Forget about May the 4th (sorry Star Wars fans), the real date to look out for is Oct. 21, 2015, 4:29 pm to be exact. Any self-respecting Back to the Future fan knows this is the date where Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox), Dr. Emmett “Doc” Brown (Christopher Lloyd), Jennifer Parker (Elizabeth Shue) and Einstein the dog time travel to from 1985 in the classic film Back to the Future, Part II.
Now that that fabled day is here, how does it compare to the future seen in that film? To be filmmakers got wrong. But the film has made some predictions that come close. For instance, technically we do have flying cars it’s just that they’re not commonplace, and while the Chicago Cubs haven’t won the World Series, they’re in a fight for the pennant with the Mets. On that note, Back to the Future, Part II got the dates for the World Series completely wrong. We’re still in the middle of the playoffs, while in the film on this date, the Cubs swept Miami–at least the film correctly predicted that Miami would have a baseball team, it’s just that this year the Marlins didn’t even come close to getting a Wild Card spot.
In a recent interview, co-writer and producer Bob Gale admitted that when making Back to the Future, Part II the future predictions wouldn’t be too accurate, so instead efforts were focused on creating an optimistic vision of the future. And what an awesome future they presented us. We all wish it came to be, but many elements are with us today like flatscreen TVs, video calls, wearable eye tech and the self-lacing sneakers are coming!
As fun as it is to compare reality to fiction, what makes Back to the Future, Part II such a classic is that it went the dark route as a sequel. Many followups to film classics take their characters into dark places and this film isn’t an exception. It also explored another time travel motif: the Butterfly Effect (the first Back to the Future film was about the Grandfather Paradox, while the third film examined predestination). Marty McFly buys a sports almanac on October 21, 2015 with the intent to go back to his time period and get rich making bets. What happens is that Biff Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson) gets a hold of the almanac and the time traveling DeLorean and alters the timeline when he goes back to the 1950s. The resulting chaotic divergence creates a timeline where Biff becomes a one-percenter and rules Marty’s hometown Hill Valley with a tyrannical fist. The town becomes a lawless hellhole where Marty’s father was murdered in the past and Doc Brown has been committed into an asylum.
Marty realizes that the calamitous events are his fault and goes about correcting the timeline by going back to the first film. The way director Robert Zemeckis intertwined the actors into the footage from the first film was simply genius and flawlessly executed. It was a pioneering use of special effects and editing that still holds up and which we take for granted these days.
The Back to the Future trilogy overall continues to enthrall viewers and interest in the films continues to grow. The logical question is will there ever be any more films? Ordinarily, the answer would be no. Zemeckis and Gale have been adamant about not continuing the story. As far as they’re concerned, the story ended with Marty McFly rebooting his future and Doc Brown time traveling with his family. Besides, how could they top the original trilogy? Remaking it would be a mistake since trying to find actors to replace Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd is an impossible task. Lloyd last week declared that if asked he would return to his role in a fourth film. The issue is with Michael J. Fox. Frankly, he is too old to play a teenager and is suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. The best thing to a reunion we’ll get was the cute short the two actors made recently.
*It has to be added that Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd reprised their roles of Marty McFly and Doc Brown on Jimmy Kimmel Live on October 21, 2015. The skit felt faithful to the spirit of the trilogy and we got an explanation from Doc as to why our 2015 is different than the one depicted on the film: we’re in an alternate reality! It was all in good fun and concluded with Doc hopping into another time-traveling car (not the DeLorean, that car was left with Marty and Jimmy) to go back to the past and correct the timeline. Needless to say he didn’t do so, but for all we know he probably created an even better 2015.
However, one way to continue Back to the Future would be to have it focus on the children of Marty McFly and Doc Brown. The original actors could appear in supporting roles as is being done with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but the main story could be about a time-spanning romance between Marty’s son and Doc’s daughter. Or come up with a story where Marty and Doc’s children try to change history and learn some lessons about fate. If they put their minds to it, Zemeckis and Gale can come up with something. If Star Wars, Jurassic Park and Ghostbusters can return after so long, maybe one day we’ll see the DeLorean hitting 88 mph again.