Back to the Future: Celebrating 30 Years Of The Timeless Classic

BTTF 30

“Doc, I’m from the future. I came here in a time machine that you invented. Now I need your help to get back to the year 1985.” – Marty McFly

It’s been thirty years since the world was introduced to Back to the Future, the greatest time travel film ever made. For anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, the film is about Marty McFly, your typical modern teenager who accidently time travels to 1955 and meets his then-teenage parents. This created a temporal paradox where Marty was threatened with non-existence so not only must Marty find a way back to his time period, but has to correct his parents’ timeline to ensure he’s eventually born. The instant classic wowed many audiences when it was released and was the biggest box office hit of 1985. Through the years since its initial release Back to the Future has generated many fans who look fondly at the film and for good reason.

marty and docBack to the Future, the brainchild of director Robert Zemeckis and writer/producer Bob Gale, is a humorous, smart take on time travel that starred Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly and Christopher Lloyd as his best friend Dr. Emmett “Doc” Brown. Both actors made tremendous contributions to the film’s success thanks to their comedic performances and a genuine chemistry between them. Both actors were so well suited for their roles, which made them so endearing to audiences.

Perfectly Timed Casting

It’s amazing this happened because it almost didn’t. As fans know, Michael J. Fox wasn’t the first person original martycast as Marty. It was Eric Stoltz, but as filming commenced Zemeckis realized that Stoltz wasn’t right for the role. To his credit, the director made the right decision to replace him with Fox, who was actually the first choice for the role but was initially unavailable. It all worked out in the end, Fox turned out to be perfect as the distressed but likeable teenagerwho finds himself in an extraordinary situation.

Thanks to his popularity at the time (his sitcom Family Ties was a hit TV show in 1985), Fox helped draw in ticket buyers who normally couldn’t be bothered with a sci-fi comedy about time travel. But Fox had a certain charm that made Marty so appealing to audiences. Through Marty’s eyes, we saw the trepidations of being a teenager and later in the film Marty was able to see that his teenage parents had similar gripes and issues. He witnessed teenagers in the 1950s with timeless problems such as peer pressure, bullying, social awkwardness and self doubt. Marty learned some profound lessons about his parents and himself. Underlying that are simple, yet poignant messages about self confidence and accomplishments. “If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.”

einstein first time travelerFox isn’t the only reason that Back to the Future is so memorable. A large measure of that has to do with the supporting cast as well. Aside from Lloyd (who perfected the daffy, wild-eyed scientist), Lea Thompson as Lorraine Baines, and Thomas F. Wilson as the comical bully Biff Tannen, Crispin Glover nearly steals the film as George McFly, Marty’s nerdy father. While Glover has funny playing the goofy, out-of-touch older father in the 1980s scenes, he really shines in the 1950s scenes where he exemplifies the shy and nervous sci-fi geek. tannen and georgeWhat sci-fi fan can’t identify with his dilemma where he has to choose between going out to a dance or staying home to watch Science Fiction Theater? It’s just unfortunate that Glover didn’t return for the sequels, thus diminishing his character in those films. But we did get to see more of Biff and his relatives later on, who were perfect villains throughout the three Back to the Future films.

Temporal Shock

Underlining the film’s appeal is the accurate representation of the 1950s and the culture shock that followed when Marty first experiences the time period. The film is littered funny and amusing nods to the past and present like Marty ordering a Pepsi Free at a diner and being told he has to pay for it, or Marty being mistaken for an alien creature by farm folks, and Marty disguising himself as Darth Vader. Other nifty touches sprinkled throughout the film include the well-groomed nature of that time period, the archaic but catchy music and how undeveloped but pristine Marty’s hometown of Hill Valley appeared.

arrival

Overall, Marty’s experiences and culture clash were some of the best and funniest fish-out-of-water scenarios done on film. Looking at the film now, a modern-day viewer can also experience a measure of culture shock at the then-contemporary 1980s scenes. The contrast between the clean, bright middle-class lifestyle of the 1950s and the rundown, but modern vista of the 1980s is startling. Instead of making the film dated, the fact that Back to the Future is bookended with the 1980s adds to the rewatchability factor.

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It’s 2015, Where Are My Flying Cars & Hoverboards!?

