Sunday, 4 July 2010

Back in time

Twenty five years ago this weekend Back To The Future was released. It's the kind of smart, entertaining, commercial filmmaking that Hollywood seems incapable of making these days. How I wish Robert Zemeckis would give up on the mo-cap and get back to writing and directing movies like this again.

The Back To The Future trilogy will be released on Blu-ray later this year.


Hal Gracie said...

Unless my memory is playing tricks on me, I'm sure I saw this and The Goonies on consecutive Christmas weekends when I was 12 or 13. Those were the days.

I've actually bought the trilogy three times on DVD now. The R4 release (which I think was the first out of the blocks), then the R2 with more features, then a steelbook version just for better packaging (an OCD phase). Pic quality isn't particularly good, so I think I'll prob go blu-ray when it appears.

They just don't make them like this anymore. 25 years - hard to believe when you see Crispin Glover barely looking a day older.

Mark Salisbury said...

I've got the regular R2 box set but figure I'll upgrade to the BR when it comes out. Do you have a favourite of the three? I remember two being mine, because it was darker and seemed more complex.

I must admit I got a thrill interviewing Crispin Glover on the Alice set and couldn't resist talking to him about Back To The Future. When I've got some time, I'll transcribe that stuff and post it.

Hal Gracie said...

The first is definitely my favourite, and one of the all time classics. Only the extended sequence with Doc Brown trying to attach the cables for the lightening strike is a drag on multiple viewings. The second film was certainly bold and very experimental, but for me it lacks a bit of the magic of the first. And also lacks Crispin Glover, sadly. (Would love to read your material on him). I’ve always thought the third film was weak.

I think BTTF might also have been the end of a decade long blockbuster era (beginning with Jaws) where the best blockbusters were also the best films full stop. I hope I’m not being overly nostalgic for films I saw as a child (although I wasn’t old enough to catch Jaws on the big screen). Will the youth of today tell their children that they were fortunate enough to see Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen when it came out? (Although I suppose Pixar are creating something of another golden age for animated films). And if you look at that run of blockbusters, one name stands out as the genius behind practically all of it: John Williams.

I watched BTTF again last night (this blog is practically dictating my viewing habits at the minute, it’ll be BTTF 2 next). There’s a lot more swearing in it than I remember. And interestingly, for a 25th anniversary, Doc Brown’s mission at the start is to travel 25 years in the future to 2010!

Mark Salisbury said...

I agree with you about the third film. The weakest of the bunch by far.

I don't think you're being overly nostalgic but I think you could stretch the boundaries to include Jurassic Park. Again with music by John Williams.

I did see Jaws at the cinema, with my mum. I was young and impressionable and can still remember the head popping out of the boat!

That's hysterical that Doc's mission is to travel to today... Once the World Cup's finished, I'm going to have to sit down and watch BTTF parts one and two (I'll skip three).

Do come back tomorrow and let me know how two's held up.

Hal Gracie said...

Looking at it now, I thought BTTF2 was a bit hit and miss. It’s certainly ambitious enough, but the script is maybe lacking something, and sadly the producers let the film down badly by not tying down Glover to the remainder of the trilogy. His non-appearance has a ripple effect across the entire film. Not only have they had to write him out, but Lea Thomson has had to partly go with him, and that’s a shame. I always thought Glover’s legal action was a bit OTT – he refused to return for financial reasons, then cried foul when someone else played George McFly just for a passing similarity. Watching it now though – upscaled – I realise that Glover’s gripe was totally different. I assumed old Glover footage was used in the 1955 sections, but it isn’t. They have employed someone who looks, in profile, identical to Glover. It appears that Glover is in the film and his legal action must have been a moral certainty.

And there’s the matter of Marty McFly’s girlfriend who has been recast as Elisabeth Shue. Now given Shue would be Oscar nominated shortly afterwards you might think this is a trade up, but it isn’t. Shue is as wooden as hell – not for the only time – and doesn’t even look like the original girl. (I’ve just checked and she couldn’t come back due to a family illness). Nevertheless, with another actress re-doing old scenes and Glover out of the picture, BTTF 2 feels like it was rewritten and restructured on the hop, a bit like The Crow. And given no one was dead, that’s a real shame.

Perhaps the nicest touch is CafĂ© 80’s – seeing how people thought the 80s would look 30 years later (Doc Brown goes from wanting to go to 2010, to 2015 instead by the end of BTTF for reasons unknown). And the film remakes and revisits the two best scenes from the original (the skateboard sequence and Johnny B. Goode). Which is either really lazy or very inventive depending on what side of the bed you woke up on.

And there’s a trailer embedded in the film. A trailer!!! You can imagine how apoplectic I went over that! Actually, it kinda works and made BTTF 3 look more exciting than it actually was.

Finally, Doc Brown lays out time travel for the viewers on a blackboard (or whatever they call them these days). That’s all well and good – if a little bit basic in our post-Primer world – but the film doesn’t follow its own logic. If Biff Tannen goes back in time to give himself a 1950-2000 Sports Almanac, and this changes the timeline irrevocably (Hill Valley is an unrecognisable post apocalyptic hellhole), then it also follows that the Almanac wouldn’t work on this new timeline. I tried to explain this to someone after the England – Germany game, who couldn’t get it through their head that if England’s 2nd goal had counted, it wouldn’t follow that Germany would then have won 4 -2. In fact, it would have been scientifically impossible for Germany to score their third and fourth goals in the same fashion. I was met with a look of disbelief, my disappointment at England’s exit apparently clouding my sanity!

Or am I taking a film where Michael J. Fox plays his own daughter just a bit too seriously?

Mark Salisbury said...

"There’s a trailer embedded in the film. A trailer!!! You can imagine how apoplectic I went over that!"

Sorry you've lost me, Hal. Do you mean the trailer at the end advertising part 3?

I love your time travel logic that goals three and four wouldn't have been scored if the Lampard strike had counted. Very butterfly effect.

All this talk is making me want to watch Primer again, though...

Hal Gracie said...

Yes, the trailer to BTTF 3 is within the body of the film (pre-end credits).

I watched 75% of BTTF3 last night. I think there are quite a few nods in teh film - not only to the previous episodes, but to the production as well. Doc Brown invents a fridge in 1885, and it was a fridge that was supposed to house the time machine in the original script. And Seamus McFly - played by Michael J. Fox in a ginger wig and deep blue contact lenses - was reminding me of someone for ages before I realised who he looked like. Eric Stoltz!

A few snippets of Stoltz footage will apparently be included in the Blu-ray. I'm intrigued to see it.

Mark Salisbury said...

Snippets of Stoltz? I've always wanted to see that.

You're making me want to watch these films again. And I don't have time!!!