Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Film Appreciation - OUTATIME

This week in Film Appreciation, Jay Burleson shows the power of love for Back to the Future.

After my first viewing of Back to the Future, I found myself sitting in my mom's 1995 Ford Ranger, telling myself that it was equipped with a flux capacitor and that I would quickly be on my way to any time my mind could imagine. My fascination and love for Robert Zemeckis' Back to the Future has only grown since those childhood moments. From the iconic characters down to the wonderful music by Alan Silverstri, which I was known to randomly hum as a child, Back to the Future is all in all one of my most loved and admired films ever.

Out of all the films that have ever been made, I'm not sure one has any more heart or sheer charm than this wonderful picture. Directed by Zemeckis and starring Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Crispin Glover, and Lea Thompson, BTTF tells the story of high schooler Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and his wide-eyed scientist friend Doctor Emmett Brown (played in such an endearing manor by the wonderful Christopher Lloyd) and details the predicament that young Marty finds himself in once he inadvertently sends himself back to 1955 in Doc Brown's newest invention: a time machine made out of a DeLorean. Marty becomes stuck in 1955, the same time that his very own parents are in high school, but could hardly be considered high school sweethearts. To make matters worse, the time machine is broken, and Marty's mom has the hots for him.

The only person Marty can turn to for help is a much younger (though not so much in terms of appearance) Doc Brown. Once the story hits this mark, Zemeckis and co-writer Bob Gale's script really kicks into high gear and what unfolds is pure entertainment.

Back to the Future is one of my favorite films for so many different reasons, it's chock-full of imaginative writing and wonderful characters, all of whom are portrayed near flawlessly by their respective actors. It has a wonderful heart and the excitement that the filmmakers had for the material really bleeds through on the screen. Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd created iconic characters and performances with their work and continue to be quoted to this day. I can't count the number of times I've caught myself in a time paradox conversation based around events from the film, or heard a timely one liner from it dropped into casual conversation. It's a film that captured a generation's imagination and had such lasting power that it probably captured the next generation's as well.

One of my favorite parts of the entire story is that we are allowed to follow this adventure through the eyes of a teenage Marty. He's dealing with his hopeful music career and his ever advancing relationship with his girlfriend Jennifer, all relatable things, and now on top of all of that he's got a major time paradox on his hands. Poor Marty! Doc Brown is the perfect yin to Marty's yang and is one of the most lovable characters I've seen on film. I've always wondered how the Doc and Marty ever became friends, but the chemistry between the actors is so natural and enjoyable that this never distracts from viewing the movie. In fact, it's actually an afterthought, and that's a great testament to the performances that Fox and Lloyd turn in. The great characters aren't just limited to the Doc and Marty though, as Crispin Glover delivers such a realistic performance as Marty's bumbling and downright silly father, George, that I almost don't think Glover was acting at all. Thomas F. Wilson is great as the love-to-hate character of Biff Tannen, a real knucklehead who has the hots for Marty's mom back in 1955 as well as in present day 1985.

Back to the Future is simply timeless. It doesn't matter if you saw the film in the cinema back in 1985 or you go and watch it for the first time today. Everyone has at one point let their imagination take them back to when their parents were young and wondered about their lives. This film is that simple premise times so much more when all the elements add up. If you've somehow lived your life up until this point without a viewing of Back to the Future, then you really should check it out. The trilogy is now available on Blu-ray!

Fun Facts:

Michael J. Fox was not the original choice for the character of Marty McFly. A few weeks worth of filming were completed with actor Eric Stolz in the now famous role. Things just weren't working out, and Fox stepped into the shoes (and behind the life preserver) to portray Marty.

The cinematography is provided by Dean Cundey, who also did the D.P. work on another of my all time favorite films, John Carpenter's 1978 horror masterpiece Halloween.

The film features music from Huey Lewis and the News, and Huey Lewis himself makes a cameo in the film as a judge for Marty's band in the opening 15 minutes of the film. He proclaims that Marty's music is "just too darn loud!"

It's rumored that one of the studio heads insisted upon naming the film "Spaceman from Pluto" because of the scene in which Marty crashed the DeLorean into a 1955 farmhouse and walks out wearing a biological suit.


  1. Another fun fact: this film features a painfully young Billy Zane as one of Biff's silent goons! It always surprises me when I see him standing there in Biff's shadow.

  2. i saw this in 1985, im very happy for that