Back to the Future
Back to the Future is a 1985 film directed by Robert Zemeckis, written by Zemeckis and Bob Gale, and starring Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd. The movie opened on July 3, 1985 with artist Drew Struzan creating the film series' distinctive artwork used on movie posters and in other marketing. After the success of the film, its two sequels were filmed together, Back to the Future Part II and Back to the Future Part III, forming a trilogy. Back to the Future grossed USD$210 million dollars at the US box office, making it the highest grossing film of 1985. On December 17 2002, Universal Home Video released Back to the Future: The Complete Trilogy on DVD and VHS. The box sets did very well when released, despite certain framing issues.
Marty McFly, a 17-year old high school student, an avid skateboarder and electric guitarist, is invited by his friend Dr. Emmett Brown, a local scientist, to witness a demonstration of Doc's latest invention, his life's ambition: a time-machine made from a modified De Lorean sports car which must reach 88 miles per hour in order to travel back in time. At first the car is successfully tested on Doc's dog, Einstein (named after Albert Einstein), who is sent one minute into the future. Following the test, a group of Libyan terrorists (from whom Doc has stolen the plutonium necessary to fuel the time machine, by promising to build them a bomb, but providing a casing full of used parts of a pinball machine), come looking for revenge. The Libyans open fire on Doc Brown, unloading a barrage of bullets into his chest. Marty flees the Libyans in the De Lorean and inadvertently travels back to the year 1955.
It is here that Marty accidentally interferes with the first meeting of his parents George McFly and Lorraine Baines, an act with seismic cosmic significance, as it threatens to jeopardize Marty's own existence. This happens when Marty saves George from being hit by a car, after falling from a tree where he was watching a girl changing with binoculars. It is then Marty instead of George who is taken inside Lorraine's house, where he meets his mother's family and has dinner with them. He then heads off to find the Doc of 1955, who is skeptical at first. Everyone seems to think Marty is with the coast guard because of the puffy vest-jacket he wears which looks like a life preserver. Doc in this time is not the successful doctor he is in 1985; none of his inventions work at all. Since the date in 1955 had been dialed-up by Doc because it was when he had fallen and had the vision of the flux capacitor ("which is what makes time travel possible"), Marty is able to explain to Doc how he bruised his head, thus convincing Doc that he really is from the future. Doc is then surprised and overjoyed when Marty shows him the flux capacitor in the time machine which actually works.
Marty has a snapshot of himself with his sister and brother, and 1955 Doc Brown discovers they're fading out, first Dave, the oldest, then Linda. Marty finds himself stranded, not having brought any additional plutonium back with him. Plutonium in 1955, Marty soon finds out, is "a little hard to come by." Fortunately, Marty has a flyer from 1985 that reproduces a news story that gives the Doc Brown of 1955 some valuable information.
With Doc's help, they find a way to send Marty back to the future: using a lightning bolt for power (since they do not have access to Plutonium) that the newspaper reports will strike the clock tower at exactly 10:04 PM the following Saturday. They will rig the DeLorean to channel the lightning into the flux capacitor, sending Marty back to 1985. However, a greater problem has occurred: his mother is now infatuated with him, having never met his father. Now Marty must not only put his parents back together, but do it before the lightning hits the clock tower.
Marty has trouble with the school bully, Biff Tannen, who is also after Lorraine. In one instance, they chase him while he gets a makeshift skateboard, and they crash into a manure truck. Unfortunately this only makes Lorraine even more attracted to him, and while trying to get George to ask her to the "Enchantment Under the Sea" dance, Lorraine comes and asks Marty.
"Enchantment Under the Sea" dance
He realizes his best chance to have the two get together is at school dance where George originally first kissed Lorraine, the night of the lightning storm. Marvin Berry (supposedly the cousin of Chuck Berry) and the Starlighters are playing. Marty's plan is to 'take advantage' of Lorraine in the car, so that George can rescue her, which would put him in a good light. But he ends up not being able to go through with it, and when the door opens, Marty thinks it is George, but it is actually Biff whose gang locks Marty in the trunk of a nearby car. When George does arrive, Biff really is taking advantage of Lorraine, George still thinks it's Marty when he opens the door. After Biff laughs at the first punch George tries to throw, he then knocks Biff out cold with one punch, and Lorraine and him head off to the dance just in time for Marty to see when he has been freed from the car.
