RETRO REVIEW: Back to the Future

RETRO REVIEW: Back to the Future

There are very few movies in this world that I could watch ad nauseam without actually becoming nauseous.

One of those movies is 1985’s Back to the Future — a critical success, and a timeless classic, if I do say so myself. And with the way the world has been for the past month, who wouldn’t want to go back in time?

With that out of the way, let’s go for a cruise in our DeLorean and spend a week in 1955 — but don’t forget to bring extra plutonium!

Okay, obvious things out of the way first, the acting is stellar.

Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd play Marty McFly and Doc Emmet Brown, respectively. The rest of the cast is brilliant too, especially Crispin Glover (George McFly) and Thomas F. Wilson (Biff Tannen), but Marty and Doc are the central characters that we’ll be spending most of the movie with, and they play their parts very well.

However, Lloyd effortlessly steals the spotlight with his “mad scientist” shtick.

Not just with the way he looks, but some of the things he says are hilariously strange.

For instance, his speculation about how, in 1985, plutonium may be available at every corner drugstore.

Or his musings of whether there’s something wrong with Earth’s gravitational pull because of Marty’s catchphrase “This is heavy.”

They may seem really cheesy on paper, but Lloyd delivers them with such a serious demeanor that you can’t help but laugh, or at the very least, furrow your brow.

The acting as a whole honestly makes me forget that I’m watching a movie.

Which is good, because nothing is more immersion breaking than someone delivering lines with the emotion of a cardboard cut-out.

Moving along, Back to the Future has a lot going for it writing-wise.

This is especially noticeable if you watch the behind the scenes feature where the writer and producer discuss how they planned out every little thing before they started filming.

And this planning results in a ton of call-backs.

Or call-forwards, you could argue, since Marty is in the past.

Anyway, later in the movie, Marty skateboards away from antagonist Biff Tannen, so to establish that Marty is capable of that, they show him skateboarding in the opening of the movie. And same goes for Marty’s skill with a guitar.

It justifies why Marty can do these things instead of him being able to play guitar or skateboard out of the blue.

Other movies do this, too, but I haven’t seen a movie do it quite as well as Back to the Future.

I think those examples could qualify as “Chekov’s Guns” too, as we see Marty display an interest in them at the beginning, but we don’t see the true extent of his skill until much later on.

There are other moments where this happens too, but listing them would be too much.

While I’m still on the topic of writing, there are moments in the dialogue where we see Marty relate to his Father more than he would like to.

The movie doesn’t spend too much time on these little moments, but I think it’s a nice touch to show Marty relate to his father, especially so as Marty states early on in the movie that he hopes he doesn’t end up like him.

This adds a bit of a heartwarming lens to the scenes they share together, more so the later scenes where it seems they have established a friendship.

All in all, they did a good job at making sure that the story was sound before they went ahead with it.Well, as sound as a story about a teenager who goes back in time and has to play matchmaker with his high-school parents can be.

But ridiculousness of the premise aside, they made sure to iron out the dents before giving the green light.

Another thing I thought this movie did really well was the time travel.

Now, I’m not going to drive myself, nor you, dear reader, insane by trying to rationalize a very irrational concept, but once I explain myself, you’ll understand what I mean.

When Marty goes back to 1955, he sticks out like a sore thumb.

He’s a metaphorical fish out of water.

I like that, because it adds a real element to an unreal concept.

Instead of him blending in immediately with the 1950s, or the 1950s somehow ignoring the 1980s vibe that Marty radiates, everyone acts strange around him because of his out of place clothes and the references he makes that nobody understands.

For example, when he orders a “Tab” at the diner (a diet soda created in 1963) the bartender tells him that if he wants a tab, he’ll need to order something.

It’s a little detail that makes everything a little more believable.

As far as criticism goes, I really don’t have anything to say.

I mean, I could ask something like “How come Marty’s parents don’t notice that their child looks exactly like the man they hung out with 30 years earlier?” But that would just be nitpicking for its own sake, and I feel that something of that nature just comes with the territory of time travel.

Although, this being a 35 year-old movie, some of the special effects don’t quite hold up as they once did, but that’s less because the effects crew was lazy and more because the movie is 35 years old and technology was limited.

Final Rating: A

As it’s written on the back of the movie case: “It’s ironic that a movie about time travel is timeless” and I agree completely! Back the Future just has a certain charm to it that pulls me in and doesn’t let me go.

Of course, there’s always more to talk about, but I think half of the fun is discovering all of the wonders of the movie yourself.

Whether you’ve already seen the movie or have never seen it before, I would definitely recommend giving Back to the Future a watch, regardless if it’s the first, or the 100th time.