Wednesday, 21 October 2015

L.J. SPENCE'S STARTING POINTS: BACK TO THE FUTURE PART II

L.J. SPENCE'S STARTING POINTS

59. BACK TO THE FUTURE PART II (1989, dir. Robert Zemeckis)

21/10/2015


Wednesday 21st October 2015 is Back to the Future Day. It must be immensely gratifying for Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale to know that the first third of a film they made twenty-six years ago, itself stemming from a joke made at the end of the first "Back to the Future" film when there were no plans for a sequel, has become a one-day worldwide cultural event, to be celebrated like there will be no opportunity again, to take stock of (and tick boxes for) technological advances and human achievement in that time, and to remember something that people continue to enjoy remembering.

In making a film, a book, a play, a song, a painting, or anything at all, this is as much as you can hope for, and that seemingly everyone on earth has been involved in this, from Universal Pictures creating a mock trailer for "Jaws 19" to today's issue of "USA Today" including a wraparound cover that leads with the arrest of Marty McFly Jr. What would, these days, would be an internet meme is on TV bulletins worldwide.

But why has the public consciousness taken this film's vision to their heart much more than others, especially Steven Spielberg's "Minority Report" (2002)? It feels mere inches away from our own reality, it is neither utopian or dystopian, it is a bit more colourful, and it doesn't feel that it has the imprint of a Big Brother-type overlord of a character. It is simply identifiable real life, with enough of a difference to make you want to visit. It also gives Michael J Fox the chance to play three people in computer-controlled matte shots, almost a first - I forgot he played Marty's daughter, as well as his son.

This is one way to remember this film, but "Back to the Future Part II" should also be remembered as the point where a Hollywood film could have a complicated, multi-layered storyline not just on occasion, as the first film had to work like clockwork to work at all, but as a matter of course. The 2015 set-up is a way of getting the Gray's Sports Almanac into the hands of the older Biff, to give to his teenage self, creating the alternate "Biff-horrific" 1985, and a final trip back to 1955 to get the book back, restore the "present day," and comment on the first film in a way that Jean-Luc Godard would be expected to do.

I grew up watching the "Back to the Future" trilogy, and it does feel to me that I am now, officially, living in the future.






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