Guest Blog: Back to the Future Review
It’s hard to believe, but my oldest son is the same age I was when I discovered my favorite movie of all-time. He’s five, and I think that’s a fantastic time to choose a favorite movie. And to think that I was his age when I discovered not only my favorite movie, but one of the most influential movies for an entire generation, well, that gives me some perspective on how quickly life can be. My oldest could very well soon discover the film that will define his movie-watching experience for the rest of his life. That’s a bit heavy, but hey, movies aren’t meant to be taken lightly. Knowing the finite nature of life and just how quickly a person can go from “zero to 88”, it makes me even more thankful that I was able to realize what my favorite movie was at such a young age. The road to finding the movie that dictates how you watch every film thereafter is not an easy one for many to find, and maybe it’s a road many people don’t even want to find. For the ones still out there waiting to discover “the one,” keep searching. It’ll find you eventually. For those who already have a number one, be thankful that you found the movie made for you.
I’m a child of the late 80’s, early 90’s, so it should surprise no one that some of my favorite movies are from that era: Terminator 2, Jurassic Park, The Lion King; even Pixar’s Toy Story, all of these have special meaning for me. They were all pivotal for my understanding of proper cinematic approach – that is to say, how to tell a great story. While there is a lot of theory behind what makes a great film, at its core are principles that will never change: story, characters, pacing, and moments. I would argue that the moments are what takes good movies to great ones. It’s the moments, which are created because of the story, characters, and proper pacing, that can catapult movies to another stratosphere. It’s how we all know, “No, I am your father,” “You’re gonna need a bigger boat,” and, “I see dead people.” It's also how we know that where we’re going, we don’t need roads.
Back to the Future was it for me, as it was and is for a lot of people. As a child, five, six years old, I was mesmerized by everything this movie had to offer. As an adult, it’s still as wonderful and as enchanting as ever. It’s not just a great movie for the time, but it’s a great movie that has aged extremely well, which is nothing to scoff at. You know, sometimes you watch a movie years later and realize, “This is...pretty bad.” Not the case here. Every time I have the urge to throw it on the TV (or, wow, I can actually watch this on my phone), I feel like I’m taken back to my childhood, when things were easier, when things were less tense, when life was just simple. Viewing a movie like Back to the Future as a child gave me a sense of wonder and amazement. When a movie can instill in you a belief that creative possibilities are endless, that’s when you know you’ve discovered something very unique. When a movie can create a sense of adventure and a desire to live a life of epic proportions, you know you’ve got a game changer. The movies that fundamentally shift the way you perceive life, well, those are few and far between. And here’s the thing: you know it when you see it. I watch a lot of movies, like most of you reading this do, and you know when you’re watching something that’s just run-of-the-mill, which, frankly, is about 99% of movies out there. Think about it. There’s an endless assortment of movies, and only a handful can really lay claim to being so amazing that they can alter the life of the watcher. Seriously, nobody is running out to go to film school after watching most of the movies that we watch. It’s those films that can literally amp up the energy in your soul; Star Wars, Jaws, Cool Hand Luke, those are the films that make us say, “I want to do that with my life. I want to make films.”
Back to the Future molded my film convictions and showed me that movies can affect our lives in a profound way. There’s not just, “something about it,” there’s everything about it! It starts with Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, two guys who believed that it was time to think outside the box and take a chance on a film. It continues with them getting rejected by the studio heads repeatedly. Disney famously rejected the script due to the notion that it promoted incest. Executive Sid Sheinberg wrote a letter to Zemeckis and Gale that the title “Back to the Future” was a disservice to a great script, and instead the movie should be titled, “Spaceman from Pluto.” Consider Eric Stoltz, who was originally cast to play Marty McFly. Consider that they had weeks of production under their belts before the decision was made that he was not the right fit for the part. And consider how drastically different a Back to the Future movie would be without Michael J. Fox.I could go on and on, but you get the gist. This movie has so much backstory apart from the actual film, that it only enhances the film itself. The bottom line here is that this was a movie made from genuine joy, enthusiasm, and hope, and you can see it as each scene flies by on the screen. And even though there were twists and turns throughout production, the creators of the film still stayed true to themselves and the story they wanted to tell.
To the actual movie, it’s expertly crafted. Not a moment is wasted. Not a scene goes by without it mattering. And I love that so much about this movie. I love that everything has value to it. Every piece of dialogue is significant. And the weaving of the miniscule moments into the intricately detailed overall story arc is impressive. The great thing about a movie like Back to the Future is that it placed a value on storytelling devices for me. It showed me what makes a great movie great. The funny thing is, in doing so, it showed me what makes a bad movie bad. It’s funny how that works.
We all know the crux of the story here; Marty McFly goes back in time to the year 1955, where he meets his parents, and through his interactions, he messes with the space-time continuum. We know that Doc Brown is the inventor of the DeLorean time machine, and we know that he’s running from the Libyans because he stole plutonium to help power his vehicle. And we know that Marty has to figure out a way to get back to the year 1985 without messing up absolutely everything, namely, his very existence. So, he meets 1955 Doc, and our story continues to evolve into what feels like a never-ending rabbit chase. Every decision matters; every interaction matters. Everything matters.
What I also love about this movie are the absolute essential levels of details that are required for a movie like this to flourish. When dealing with a topic as difficult as time travel, it’s imperative that the minute details are not regarded as minute at all. So when Marty sings “Johnny B. Goode” to a group of students who have never heard that genre before, and the singer of the band calls up his cousin Chuck to let him know that this is the new sound he’s been looking for, that’s significant. It’s significant because it shows an appreciation for the moment, an appreciation for the viewer, that, hey, we know Marty is playing a song that hasn’t even been invented yet, so we’re going to play that up a bit. I mean, who does that? What kind of a movie takes a chance like that?The kind of movie that ends up mattering, that’s what.
It’s been over 30 years now since “Back to the Future” was introduced to our lives, and it is still better than most films out there today. It still feels fresh and unique, unrelenting in its approach, unwavering in its story, unmatched in its precision. It’s a film that stands the test of time, and for my money, it’s my absolute favorite movie.
Thanks for reading. Save the clock tower.
Reviewed by Josh Corum, Co-Host of Stale Popcorn Podcast.
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