbles under the bullying of his boss Biff Tannen. Marty has the dream of becoming a world famous rock musician and his girlfriend Jennifer, with her beautiful 80s curls, encourages him to overcome his recent musical dejection.

Marty meets his friend, the eccentric scientist ‘Doc’ Emmett Brown, to help him with his latest experiment – a time travel machine modified from the 1981 DeLorean car, with the ‘flux capacitor‘ which requires requires 1.21 gigawatts to function and speeds through time once it hits 88mph. Doc transports Einstein, a large fluffy dog, a minute into the future and understandably Marty is pretty shocked. However, it transpires Doc has got the plutonium – the DeLorean‘s fuel – from some Libyans who wanted him to create a bomb, and now they are pretty pissed off. They shoot Doc in the car park and a car chase ensues in which Marty unwittingly transports himself back to 1955.

After getting himself into several debacles,  coming to terms with his leap into the past, and realising he is without enough fuel to return to 1985, Marty runs into his parents. Completely under the control of school bully Biff Tannen, George McFly is a coward and social outcast, living in the world of writing Sci-Fi stories but without the confidence to share them in case of rejection. Marty witnesses the event recalled by his parents as their first meeting, when Lorraine Bates’ father hit George with his car. Doc later labels this as the ‘Florence Nightingale effect‘, where caregivers’ empathy manifests into affection for their patients. It’s revealed that George was in fact a ‘peeping Tom‘ and fell out of a tree whilst spying, and was thus hit by a car. To protect his father, Marty jumps in front of Mr Bates’ car and is nursed by Lorraine.

Now Marty has really messed up the fabric of time and space. Lorraine begins to have feelings for Marty – creepy – and he finds the 1955 version of Doc. After convincing Doc he’s from the future, Marty realises the lightning bolt that struck the clock tower, rendering it useless, will hit this Saturday! It is the only source powerful enough to generate the 1.21 gigawatts needed  to send Marty back to the future – AH they said the title of the film! Whilst Doc gets to work figuring out the sciency bit of all this time travel nonsense, Marty keeps his hot teen mother at arm’s length whilst trying to matchmake her with his dad George. He also tries to give George a spine, avoid being beaten up by Biff Tannen and negotiate the world of highschool in the ’50s. Tough day. 

It all somehow ends up going very well and Marty succeeds in getting his parents together, ending prom with a kick-ass rendition of “Johnny B Goode’, blowing everyone’s minds and implicitly influencing Chuck Berry into awesomeness. In a storm of haste, Marty gets back to the clock tower in time for the lightning strike. However, since his wild 1950s adventures have begun, Marty’s been feeling conflicted. It’s a bittersweet turn of events spending time with his great friend Doc when Marty knows in the future the guy is killed right in front of him. Doc has been constantly reprimanding Marty for messing with the construct of time and that no man should no too much about his own destiny, but despite this Marty has found him watching the film of the night Marty went back in time. Doc clearly gathers 1985 is not a good year for him, but refuses to let Marty tell him any more. However, Marty leaves a letter in Doc’s coat right before he returns home. Doc rips it up, refusing to be burdened with the responsibility of knowledge.

Back in 1985 things aren’t as they were before. When Marty returns his family home has been upgraded, his siblings are doing something with their lives and his father is now a famous Sci-Fi novelist. The McFlys have a much more steady and genuinely affectionate relationship that isn’t based on pity and unfulfilled expectations and Biff Tannen has got what he deserved, peaking in high school and now working as a car washer.

Marty goes to try and intervene in Doc’s death, creating a strange scenario where he’s watching his past self get shot at, and discovers Doc unharmed owing to his bulletproof vest – a precaution Doc took because he cheekily reattached the fragments of Marty’s ripped up warning letter.

Back to the Future has become iconic for the DeLorean, which gets souped-up in the sequel, as a time machine “with style” in the words of Doc. Marty is a likeable bumbling time traveller who seems to create as many messes as he resolves, and the idea of rewriting your own family history and kicking about with your folks when they were your age is incredibly hilarious and surreal. BTTF was by no means the first to explore paradoxes but it does it with an incredible element of fun and all the good things about 80s films. It’s all just wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey goodness.

I personally love many parts of the sequel – I won’t go into it too much because BRAIN MELTDOWN -because it adds a whole other layer of paradox with Biff Tannen discovering the time travel machine and using it for his own gains and very much to the destruction of the McFlys. It also has Marty go into 2015 – which is now only two years away [!] and I still see no hoverboards and self-lacing shoes, although the writers did seem to somewhat predict 3D cinema. 
It also has Marty go back to 1955 and so you get Marty [the improved 1985 version] trying not to bump into Marty [the original 1985 version] or 1955 Lorraine and George. He’s also avoiding Biff [2015 and 1955 versions] and 1955 Doc [1985 version is also avoiding himself and original Marty]. It all just becomes hilarious complicated so you end up crying and laughing at the same time. Just imagine being Marty.

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