1985: eccentric scientist Dr. Emmett ‘Doc’ Brown (Christopher Lloyd) has turned his glorious DeLorean sports car into a time machine. After an attack by disgruntled Libyan terrorists, Doc is killed in a shower of machine gun fire. His young friend [no funny business] Marty (Michael J. Fox) escapes in the DeLorean and upon reaching 88 MPH is transported to the year 1955 — the year his parents met and Doc invented time travel. Can Marty convince the Doc of 30 years ago that he is really from the future and get him to help him to get back to the future? More than that, can he spurn the advances of his teenage mother? Hold on, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s go back in time.
When a movie begins with the words ‘Steven Spielberg Presents’ as far am I’m concerned it might as well be stamped with ‘you are gonna love this’, because far more often than not, it’s true. This month marks the 25th anniversary of one of the greatest movies of all time that begins with such a statement: Back to the Future. In the quarter of a century that has passed since its opening weekend on July 3, 1985, there are not many movie fans who haven’t seen Back To The Future. And I’m sure the number is even smaller of the people who do not like this movie.
Back To The Future is one of my favourite films of all time. Even after repeated viewings when few scenes throw up a surprise in dialogue and action, and even whole scenes are faithfully and accurately stored in my head, I still get immense joy from watching it. Born into the world barely a year and a lighting flash after I was, it’s amazing how much I have always enjoyed it and felt it was ‘my film’ even though it was made almost for my parent’s generation.
In 1955, Marty’s future parents George McFly (Crispin Glover) and Lorraine Baines (Lea Thompson) are students at Hill Valley High School. George admires Lorraine from afar (and from up a tree) and is too shy to ask her out. On the day that they finally met and talked, which 30 years later lead to Marty’s current life, Marty accidentally stopped his parents falling in love and Lorraine takes a shine to Marty instead. This puts Marty’s very existence in jeopardy. Now Marty must get them to fall in love so that he can exist. You still with me? Good.
But Marty has another problem. He doesn’t have any Plutonium to power the DeLorean’s Flux Capacitor, which means he can’t travel from 1955 back to the future. Now he must convince Doc that they are friends in the future and to ask him to help him to generate enough power to activate the time machine. The only way to generate that power would be from a lightning bolt. Luckily, a storm is brewing.
It’s well known that Eric Stoltz was originally cast in the role of Marty McFly. Shooting was actually taking place and scenes were in the bag. But it wasn’t working out and so in one of the great casting decisions in modern film history, the role was recast launching Michael J. Fox, Movie Star, to the world.
His support is equally as perfect: Thomas F. Wilson as Biff Tanner, the meathead bully who makes wimpy kid George McFly’s life a misery, played to nervous perfection by Crispin Glover. Eccentric doesn’t seem a strong enough word to describe the mad world of Dr. Emmett Brown, but insane seems too harsh. A man that could appear dangerously mad is more passionately knowledgeable in the safe hands of Christopher Lloyd. The gorgeous Lea Thompson plays Marty’s unfortunately hot (for Marty) mother-to-be and mother Lorraine.
Time travel in movies has never been a selling point for me. After getting bogged down in science drivel too convoluted to understand, I usually become annoyed and disinterested at such a blatant ploy for the filmmakers to exclaim, ‘Look! They’re living in a spaceship/the wild west!’ Back To The Future was the first and subsequently only movie about time travel that didn’t get bogged down in any nonsense and bore me close to tears. It’s ambiguous enough for a science dunce like me to understand: something about Plutonium, a Flux Capacitor, and traveling at exactly 88mph — sounds like it could work to me! Most importantly Back To The Future does it all with a sense of fun. Director Robert Zemeckis wants you to enjoy the movie and the comedy that comes from a kid trying to get his parents to fall in love while also trying to politely reject his own mother (even though she doesn’t know she is) — oh, and is inventing rock and roll along the way.
After celebrating its silver anniversary, Back To The Future is still fresh and funny. While it will always feel like a film from the 80s, it still somehow manages to seem timeless. Here’s to another 25 years!