“But is it actually good? Or is it going to be like Flight of the Navigator?” She asked. “Babe, it’s amazing honestly, it’s one of those perfect films.” I replied. She nodded slowly “OK… but that’s what you said about Flight of Navigator”
I should explain, a few years ago my wife and I were enjoying the back lot tour of Disney’s Hollywood studios when I caught sight of the ship from Flight of the Navigator. What followed wasn’t one of my most dignified moments. I started shouting, not words as such just sounds. I began waving my arms and pointing like a child. By the end of the tour I had devolved to a primate like state. Once calm I explained to my wife what it was and she agreed to watch the film. When we got home I sat her down, told her she was about to experience the greatest accomplishment of man and pressed play. Childhood memories can be misleading. Flight of the Navigator isn’t quite the greatest accomplishment of man.
So now when I suggest classics from my boyhood she’s a little more cautious. The above conversation is me convincing her to watch Back to the Future.
Back to the Future is one of those films that can get lost in it’s own mythos. When you think of it, you think of the franchise, or more specifically, you think of yourself as a child thinking of the franchise. You think of the brand, the imagery. You picture the Delorean and Christoper Lloyd’s hair. You tend not to think of the film on it’s own. I haven’t really sat down and watched Back to the Future in years. For some reason part three is on the TV a lot but not part one. So it was with just a little anxiety that I sat my wife down told her she was about to experience the greatest accomplishment of man and pressed play.
It’s brilliant. I mean, it’s really brilliant. It’s all of those things above. It’s Christopher Lloyd’s hair. It’s that beautiful but honestly bizarre car. It’s Einstein, the time travelling dog. It’s the best performances Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd have given. It’s that timeless score. It’s all of those things, but it’s the way everything comes together that makes this such an amazing and culturally significant film. It’s perfect entertainment. It’s far less dense than part two (a film that at one point requires chalk and a black board to explain what’s happening) and successfully manages to avoid the pitfalls that can arise when dealing with time travel. There is a great structure to the film; come the third act, Marty has to get his parent’s together, then get them to kiss and then get back to the Doc. The momentum keeps building so well that by the time the cable breaks and Doc Brown has to ascend the clock tower you start to get giddy. Above all else, it’s innocent and fun in a way that films these days just aren’t.
I was amazed at how much I had forgotten. I forgot that Lorraine called Marty Calvin Klein. I forgot about Uncle Joey. I forgot Billy Zane was in it. I forgot about Darth Vader from the Planet Vulcan. I forgot just how good Crispin Glover is as George McFly.
But more than that I had completely forgotten the brilliance of Thomas F. Wilson, the unsung hero of Back to the Future. Biff Tannen, in all his incarnations is a tremendous villain. He’s vile, cruel and strangely charismatic, something that Wilson brings himself. Most of the cast get to play around in prosthetics but for the most part it never really amounts to more than just putting on a different voice. Seeing Michael J. Fox play his son and daughter is just daft, Wilson on the other transforms with every different role. Over the course of the trilogy he turns in five wildly different performances, I have to confess, it was years before I realised Wilson played Mad Dog as well (I’m an idiot though, so that doesn’t say much). In a perfect world Back to the Future would have been the launch of a huge career for him as well as Michael J. Fox. Pleasingly, Wilson has gone onto success in numerous other fields and seems to have a great sense of humour about the whole thing…
It was a joy returning to this film. It was fun watching my wife pick up on the origin of countless references and homages that litter modern pop culture. The Back to the Future trilogy is one of the greats and Back to the Future part one is the best. The idea that a reboot is being considered doesn’t anger me, it just depresses me. It cannot be bettered or re-imagined, and it seems we’ll get to see Eric Stoltz’s apparently darker Marty McFly on the upcoming blu-ray anyway, that’s all the gritty reboot I need thank you.
But that’s for another entry. Instead, I leave you with this great video.