Okay it’s now the year 2015, we first caught a glimpse of this year from the classic film Back to the Future, Part II. As many readers know, in that film Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) time travel from 1985 to 2015 and spend the first act of the movie in that time period.

The movie obviously showed us what 2015 would be like and no kidding, they got many details wrong. There isn’t any shame in this, Back to the Future, Part II came out in 1989 and the production team made their best guesses as to how the future would be like over twenty years from then. Things where bound to be incorrect.

As wrong as many predictions were, the whimsical look of Hill Valley, CA circa 2015 showcased several nifty products and events that make us wish they were a reality today. Believe it or not some devices and events do exist to an extent, while others don’t and just aren’t practical. Let’s look at some of them:

  • Flying cars: Best represented by Doc Brown’s converted DeLorean, Back to the Future, Part II had the best representation of flying cars delorean_flyingseen on film. All the vehicles sure look flashy and seemed convenient. The good news is that flying cars are being tested right now, the bad news is that in the end they may be impractical. Think about it, anyone operating them has to become a pilot and let’s not get into the logistics of actually using them and the headaches they will cause.
  • Hoverboards: Like flying cars, this device is in the testing phase. Technically they do exist, called the HENDO Hoverboard, it’s a magnetic skateboard that only works on copper surfaces and float an inch above ground. That’s hardly the commonplace item seen in the movie. No doubt that when they do enter the market they will be for the one percenters only and probably won’t be available in pink for a while.
  • Nikes Air MAGs: Nike is in a race to air magsactually have those famous sneakers worn by Marty McFly ready by the year’s end. Called the Air MAGs, these sneakers were actually recreated in 2011 and look just like the way they did in the film. But sadly, they didn’t self lace themselves.That doesn’t mean that Nike is giving up! The problem is the power source for the sneakers to lace themselves. The shoe manufacturer will probably solve this problem, but expect it to sell for a high price.
  • Power jackets: Remember that jacket Marty McFly wore that had self-fitting sleeves and dried itself? That would be a neat piece of wardrobe to have, especially if power pants were available with the same features. No more worrying about the expanding waistline and having to get new pants.
  • Dust repellent paper and fax machines: When Marty bought the infamous sports almanac that listed future winners, the saleslady mentioned that dust repellent paper seemed to be a common feature of books and other periodicals in 2015. Such paper doesn’t exist, but there isn’t a need for it. Digital media in smartphones and tablets are making dead tree products obsolete. In the film,  fax machines were in every room in a typical suburban home. OK most homes have fax machines built in printers, but they’re not in every room nor are they needed.
  • TV blinds: Having blinds doubling as TVs is a nice idea, but the one shown in the older Marty McFly home didn’t have the HD or 3D capabilities that are a must for the flat screens that many of us have.
  • Holomax movies: Best represented by the holographic shark used to advertise Jaws 19, these Holomax movies promised advanced jaws 19holographic technology with our movies. Clearly, we don’t have that but 3D is now a common feature of big-budget spectacles as well as the super huge IMAX screens. As for Jaws, that franchise remains underwater in the 1980s.
  • TV glasses: Marty’s daughter, Marlene (also played by Michael J. Fox) was seen in the film donning a pair of sunglasses that let her watch TV and answer phone calls. That is one thing Back to the Future, Part II did get correct since Google Glass and similar smart devices have those features and more.
  • Rehydrators: Remember when Grandma (Lea Thompson) brought over a tiny pizza pie that she placed in a contraption that grew the food into a normal size meal? Sounds convenient (albeit unappetizing), but the tech doesn’t exist. But fear not, 3D printers can produce food, so very soon we will have a variation of the rehydrator.
  • Rejuvenation treatments: Prior to the film, Doc Brown underwent a supposed rejuvenation treatment that added years to his life (don’t worry Marty, we didn’t notice the difference either), as for reality: botox anyone?
  • Mr. Fusion: This little household mr fusiondevice (that was mounted on the DeLorean and used garbage as fuel) is probably the answer to our energy problems if only we didn’t have to worry about the fact that it’s basically a small nuclear reactor. How safe is such a thing? Imagine nuts, terrorists and other malcontents trying to use Mr. Fusion as a weapon. Perhaps if we embrace nuclear power and can ensure that it’s 100% safe to use, such a device can be invented way down the line. But we’re talking decades from now at the best.
  • Cubs, lawyers and weather: Some of the funniest moments in the movie are that in 2015 lawyers are abolished, which ensures a faster justice system (as if lawyers and politicians will ever let that happen), the Chicago Cubs win the World Series (the baseball team has a few months to either prove or disprove that notion, but there is a baseball team in Miami, only they’re called the Marlins), and that the weather can be accurately predicted to the minute (given what we know about the weather variables, that is highly unlikely).

