Film Review with Robert Mann – Back to the Future: 25th Anniversary Re-Release

Back to the Future 25th Anniversary Re-Release *****

Boy, does time fly. It really is hard to believe that it has been 25 years since Back to the Future was originally released on the big screen – and this is coming from someone who hadn’t even been born back in 1985. One of the great all time classic Hollywood blockbusters, this is one of those films that helped to define a generation and, in much the same way that the late 70s belonged to Star Wars

, it could certainly be said that the mid 80s belonged to Back to the Future. Now, to celebrate its 25th Anniversary (which, incidentally couldn’t have fallen on a better year, given that 80s retro is very much right now), the folks at Universal Pictures, are re-releasing it in cinemas, digitally remastered to make it look all new and shiny once again. An opportunity to see a true classic of Hollywood cinema on the big screen once again in all its digital glory is a rare thing nowadays so what are you waiting for – it’s time you saw Back to the Future.

Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) is a normal 1980s American teenager who spends his days slacking off, playing guitar with his band, trying to spend time alone with his girlfriend Jennifer (Claudia Wells) and hanging out with eccentric scientist Doctor Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd). His life becomes very complicated, however, when he finds himself transported back to the year 1955, thanks to a nuclear-powered DeLorean car converted for time travel by the Doc. Realising that the much younger version of Doc Brown is the only person who can help him get home, he meets him for the first time all over again and together they set in motion a plan to get Marty back to the future. However, Marty must make himself as inconspicuous as possible, something that turns out to be completely impossible when he not only gets in the way of the first meeting of his parents Lorraine (Lea Thompson) and George (Crispin Glover) but finds that his mother has taken a liking to him and that he has made an enemy of the very same bully who is making George’s life a living hell – Biff Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson). With time running out to get home, Marty must now put things back the way they before or face never being born and find that there is no future for him to get back to.

Few Hollywood blockbusters have made a more lasting cultural impression than Back to the Future, it not only being a film that that has inspired, been parodied by and referenced in many films and TV shows over the years but also one that is fondly remembered by many movie fans and still enjoyed by many more people even today. It truly is one of the greatest Hollywood blockbusters ever made and the Back to the Future: 25th Anniversary Re-Release has not changed a thing, this not being a so-called ‘special edition’ like many re-releases of other classic blockbusters but rather the original unadulterated movie, the only difference being that it has been digitally remastered and is presented in crisp clear digital quality, something that makes it almost look like it was only just made this year as opposed to 25 years ago. What makes the film so great? Well, the short answer is – pretty much everything. This film is from director Robert Zemeckis’ heyday, long before he sold his soul to motion capture animation and a time when he made movies that were truly vibrant, fun and memorable (something which can’t really be said about his most recent movies, with the possible exception of The Polar Express) and this film is easily one of his best. And, after twenty five years, the film has lost none of its magic. The visual effects may seem dated when compared with those in many (but by no means all) modern blockbusters but they still have a quaint charm and have stood the test of time far better than you might expect. And in one key area the film manages to really hold its own against modern effects with the practical aging effects used in the 1985 scenes to make Christopher Lloyd, Crispin Glover, Lea Thompson and Thomas F. Wilson appears 30 years older being impressive even now, showing that practical effects can sometimes deliver results that are just as good as, if not better than, computer generated ones. The film also maintains its authentic look, feel and sound of the America of both the mid 1980s (obviously, as it was filmed then) and the mid 1950s, with sets, costumes, cars, props and pretty much everything creating the setting perfectly, providing a genuine sense of time and place, and a fantastic soundtrack featuring the very best American pop music of both periods. The cultural references to both periods also make this a perfect film for those looking to go on a nostalgia trip. Such references are very much a part of the genius of the film, being as much a part of it as the plot or characters, unlike in modern movies where they are often thrown in for the sake of it. For the avid viewer, there are also lots of great little touches and details, the kind of things that add a whole extra level of enjoyment for those who watch really closely. This is particularly evident in the ingenious and inventive ways the past (i.e. 1955) and the present (i.e. 1985) come together, the time travel element being masterfully handled and the metaphysics of time travel being explained in a simple and effective way without ever seeming dumbed down. The writing in general is also excellent with fantastic dialogue that takes full advantage of the opportunities created by having the film set in two contrastingly different time periods, a plot that is smart, engaging and amusing, making the most of all the awkward situations that Marty finds himself in, lots of genuinely funny laugh out loud moments – the film is still hilarious 25 years on – and characters that are vibrant, multi layered and that we really do give a damn about. Of course, the success of this aspect of the film can also be attributed to the strength of the performers, every one of whom is excellent. Michael J. Fox is simply superb, making his slacker character seem effortlessly cool, being incredibly entertaining and also entirely believable at the same time, particularly in his completely convincing reactions to some of the awkward situations his character finds himself in. What’s more, in one of the film’s most iconic scenes – this is a film that delivers one iconic scene after another – he even shows that he is pretty good singer as well. Christopher Lloyd is perfectly eccentric and over the top (but not too over the top), delivering perhaps the ultimate portrayals of a mad scientist, a performance against which any other actors portraying mad scientist roles since can really be compared. Elsewhere, Lea Thompson shows a great acting range, managing to switch from completely innocent to not so innocent with the greatest of ease while Crispin Glover’s transformation from shy and wimpy to brave and heroic is completely believable and the two actors go so well together that we never doubt that their characters are meant to be together. Additionally, Thomas F. Wilson both makes for a completely convincing bully, perfectly fitting the image of what a 1950s school bully might be like, and also a believably tamer individual that we see at the end of the film. The supporting performers are also excellent, among them Claudia Wells, who shares a good chemistry with Fox, James Tolkan, who plays school principal Mr. Strickland, Marc McClure, who plays Marty’s brother Dave and Wendy Jo Sperber, who plays his sister Linda. And, not to forget, perhaps the most iconic star of the film – the DeLorean, easily the most iconic time machine ever seen on the big screen and a film that almost has a screen presence all of its own. So, all in all, Back to the Future is a film that still has it. It is still exciting. It is still hilarious. It is still memorable. Both a perfect nostalgia trip for older viewers and an enjoyable viewing experience for younger ones, this is a true classic of cinema and coming from someone who really likes modern blockbusters, this will really mean something – they don’t make them like this anymore.



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Review by Robert Mann BA (Hons)

© BRWC 2010.


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Alton loves film. He is founder and Editor In Chief of BRWC.  Some of the films he loves are Rear Window, Superman 2, The Man With The Two Brains, Clockwise, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Trading Places, Stir Crazy and Punch-Drunk Love.

2 COMMENTS
  • Eula 4th October 2010

    It is sad that Michael J. Fox wouldn’t be able to play MacFly anymore. It would’ve been great if they make a new back to the future movie.

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  • Anonymous 6th October 2010

    It is THE family movie in my eyes…

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