Review by J.T. Johnson
ORIGINAL RELEASE DATE: July 3, 1985
DIRECTOR: Robert Zemeckis
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Dean Cundey
WRITERS: Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale
MUSIC: Alan Silvestri
In 1985, one of the greatest time travel stories ever was released and audiences responded in a big way. “Back to the Future” had been floating around in Hollywood for some time, but writers Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis had already made a few flops. They didn’t want to risk going with this film with their original producer, Steven Spielberg, despite the fact that he loved the script due to the said flops.
Also, no one at the studios seemed to want to touch the script, either. It was not until Zemeckis released “Romancing the Stone” that people wanted to then do “Back to the Future”. With a bona fide hit on their hands and being back in demand, Zemeckis and Gale returned to Spielberg because he was the only one who showed interest in the script from the start.
For the one or two people who haven’t seen this film, the story is simple. Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) joins Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) at a mall parking lot where Doc reveals that he has built a time machine out of a DeLorean. In order to make it work, Doc had to steal the plutonium from terrorists who find them and try to stop Marty before he goes back in time to 1955.
Unfortunately, Marty only had enough plutonium for one trip, so he sets out to find Doc in 1955. Along the way, he inadvertently runs into his father George (Crispin Glover) and prevents his first meeting with Marty’s mother, Lorraine (Lea Thompson). Now, not only does Marty have to figure out how to get back to his time, he also has to secure a fateful meeting between George and Lorraine so that he is not erased from existence altogether.
Beyond having to save himself by getting his parents back together, Marty is also an observer and gets a glimpse into his parents’ earlier lives. He sees that like himself, George grew up with self-doubt and this is what holds George back from greatness and puts him under the thumb of the film’s main antagonist, Biff Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson). Marty also discovers other humorous elements such as the fact that his mother was not quite the innocent angel she builds herself up to be in modern day 1985.
The confrontations with Biff and Marty’s own dilemma of having to return to his own time add more than enough suspense to keep the audience interested. Also, it helps that virtually every other element also comes together. This includes a cast that works extremely well together.
Fox and Lloyd have perfect comedic timing on their own, but their chemistry with each other is the glue that holds the film together. Their friendship on the screen in genuine and to this day, the Marty and Doc relationship is one of the best ever captured on film. As for the other actors, they have an even more unique challenge.
Thompson, Glover, and Wilson all have to play two versions of their characters. In ‘85, they have to play the adult versions while in ’55, they have to play their youthful selves. By the end of the film, they also have to play an even different version of their characters. Every actor in this cast plays their role appropriately and the ensemble comes together perfectly.
Another standout is the now classic movie score from Alan Silvestri. The powerful theme is familiar even to those few that haven’t seen the film. The music also does a great job of setting the tone of the movie and this is why Silvestri is in a league reserved only for the elite film composers such as John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith.
The movie is definitely a ‘80s film, but it is also surprisingly universal. The film deals with the themes of finding one’s identity and self-worth even in a world that may look down on you. Yes, the ending is a bit materialistic, but the ending also works because it shows us that we can all still do better and that self-confidence is a key to overcoming any obstacles we may face in life. Also, the film is just fun as hell!