Retro Review: Back to the Future Trilogy

Great Scott! It’s 2015 and that only means one thing… it’s the year that Marty McFly arrives in the time-travelling DeLorean from 1985! Wait, that was a fictional film?! Well, one can dream…

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Back to the Future, this month’s Retro Review will be looking at the entire trilogy in all its glory. The cast reunited at the London Film and Comic Con in July as thousands of fans basked in the nostalgia of 1985 and had the chance to see the DeLorean up close and personal. Photo shoots with both Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd sold out quickly and it wasn’t just London which celebrated, as around the world and throughout the year people have been celebrating the anniversary with events and screenings of the films.

11885680_10204502462713478_4756783654568034089_oNow, onto the review and it would make sense to begin with the first film in the series. We find Emmett “Doc” Brown (Christopher Lloyd) finish work on his time-travelling car and with Marty McFly (Michael J Fox) being a curious teenager, he was bound to investigate it. Marty finds himself in 1955 and if any sci-fi shows have taught us anything- the past is a dangerous place for time travellers. Back to the Future teaches us exactly what not to do when travelling in the past; do not form relationships especially with your future family, do not change any major events, do not make a name for yourself, do assume a different identity but not one that will become well known… just to name a few. Who knew there were so many rules to time travel? You all better be making notes!

A love story, a bitter tale of revenge, a lot of running and some Chuck Berry later, Marty fixes his parents up like they were supposed to be, otherwise he never would have existed, and everything has seemingly returned to normal. A suspenseful conclusion involving a timed lightning strike gets Marty back to the future only for another Marty to return from the future to fix something that is yet to happen. It makes for a great cliff hanger, but it was all planned to lead into the second instalment.

Back to the Future is the easiest of the three films to parody in other texts due to the comedic awkwardness of Marty’s mother developing feelings for him rather than his father. Sci-fi television shows such as Red Dwarf and Futurama have both taken this concept on board when exploring the possibility of time travel. Only, both of these shows have taken the idea one step further- in Red Dwarf Lister becomes his own father, abandoning himself under a pool table in a bar and Fry in Futurama accidentally becomes his own grandfather when the crew travel back to the 1950s.

11893996_10204502462273467_3356637262076256084_oBack to the Future Part II takes us into the future thirty years from Marty’s “present” to our present, the year 2015. Amazingly, this vision of the future is even more technologically convenient than the 2015 we live in now. We may not have hoverboards, or clothes that automatically adjust to fit our body type, nor do we have Jaws 19 yet but virtual reality and holographic projections are slowly materialising around us so we’re close to getting advertisements like the Jaws 19 one seen in the film.

Back to the Future II involves Marty pretending to be his son, Marty Jr and gets into a scrap with a robotic version of his rival, Biff (who was established to be an antagonist in the first film). As events unfold, time becomes even more of a mess. There aren’t just rules about travelling to the past as traveling to the future can be equally as dangerous- spoilers and such. When a sports book is taken from the future and brought to the past, Biff plays this to his advantage and alters the future, much to Marty’s horror and it’s up to him to travel back to the past, avoiding himself from the first film, to try and fix everything. The links between the two films highlight how complex the cause and effect theory can be, especially when the potential to win a life-changing amount of money is involved.

Suitably enough, the ending of Back to the Future Part II is the same as the first part, only with added context behind it. That context will bring the narrative to Back to the Future Part III, which takes place in The Ol’ West in 1885, exactly one hundred years in the past. While the narrative of this part does not directly overlap with the first two films, there are still plenty of references to events that have occurred, as well as seeing the same characters, only sporting Stetsons and spurs instead of body warmers and trainers.

The third part of the trilogy gives the Doc more narrative to play about with as he even finds himself a love interest and, not to mention, plenty of trouble. The bond between Marty and the Doc is pushed to its limits as the duo fights to make amends and get back to the future, although initially being the present (tenses sure are difficult to get right when describing time-travel!).

11896351_10204502462193465_6036705975667025583_oAfter returning to the present (that’s 1985 for those who are lost) one can’t help but wonder how to conclude a film series that features a time-travelling car? Well, the only way that cinema knows how to- destroy it. The destruction of the DeLorean was an upsetting sight, but it’s not all doom and gloom for our protagonists as they receive a happy ending.

So, why is the Back to the Future series still popular nowadays? It’s an idea that brings so much that sci-fi fans love all together at once! We have time-travel, obviously, heading both into the past and the future, we have paradoxes, young and old versions of the same characters, we have high tech gizmos and an emotional, yet highly entertaining, plot woven into all of that. If you have yet to see the trilogy, several outdoor cinemas are still showing screenings, but book tickets soon otherwise you may miss out on the cinema experience. Never fear, as you can pick up the boxset in nearby stores because of its immense success and popularity.

The films are enjoyed across the generations as the nostalgia factor appeals to those who were around in the 50s and, nowadays, to those who were around in the 80s, while giving modern audiences a taste of “classic” sci-fi. Either way, you’ll be guaranteed to find entertainment in the time-hopping mishaps of Marty McFly and Doc Brown. What are you waiting for? Go and watch Back to the Future!


Are you a fan of the Back to the Future trilogy? What are your favourite moments from the series?

Comment with your thoughts.

– Letitia Lemon

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