On its 30th anniversary, James Beeson, Editor, looks back on the revered classic.
[dropcap size=small]I[/dropcap]t is somewhat ﬁtting that the 30th anniversary of the original ‘Back to the Future’ ﬁlm should fall in 2015, the very year in which its sequel predicted we would see hover boards, remote control rubbish bins and self drying clothing become commonplace. And whilst director Robert Zemeckis and writer Bob Gale may have been a little optimistic about how far our society would be transformed, it is fair to say they deserve some slack, given the original ﬁlm was and still is one of the most original and entertaining science ﬁction movies of all time. The word “classic” is bandied around an awful lot in the ﬁlm industry these days, but Back to the Future really is just that.
In case you haven’t seen this delightfully charming sci-ﬁ comedy, (in which case I strongly suggest you go home and re-evaluate your life) allow me to brieﬂy explain. The ﬁlm sees Marty McFly (Michael J Fox), a happy-go-lucky teenager, sent back in time (in a DeLorean DMC12) by mad-cap scientist and close friend Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd) to the year 1955. What ensues is a hilariously comical sequence of events which sees McFly come face to face with his father, attempt to escape the aﬀ ections of his mother and avoid being beaten to a pulp by the school bully, all whilst trying to ﬁgure out a way of getting back to present day 1985.
Part of what makes Back to the Future so memorable and enjoyable is its youthfulness and innocent charm. Fox’s exuberance and comedic spirit suit the part of McFly spectacularly, whilst Lloyd is a brilliant caricature of a genius yet slightly bonkers scientist. The plot is expertly written, straddling genres with ease, and is littered with clever tongue in cheek allusions, from McFly’s Hendrixstyle guitar solo at the high-school dance to his impersonation of Darth Vader whilst attempting to convince his father to ask his mother to said dance. These kind of subtle cultural references, along with the witty dialogue and suberb acting ensure the ﬁlm does not appear outdated, and are what make Back to the Future such a joy to revisit.
Of course, the special eﬀects, whilst cutting edge at the time, are a sign of the ﬁlm’s age. However, Spielberg’s work as producer cannot be understated. The Jaws director is credited with protecting the ﬁlm from a name change to ‘Spaceman From Pluto’, as well as being instrumental in helping to bring Zemeckis and Gale’s ﬁlm to life. Every minute detail of the ﬁlm is cleverly crafted to bring the Hill Valley setting to life, and the soundtrack, from Huey Lewis and the News’ ‘The Power of Love’ to Berry’s ‘Johnny B. Goode’ complements the vibe of the screenplay perfectly.
It is testimony to how well the ﬁlm has aged that it remains so popular to this day. Just last year, a Secret Cinema outdoor screening of the ﬁlm in London (complete with a real Delorean) sold 60,000 tickets at the rather costly sum of £53 each. The event saw fans descend on a recreation of Hill Valley dressed in 50s attire to watch the ﬁlm alongside live audience interaction and theatrics. So what does the future hold for Back to the Future? A musical of the ﬁlm will hit stages across the UK in 2016, further evidence of the ﬁlms longevity. Beyond this, one hopes that rumours of a remake or another sequel are wide of the mark, because quite frankly, topping the original would be a practically impossible task, and, as Indiana Jones learnt the hard way, sometimes the classics are best left well alone.
It is somewhat ironic to label a ﬁlm about time-travel as timeless, but there really is no other way to describe this classic, as well as its two sequels. To quote a review of the ﬁlm by Empire, “to put it bluntly: if you don’t like Back To The Future, it’s difficult to believe that you like ﬁlms at all”.
James Beeson, Editor