The Humans

Director: Robert Zemeckis.

Writers: Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale.

Cinematographer: Dean Cundey

Cast: Michael J. Fox. Christopher Lloyd. Mary Steenburgen. Thomas F. Wilson. Lea Thompson. Elizabeth Shue. James Tolkan. Flea! ZZ Top!

Back to the Future III: Does it Work?

Almost. Though the third (and least seen) film in the series has a lot of the bloat present in the second film, the wild west setting helps alleviate some of the glaring headache of it. First of all, there’s not the Looney Tunes vision of the future to contend with [for the most part]. Secondly, there’s not so many goofy incarnations of Michael J. Fox this time around. There is his poorly accented old west relative who plays a part, but the weirdly ironic fact about the dude is that in many of his scenes he looks a lot like Eric Stoltz.

But it almost works. Not enough to justify Back to the Future being a trilogy rather than one good film, but it’s a decent diversion

Back to the Future III: Why it ALMOST Works.

Thomas F. Wilson is on fire here, making the Buford “Mad Dog” Tannen by far the best of his ‘Biff’ characters, chewing scenery and actually delivering a scary performance. He drags Marty McFly through town by his neck and almost hangs him in their first confrontation, so though there’s not the same bumbling silliness there it works. Sadly, he doesn’t have Billy Zane and Casey Siemaszko as his underlings this time around.

Mary Steenburgen adds
much needed shading to the story and Doc Brown is a lot more interesting
as a sort of romantic peacemaker than a crazy scientist who seems off
his meds. There’s a little more of a happy-go-lucky vibe to this film
even though it still does often succumb to revisiting old jokes and
signatures it feels lighter. There was a burden to serve the layered time travel subplots for the last two films but with the end in sight it’s obvious that everyone realized they were about to put this vital and special part of their lives to bed.

As a result, it has heart and warmth so desperately needed in the second film. Though the middle film was intentionally darker and ended on a cliffhanger, it’s still a serious misfire.

Back to the Future III: All Those Years Later.

It’s sort of a forgotten animal now, and revisiting it explains why. It’s slight. The characters of Doc Brown and Marty are on autopilot and it’s odd to see them so indifferent to each other in the film’s middle. It’s uneven and I can imagine it’d have been a dreadful bore for nonfans of the Western genre.

There is one infuriatingly bad moment where Doc has a molecule of liquor and is immediately dead drunk and unable to save Marty until the last possible second. These films should be too good for that kind of malarky.

Back to the Future III: What is its Legacy?

It’s the Matrix Revolutions of its time. The middle film was so bloated and dull that by lessening the throttle and aiming lower in terms of ambition and effectiveness it works as a smaller but slightly better end to a story that was better off staying at one film. There’s nothing about either sequel that makes the legacy of the franchise any brighter. They made money and they’re still relevant to fans today but the actual product as it stands: mediocre.

Yep. Back to the Future is a mediocre franchise.
And no, I love movies and still have the wonder of a child when the right projects touch me whether they be The Iron Giant or Wall-E or whatever else. I just have to come clean and be honest with myself about these three movies. They aren’t the gold standard.

Revisionist Score: 6.5 out of 10

The Goodies

OK, remember when I dissed the second and third movies? When it comes to the special features I am going to pretend they’re great movies because this Blu-ray set is a must own on sheer virtue of the special features. In the same way that The Alien box sets rise above some of the lesser films in the series so does this.

This is exhaustive (and exhausting) stuff

Think of all the phenomenal special features from the DVD versions that were already released. Those well appointed versions of yore. Those special features are here. Think of the newfangled Blu-ray features like Pocket BLU (a virtual remote), BD Live (internet content), and U-Control (where there’s trivia and storyboards and connective tissue about the plot that comes up as you watch. That’s all there.

There are tons of featurettes (including footage of Eric Stoltz as Marty), including a nice candid series of discussions with Michael J. Fox. There are three commentary tracks and three Q&A commentary tracks taken from a live Q&A session. Deleted scenes, some of which I didn’t even know existed.

Tons and tons of features plus digital copies of all three films.

It’s an insane package, a true Back to the Future graduate program. Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis are so hardwired to these films that it’s impossible not to get swept up in their stories and fall in love with the vision of what they wanted to make and what they had to go through to make it. This is truly the series made possible by Romancing the Stone, which is crazy.

I discovered through watching the films that I’m not really a Back to the Future fan.
I discovered through watching the special features that I am again.

That’s the highest compliment I can give to special features. They are worth buying a Blu-ray of films you’re not all that fond of anymore. I can only imagine how die-hard fans of the series are going to feel about it. A four-leaf clover wrapped in rainbows and chocolate.

8.0 out of 10