Back to the Future Part II (1989)

Directed by Robert Zemeckis

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Back to the Future Part II moves lightning fast.  It takes the premise of the first film, to travel in time to change just one thing, but then ramps it up by a factor of a hundred.  Doc (Christopher Lloyd) and Marty (Michael J. Fox) travel not only to the future (2015), but then back to an alternate 1985 before returning to 1955 as seen in the previous film.  They will encounter themselves at various stages of life as well as themselves from the previous film which, in the case of Marty, was only a couple days ago.

It’s wild, and I think only in retrospect do I appreciate just how silly it became.  The film itself is the inspiration for Rick and Morty, an insane tv show which takes these two characters, makes them a little more deranged, and lets them loose in the multiverse.  I was struck upon rewatching this film how much that show draws upon specifically this film rather than its predecessor.

In the first film Doc and Marty don’t spend all that much time together even though their relationship is the beating heart of the story.  They’re together at the start, but by then they are well-acquainted with each other even as we’re still figuring out who they are, and then they’re together off and on through the middle of the story but with Marty re-introducing himself to a younger version of the character who, being 30 years younger, is ostensibly a new character entirely.

Much of the film follows Marty with his teenaged parents, George and Lorraine, but in this sequel he spends just about all of his time running this way and that with Doc.  Every other character is secondary.

I’m not really sure what to say about this film other than it’s zany.  It’s also unnerving, watching the imagined future, aided by the fact that the original George McFly (Crispin Glover) didn’t agree to be in the film and so was recreated with a new actor, prosthetics and clever camera tricks.  And yet you can tell it’s not him, the way he’s hidden or established just quickly enough with footage from the first film.  In one scene the 2015 George is hanging upside down (because of a bad back), but his facial prosthetics are unnaturally slimy, and his voice feels like a really bad impression of Glover.  It’s just quite strange and unsettling.

Then you have just how horrific everything is, which is the point considering Biff Tannen (Those F. Wilson) serves as the film’s antagonist and corrupts the future by changing the past.  It’s his actions which Doc and Marty must fix in order to re-establish their idea of what 1985 was like.

The film loses some of the humanity of the original film, but there was probably never any hope of recapturing or improving on that anyway.  Most sequels struggle when they try to strictly recreate what happened in the movie that inspired the sequel.  They set up the same formula (The Hangover Part II) or otherwise try to copy the template from the original as if it’s a sacred text.

Back to the Future Part II, however, just ramps up the comedy of their predicament.  It’s not one thing they must fix to confirm the present but a million things, and the fact that it all hinges on a sports almanac is inherently silly.  The movie as a whole is that silly.

Up Next: Presumed Innocent (1990), Joker (2019), Klute (1971)

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