With Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi classic celebrating its 30th birthday this summer, James Beeson, Editor, reflects on how Marty McFly & co have aged…
It 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 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 DMC-12) 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 affections 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 brilliant 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 Hendrix-style 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kind of subtle cultural references, along with the witty dialogue and suberb acting ensure the film does not appear outdated, and are what make Back to the Future such a joy to revisit.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 Hendrix’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. 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’.