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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Back to the Future Part II

I put Back to the Future Part II on my Netflix queue because it's gotten some press this year--it's 2015, the year that Marty McFly goes into the future, thirty years, from 1985. Yes, we are all that old. Watching the film again, though, I saw that the 2015 portion of the film was very short, and that the intricate and very ingenious script spanned all of Marty's stops--1955, 1985, and 2015.

These films were huge hits, and if anyone needs reminding, well, I'll try. In the first film Marty goes back to 1955 and has to bring his parents together or he will cease to exist. At the end of that film, there was a gag ending that Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) showed up in his DeLorean and told Marty (the great Michael J. Fox) that his kids needed help in 2015. The makers of the first film never intended that to be a jumping off point for a sequel, as they had no idea how the first film would succeed. But when it was a smash, the sequel idea was a no-brainer.

So Marty goes into the future and stops his son from being a jailbird. But Biff, Marty's nemesis, now an old man, figures out what's going on and takes a sports almanac back in time 60 years, so his younger self can become rich by making bets. When Marty and Doc return to 1985, it's like when Jimmy Stewart went to Potterville--a seedy urban nightmare dominated by Biff's casino.

So Marty and Doc have to go back to 1955, trying not to run into their selves, and keep Biff from getting the book. The plot is complex enough that Doc has to explain it on a chalkboard. Interestingly, the taking sports results back in time seems like an easy way to riches, but in Stephen King's book 11/22/63, when a guy tries the same thing, he's savagely beaten by bookies. That's probably closer to the truth.

I remember seeing this film the first time, in 1989, and walking out of the theater wondering what year it was, it was that compelling. Fox and Lloyd are one of the the screen's great teams, and the films have such a high octane energy that they fly by.

So what did the film get right and wrong about 2015? Certainly wrong about flying cars, and as of yet, no self-altering garments or shoes. The technology for hoverboards exists, but they are not yet available to the masses (and probably would never be safe). Video phoning, what we may think of as Skype today, is certainly omnipresent, but faxing is hopelessly obsolete. What most futuristic films from before the Internet-age missed out on was, of course, the Internet. There are also no robotic waiters, and thankfully no Jaws 19. As for sports, the film did see a Miami baseball franchise, but as for the Cubs winning it all in 2015, it's too soon to tell.

For those of us around in 1985, 2015 did seem a long way off. It's like thinking of 2045 now, and who knows if I'll even live to see that year. It is a lot of fun to look at our "fake" future and see how they got it.

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