Once his parents are together, he's still not secure because they have to kiss on the dance floor, but the musician who plays the guitar has an injury due to getting Marty out of the trunk of the car, which would mean the dance is over. Marty volunteers to play the guitar, and during the first number, "Earth Angel", someone cuts in between George and Lorraine, and George seems to give up. Dave and Linda are long gone from the photograph and now Marty's beginning to fade out from the picture and he can look through his own hand as he feels the effect of his "erasure from existance".
George gets his gumption again, clouts the boy who cut in on him, and in a few seconds, kisses Lorraine. Marty's suddenly full of energy, and is playing the guitar expertly again, looks at the photo and sees Linda and Dave have reappeared. Marvin says, "let's do something that really cooks!" So, Marty does "Johnny B. Goode" (by Chuck Berry); the young people love it, but Marty gets carried away, eventually deteriorating into typical early 1980s stage play (including kicking over his amplifier in imitation of The Who and tapping in the style of Eddie Van Halen), resulting in a blank stare from the audience.
Heading back to the future
There are several problems Doc has with setting up the cables so that the time machine can travel back in time; a tree limb falls off the tree disconnecting the wire from the clock. Doc must climb the clock tower to re-connect the cords, and in doing so, pulls apart the connection further below, which he has to swing down on a rope to reconnect just in time for the lightning to hit the car sending it back to the future.
Marty returns to 1985, ten minutes before he left due to his setting the time machine further back in time so he would have enough time to stop the terrorists. But the car dies when he gets back, and he has to run out to the mall, where he sees himself driving the DeLorean back in time, which happened at the start of the movie. He discovers that Doc took advice Marty had tried to give him before heading to the school dance: take steps to avoid terrorists killing him. Doc was still shot as Marty watched from a second point of view, Marty runs down, mourns Doc, but Doc sits up. He had put on a bulletproof vest and feigned death so that the time frame up to that point should stay roughly the same.
Doc drives Marty home, then heads for the future. In the morning, Marty discovers his house is different, there's a nicer car in the driveway, Linda and Dave are obviously living less "depressing" lives, and then mom and dad are much closer than he remembers, acting like schoolkids. A humble Biff runs in with George's first book, and the Toyota pickup that Marty admired Friday afternoon is now his. Right before the end Doc reappears in the DeLorean, telling Marty that something has got to be done about their kids, and takes him and Jennifer in the car. Marty points out that there is not enough road to get up to 88 mph, and Doc says "Where we're going we don't need roads" and flies off in the car, which turns around and comes hurtling towards the screen at the end.
- Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly
- Christopher Lloyd as Dr. Emmett L. Brown (aka Doc Brown)
- Lea Thompson as Lorraine Baines McFly
- Crispin Glover as George McFly
- Thomas F. Wilson as Biff Tannen
- Marc McClure as Dave McFly
- Wendie Jo Sperber as Linda McFly
- James Tolkan as Mr. Strickland
- Claudia Wells as Jennifer Parker
- Billy Zane as Match
- J J Cohen as Skinhead
- Casey Siemaszko as 3-D
- Huey Lewis as the High-School Band Audition Judge
The series was very popular in the 1980s, even making fans out of celebrities like ZZ Top (who appeared in the third film) and President Ronald Reagan, who referred to the movie in his 1986 State of the Union address when he said, "Never has there been a more exciting time to be alive, a time of rousing wonder and heroic achievement. As they said in the film Back to the Future, 'Where we're going, we don't need roads.'" He also considered accepting a role in the third film as the 1885 mayor of Hill Valley but eventually declined. The hip, upbeat soundtrack, featuring two new songs by Huey Lewis and the News, contributed to the film's popularity. Lewis' "The Power of Love" became the band's first song to hit Number One on the Billboard Hot 100 and was nominated for an Academy Award.
