Wednesday, October 21

Film: Back to the Future Trilogy Click for more info

I'm not really one for "my favourite" questions. Ask me what my favourite song or country visited is and I wouldn't really know. The same goes for movies: the best I can answer that question is: "I don't have an ultimate favourite movie, but I know Back to the Future is in my top ten and I'm always able to watch it when it's on".

I was pretty young when Back to the Future was released here in the UK. What's striking is that I still remember the first time I had heard of the film: it was on a BBC breakfast show, and they showed the scene where a relatively unfamiliar Marty McFly creeps into a deserted house that is full of clocks, jacks up a huge speaker system and trashes himself and the home on his first riff. Now I knew the film was about time travel, but apart from the clocks on the wall there was nothing I saw in that scene that related to time or even science fiction. And yet, somehow, I knew I had to watch it. Another memory: Shreddies were running a promo for the film and I managed to collect at least three of the adventure books on offer.

And yet I don't quite remember if I had watched Back to the Future in the cinema. Parts 2 and 3 I do remember, and that vividly, but as it stood BttF was the one that would have always been relegated to the smaller screen. Until today, of course, the future day on which Marty and Doc arrive in part 2. When I heard that cinemas up and down the country were planning on playing not just one but all three films from the trilogy I just knew I had to see them.

Of course the films themselves are pretty perfect - and I don't think that's just nostalgia talking. There's just not much that comes out of a negative assessment of the films. For a start the soundtracks are perfect, with the main theme still making me well up each time I hear it. The screenplays are amongst the tightest I know - I can't think of any scene, shot or script going to waste, which is why even the previously intimidating six-plus hours we spent in that single sitting actually flew by. I never looked at my watch once. This lack of fat in films is most certainly a generational thing, but Back to the Future did the best out of its contemporaries.

Then there were the cast and characters. Doc Emmett Brown did inspire me to both science and science fiction; I shared the love of Jennifer Parker (both of them); I was simultaneously intimidated and allured by Lorraine Bains; and of course I wanted to be Marty McFly (and yes, I bought a skateboard). I over each viewing of the movies I learned all their lessons and experienced all their feelings.

As a genre Back to the Future tends to be mislabelled as science fiction. Now I'm not a movie buff, and most certainly am not in a position to override the more obvious and well established categorisation of the films, but I really don't think the primary driver of the films is sci-fi; in fact if anything they're really bad time travel movies. What these films are really about are the plots (of which there are sub-plots) and character development (of which there are many progressions). In that context time travel merely becomes a prop on which to hang themes of survival, interpersonal relationships and escape, of which it may have been possible to transpose all to a different story, but not at the same time. It's this genius that allows us to have a third part which is almost exclusively set in the Wild West but still fits in perfectly with the rest of the series. And of course it also allowed us to have a baddass flying DeLorean. And I have to admit, watching the three films back to back as a trilogy did have an enhancing effect - there were themes and references I didn't notice before, and an increased appreciation of part 3, which was previously considered by me to be the weakest.

It's a testament that the film is still going strong. It's difficult to see which films released this year we'll still be watching and talking about in three decades' time. On a personal note I'm glad I got a chance to revisit the trilogy in the cinema and then write about my love of the series. I do still hum the theme to myself often, I do still pretend to be driving a flying DeLorean or riding a skateboard, and I still get goosebumps each time my speedo hits 88mph (on private track days of course).

And after watching the trilogy my my opinion has actually changed; the trilogy is no longer one of my favourites but the favourite. In some ways it always has been, but I achieved the explicit realisation the moment I watched Marty McFly race down Main Street in a DeLorean toward a clock tower in order to consume a lightning strike that would send him home. All with a tear in my eye. If something that invokes that reaction is not something that can be considered the favourite I can't imagine what else could.

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