analyzing a classic: back to the future

Robert Zemeckis’ Back to the Future trilogy is one elongated movie if you consider the timeline of its story in addition to the fact that Part’s II and III were made back-to-back. BTTF is arguably the most flawless film ever made and its an amazement how it hasn’t landed on the American Film Institute’s latest edition of their top 100 list. All ambitious screenwriters should know (if they don’t know already) that this film can serve as a standard for the perfect screenplay. Every scene is masterfully crafted to excellence in its service to the progression of the story. Every single line of dialogue has a purpose and is put to good use. Every character has an objective in every scene, leading to their overall objective, in support of the theme.

Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and Doc Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd) in Back to the Future Universal

Audiences certainly weren’t enlightened by the reasoning behind the relationship between Marty McFly and Doc Emmet Brown, remarkably portrayed by Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd as possibly the most iconic duo of 1980s cinema. It’s definitely a rarity for a High-school student to befriend a scientist more than twice his age, but plausible, nonetheless, since Marty is a mature teenager to some degree, in terms of his physiology and mindset. The eccentricity of their friendship is what makes the film look like a live-action comic book. Their dialogue outshines the spectacular visual pyrotechnics resulting in a marvelous film. An average fan has probably seen BTTF over a dozen times while an avid fan has probably sat down and watched it close to one-hundred times. But no matter the amount of viewings, we never grow tired of Marty’s attempt in warning Doc Brown of his death from the Libyan terrorists; each time feels like the first and we painfully accept that Doc is unaware he’ll get shot incessantly.

Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) in Back to the Future Part II Universal

Hats off to the Dorothy Byrne and Ken Chase of the hair and make-up department in BTTF Part II for grooming of the older versions in Biff Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson) Lorraine Baines (Lea Thompson) and George McFly (Crispin Glover) and kudos to Robert Zemeckis and Steven Spielberg on their creative decisions in not casting older actors as doubles. The gags and pranks written in the story by Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis made for some convincing claims worth noting, like calling Marty McFly ‘Calvin Klein’ because it’s the name on his underwear. What else should young Lorraine presume once she sees him wearing underwear that has a man’s name on it? Why would or should a man be wearing the name Tommy or Calvin on their genitals in the first place? Shouldn’t men be wearing underwear with their own name if any name at all? Or take the hilarious reaction in Part I when Doc Emmet Brown is bewildered when he scoffs at the notion that Ronald Reagan is the President of the United States in 1985, “Who’s Vice President, Jerry Louis?” It’s because of instances like these that support the notion that BTTF is arguably the best script ever written. One would imagine that’s the reaction someone would give in 1955 if they were told a popular actor would later become President. Nonetheless, our current President Donald Trump was a former reality television star. Go figure. It’s also worthy to note that Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale were inspired by the Donald Trump of the early eighties in writing the character of Biff Tannen, and giving him his own hotel and casino in the alternate timeline of Part II. Perhaps, we’re living in our own alternate timeline of reality, because President Trump has his shiny golden hotel and casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Marty and Jennifer (Elizabeth Shue) in Back to the Future Part III Universal

From the timeless DeLoreon that still holds futuristic qualities even in 2020, to the hoverboards that have yet to be invented, BTTF never failed to supply mind-boggling plot devices to enhance the narrative. “The way I see it, if you’re going to build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?” Doc Emmet Brown said to Marty.Regardless if part II and III were never produced, and if we were left with just part I, the story has a perfect three act structure with a clear beginning, middle and end along with subplots and story beats that make every scene worth its existence in support to the overall objective of the story. The musical composition by Alan Silvestri is arguably the most recognizable score with its grand orchestra. And of course, the construction of the clock tower in Hill Valley, (the backlot of Universal Studios in Universal City, near Burbank, California) serves as an example for any classic American town that has been worn down after thirty years. Whether it’s from 1955 to 1985 or 2015, the buildings in towns usually stay the same; it’s the businesses inside that change which reflect the times of past, present and future.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s