Sequels were not planned; the "To Be Continued..." caption, according to Zemeckis, was not added until the film was released to video at which time plans for a sequel (eventually two sequels) had been announced. Ultimately, the sequels did not fare quite as well at the box office. While the first installment grossed $218 million (making it the biggest-earning movie of 1985), Parts II (fall of 1989) and III (summer of 1990) made roughly $125 million and $90 million, respectively (still making the movies hits, but not major hits). It is usual for sequels to suffer from diminishing returns, and in this case the box office may have also been affected by Part III being released so soon after Part II.
As producers were scouting locations on a residential street in Pasadena, Michael J. Fox was elsewhere on that street, filming what was to have been his first starring feature role, Teen Wolf. Production of the film began on November 261984 with actor Eric Stoltz portraying "Marty McFly", because Fox's schedule with Family Ties initially prevented Fox from accepting the role. After filming began, the filmmakers realized that Stoltz was not right for the part. It is believed that they had, at that point, filmed about one third of the completed movie. By that time, Fox's schedule allowed him to sign on. Shooting was completed on April 201985, less than three months before its release.
- Marty starts his trip back in time in the parking lot of "Twin Pines Mall," immediately arriving in 1955, he hits one of 2 pine trees. When he returns to 1985, the sign now reads "Lone Pine Mall."
- Doc Brown pronounces "gigawatt" with a soft "G" (i.e. a "J") sound. Although the prefix "giga" is more commonly pronounced with a hard "G" sound, the soft "G" is also correct . According to DVD commentary, this is also due to the word being read by the filmmakers rather than passed along verbally.
- A series of tie-in computer games was released for the Commodore 64 computer.
- The nuclear reactor which powers the time machine bears at least passing resemblence to the 1958 Ford Nucleon concept car.
- The "present" events supposedly occur on October 261985.
- This movie managed to pull Hollywood out of a slump that lasted 17 weeks, making it one of the longest in film history. Nevertheless, total revenues for 1985 were 7% less than in 1984.
- The video camera Marty uses in the film is a JVC camcorder GR-C1U.
- The DeLorean time machine's licence plates are California vanity plates that say "OUTATIME."
- The first movie's soundtrack features 2 songs from Huey Lewis & the News; Lewis also makes a cameo early in the movie, as a judge choosing bands for the Hill Valley High School Battle of the Bands.
- Eric Stoltz was originally cast to play the role of Marty McFly. However, several weeks into filming, Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale realised he was miscast and replaced him with Michael J. Fox. Footage with Stoltz still exists according to Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale. The scene in the mall parking lot where Marty is driving the time machine is early footage filmed with Eric Stoltz at the wheel of the De Lorean. It was decided that since the shots were fairly distant and the drivers face was not very visible to use the footage that had been previously filmed. Stills can be found on the internet.
- When Marty poses as a spaceman to convince George to ask Lorraine to the school dance, he references three science fiction classics simultaneously in the line "My name is Darth Vader. I am an extra-terrestrial from the planet Vulcan."
- The movie that won the Academy Award for Best Picture of 1955, the year to which Marty McFly goes back in time, was called Marty; however, according to Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, this is only a coincidence and was not a factor in naming the character.
- The entrance to Marty's family's subdivision "Lyon Estates" is surrounded by lion statues, inspired by similar statues to the western entrance of the Delmar Loop in writer Bob Gale's home town University City, Missouri in St. Louis. Futhermore, the French sister city of St. Louis is Lyon. Gale was also able to name the local Hill Valley sports teams after his high school and junior high school teams.
- The guitar that Marty plays at the dance is a Gibson ES-345 with a Bigsby vibrato unit. This guitar did not exist in 1955, and likely would not have been availiable with the Bigsby unit until about 1963. Additionally, his guitar sound is very distorted — unusual for an mid-fifties amp before any guitar distortion methods had been used.
- When Marty switches on Doc's amplifier in the first scene, the keyhole is marked 'CRM-114', a reference to the decryption device aboard the B-52 in Dr Strangelove.
- Official source for Back to the Future™ information News, collectibles, photos, script drafts
- Back to the Future Message Board
- Official Universal Pictures site advertising the trilogy. Movie scripts, short clips from the films.
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- BTTF Online Fansite BTTF Online Fansite
- Back to the Future Film Review
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