Back to the Future

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Do cowboys, hoverboards and fifties diners blend to make a compelling light-hearted time travelling comedy?

The very first film, Back to the Future, stormed to release in 1985 becoming the most popular film of the year with adults and kids alike. Interestingly the end sequence of them flying into the future to stop a disaster was actually written as a joke but four years later that joke paved the way for the second and third films which would run with the story.

The first film did the best at the box office bringing in over five times it’s budget with a gross of $210 million worldwide, while the second and third films gradually did less and less with Back to the Future III only making $87 million. This is perhaps more surprising when you consider the budget for each one stayed the same at $40 million but with the last two films being filmed together they had a similar effect to The Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions where any mistakes or complaints couldn’t be used to alter the latter film. Despite that downward trend in financial success, the trilogy is still regarded highly and even today the film’s iconic status is upheld.

Back to the Future’s journey appears a relatively straightforward one and the films intertwine perfectly with each one referencing the last, covering old ground and even finishing within a few hours of where it all began. But this fluidity isn’t always shown, especially when new aspects are added to the franchise half way through. Four years after the original, the second film added the now memorable ‘chicken’ device to Marty McFly’s otherwise impenetrable persona. Yes, a devastating change of world history, his mum fancying him and even his own destruction is all taken in his stride, but being called a chicken is something he just won’t tolerate. This seems pretty odd but maybe it’s a small man complex that would explain his fierce dislike of bullies and authority. Back to the Future includes three mentions of the word chicken with it being a crucial new aspect of the narrative. The third film includes that, and the phrase ‘yellow belly,’ four times and it is here that his stubborn nature to always adhere to a chicken confrontation leads him to the most trouble. The franchise cleverly uses this problem to show character progression towards the end of the film and makes his future a bright one. Although this device came late to the franchise, it’s well placed in a franchise of simple characters and entertaining fun and is a nice addition to the franchise.

Throughout the franchise historic articles are used, whether newspapers, flyers, TV adverts or photographs, and these often change when an event goes differently or sometimes act simply as a source of information on a specific unknown subject. The use of these is increased from 3 to 7 from the first film to the second and tie in with the second films urgent need to reference the Old West and flitting it between more eras than the other films. Having said that, time travel is shown almost the same amount of times throughout the franchise showing an attempt to speed up the time travel elements as to avoid over using repetitive sequences.

The last film has the lowest amount of Marty’s family members from a different time with only three in total. Each film has included this opportunity for fun with the second film using the most with a record ten family members. Highlights from that film include Marty’s weedy son and his futuristic family interacting with their house and also his mum from a different present where she’s married to the villain, Biff, and has an uncomfortably large chest.

The Marty versus Biff confrontation brought up one of the most surprising results with Marty as the least innocent party in the first and third films with 2 occurrences per film. This is compared to the well known bully, and major villain, Biff, who only aggravates Marty twice during the second film. Obviously Biff isn’t innocent during the franchise but it’s interesting to note that if Marty hadn’t annoyed Biff so much the films, and Marty and Biff’s interaction, could have ended very differently.

This franchise provides an almost faultless ride around time zones with fun, interesting characters and a lot of love from the creators. This proves itself to be among the best blockbuster franchises out there.

What we learnt from...

Back to the Future

It’s not recommended to betray a terrorist group to gain plutonium
Never interfere with the time-space continuum
If you like the sound of your name with 'Mayor' in front of it then you should strive towards that goal
If you travel through time you might find your mum to be hot, fat or big boobed
Time machine inventors are unsung heroes
Chuck Berry stole the song Jonny B. Good from Marty McFly
Don’t be a bully. Hit bullies in the face.
It’s wrong to cheat at gambling
Hover cars will be around in 2015...
Skateboards will never lose their appeal
If you're a bully then all of your descendants will be bullies too. You can never change who you are.
Never hide your creativity away.
The Western genre improves a franchise ten fold
Water wasn’t clean in the Nineteenth century
Never respond to the taunts ‘Chicken’ or ‘Yellow’
Always wear body armour in gun fights
Never create a time machine unless you do it in style
Always go where you don't need roads