Roads? Where We Are Going We Don't Need Roads...
I have been racking my brain trying to decide what film I should review as my first non-horror film review. There was a nice discussion on the discord ranging from “Basketball Diaries” to “Titanic” to “Romeo+Juliet” (a lot of Leo love on the discord), but in the end I decided to go with a film that to me ranks in the upper echelon. I want to set the bar high, so that all films that I review after know what the bar to beat is. I will review the film similar to how we review films on Here’s Johnny, with one notable exception. Non-horror films are by definition not going to be scary so I cannot critique them in that manner. So instead of a “how scary” score, I am going to give it an “impact” score. What I mean by impact is kind of multifaceted. It is going to mean what overall effect did it have on the genre from which it stemmed, is it a part of cultural zeitgeist (if its a film that has been around awhile), and things similar to that nature. Let me know your thoughts on this, I tend to like it as it gives me a lot of wiggle room to kind of write and critique what I want. So, what movie did I end up deciding to review? Robert Zemeckis’ 1985 sci-fi classic “Back to the Future”...
I think that by now everyone has seen this film. If you haven’t, I honestly do not know where you have been. BTTF is a seminal film, and considered by many in the film industry to be the “perfect” film. Even so, I will give a 100 word plot summary before I get into my criticism. But seriously, if you haven’t seen this movie what have you been doing with your life?!?
Marty McFly is the protege of beleaguered scientist Doc Brown. Brown has finally created his time machine, a DeLorean using plutonium stolen from terrorists. After Brown gets shot down, Marty gets into the DeLorean and ends up traveling through time back to 1955. Marty messes up how his parents met, and thus sends time off course and on the path of erasing himself from the future. With the help of the younger Doc Brown, Marty fixes the DeLorean, gets his parents to fall in love and leaves a note for Brown to save his life. He returns to 1985 to find that things are the same, but different. Doc Brown shows up and tells Marty that he has to go to the future to save his kids!
Pretty simple but so is the movie. There really aren’t many intricacies to this film on face value, but as you dive in you can see just how much love Zemeckis paid to it in his attention to detail. And the arc of Marty McFly is very relatable for anyone who was in high school. Your parents just don’t get you, all you want to do is hang out with the boy/girl you like, and thinking about how your actions in the present would affect your future is something that is totally lost on you. For a film about time travel, I would argue that it is the cleanest time plot of all time. Many films jump through crazy hoops to define what happens (looking at you “Interstellar”) but Zemeckis story is very streamlined. Biff is a great villain, and to see him get his is great. I could go on and on, but let’s just say the plot is fantastic.
10 out of 10
For a film made in the 1980’s, this film still feels as clean as if it were filmed today. Zemeckis really did a great job on this movie. There was not a need for a whole lot of special effects in this movie, which works in his favor. The DeLorean and Marty disappearing are the two biggest areas where crappy CGI could have snuck its way in. But it didn’t. Now I am not saying it looks as great as the most recent superhero movie special effects, what I am saying is that the quality is high enough that it doesn’t take the audience out of the movie when it happens. I also think that there are some scenes that are so iconic. One has to be when Marty stands up to Biff in defense of his father and the chase scene that follows. As a kid all I wanted to do was grab a skateboard and let a car drag me around town. Another scene that for me is iconic would have to be the scene when George finally stands up to Biff to defend Lorraine. As a kid, we know what Biff is doing is wrong, but as an adult it is really clear just how messed up what Biff is attempting to do. To see George not only stand up to his bully, but to prevent the terrible act that Biff is about to commit is a great moment, and it allows Lorraine to finally see the strength of character that George has had the whole time. The little changes that Marty causes to the future after his time in the past is also something I am going to toss into this category. Because Marty ran down a tree when he made it to the past, when he returned to the future the mall goes from “Twin Pine Mall” to “Lone Pine Mall”. It is the little details like that that makes this film so rewatchable as you continue to look for other small changes Marty caused.
10 out of 10
Let’s start with the acting. I truly feel in my heart that every single actor and actress in this film gives it their all and it makes the movie so special. From Michael J. Fox as Marty, Christopher Lloyd as Doc Brown and Thomas Wilson as Biff Tanner, every single character is nailed perfectly and we as the audience are sucked right in. In a movie like this, where actors play the same character at different points in their life, it can be very easy to turn in cheesey or unbelievable performances. I think that Lea Thompson (who plays Lorraine) does the best job at this. When we first meet Lorraine, she is a sad mother of three who is a super prude and reminscient of the better times. When Marty runs into her back in 1955, we find out that she was super popular, far more sexual than we thought she would be, and a lot more optimistic of her future. Because of Marty’s interference, his Mom is a changed woman. She is healthy, active, and more in love with her life. It is a crazy range that Thompson had to play, but she does an amazing job.
And outside of the acting, there is another area that needs discussed when it comes to the audio of BTTF. That is the music done by Huey Lewis and the News. “The Power of Love” is such an iconic song. And it fits the movie so well! Huey even makes a cameo in the film, as one of the teachers who tells Marty that his band plays their music too loud. There is one last musical sequence that I would be remiss to not mention. And that is when Marty play Johnny B. Goode for the school dance. Even though we can tell Fox isn’t the one singing, the way he acts the whole scene out is amazing. Especially when at the end he goes crazy hair metal and starts freaking out on stage. The dead pan silence from the crowd gets me every time.
10 out of 10
This might be the easiest section to score of them all. I don’t think that there is a single person who is not at least aware of “Back to the Future”. From the dialogue, to the plot, to the characters, the effect that this light hearted 80’s sci-fi movie had on the culture is palpable. Care to disagree? I can further my point to the TV show “Rick and Morty”. The series creator, Dan Harmon, has made it very clear that it is based on BTTF albeit a far more raunchy interpretation. Who hasn’t at one point or another dreamt of owning a DeLorean, equipped with a flux capacitor? Who wouldn’t have wanted to work for Doc Brown?? I also think it is easy to make the argument that when it comes to time jumping films, BTTF stands above the pack and should be the goal for any aspiring screenwriter who is trying to write such a script. I feel that this is the kind of movie, like “2001: A Space Odyssey” that will be untouched by the big wigs of Hollywood hoping to capitalize on it. I know that I wouldn’t want to be the director tasked with remaking/reimagining this movie. BTTF will stand the test of time as the ultimate high school coming of age film.
10 out of 10
Perfect score. I wasn’t lying when I said I was setting the standard by which I will evaluate all future films on this edition of the blog post. If there is a film you would like to see me review, write me a comment or send an email into the show. There are so many great (and terrible) films out there and I would like to be introduced to more of them!! Until next week, stay spooky my friends.