Waldermann Rivera

 

 

This Time It’s For Real, Marty McFly’s Sneakers With Power Laces Are Coming!

mcfly and power lacesA couple of years back, it was reported on this blog that Nike released  special limited edition replicas of the Nike sneakers worn by Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) in the movie Back To The Future, Part II. While they looked amazingly accurate to the futuristic footwear worn byMarty and lit up, they lacked that shoe’s distinctive feature: the power laces. In other words, they didn’t self lace themselves like in the movie.  That was the one thing that made the sneakers so freaking cool! But fear not fans, it turns out we will be getting those special kicks after all.

This past Friday, Nike designer Tinker Hatfield confirmed that next year, 2015 the year that the movie takes place in, the shoe company will release sneakers that will have the self-lacing feature! He didn’t say, however, if the power laces will be on new releases of the Nike Air Mag or another shoe. Hopefully, they’ll release the Air Mag (and not just limited editions) with the power laces. That would be sweeeet! Forget Velcro! Just push a button on the shoe and it laces itself, think of the precious seconds you’ll save when getting dressed. The funny thing is that these shoes that looked so futuristic back then when the movie was released in the late ’80s look so contemporary. It’s like modern fashion has caught up to the future.

So, start saving up your dollars people because it’s a guarantee that we’ll have to pay top dollar for the product. power laces 2But you know what? It’ll be worth it just to say that one thing prophesized in Back To The Future, Part II came true. Next year we won’t have flying cars, or Jaws 19, or even Mr. Fusion, but at least the coolest future gadget from Back To The Future, Part II will be a reality.  Now if only Mattel could get working on those hoverboards…

T. Rod Jones

Top 10 Utopian Films

Star Trek future London

One of the niftiest things about sci-fi films are the eye-popping portraits of the future. Most recently, audiences were floored by the breathtaking futuristic cityscapes seen in Star Trek Into Darkness. Keep in mind, that for dramatic reasons, things may not be perfect in these futuristic utopias. In fact, sometimes with these paradises there are significant drawbacks about them and the cost of paradise is often steep. Still, from flying cars to robotic servants, these films best showed how humanity can create a future to strive for.

Buck Rogers in the 25th century10. Buck Rogers In The 25th Century: A utopian vision inspired by late ’70s deco! The pilot for the TV show was shown in theaters before the proper series started. Tackiness takes on a new meaning in this future society with wise-cracking robots, skin-tight outfits and cheesy sets. But thanks to unfrozen astronaut Buck Rogers (Gil Gerard), things like disco, basic military tactics and boogying down make a comeback!

9. Gattaca: Imagine a future with Gattacamodern architecture from the 1950s, turbine cars and where you get all the social and employment opportunities just for being you. Yes, you can live out your dreams…as long as you’re genetically pure. It’s a haven for the one-percenters. For the rest of us created the old fashioned way, well, we’re shit out of luck. But that doesn’t stop Vincent Freeman (Ethan Hawke) from achieving his dreams in this tech noir thriller by passing himself off as one of the genetically pure.

I Robot8. TIE: I, Robot/Bicentennial Man: Both films dealt with the nature of evolving androids in the future. They featured sprawling and impressive skylines, servant androids, and nifty, futuristic vehicles. In lots of ways, life is the same as it is today in the films except with the technological advances. Life isn’t perfect and androids and robots must grapple with their civil rights. This is dramatically shown in I, Robot where the robots attempt a takeover. But overall, the futures in those films seem enjoyable.

Logan's Run apartment

7. Logan’s Run: More cheesy, ’70s-based, sci-fi trappings! Humanity’s remnants live in an underground city connected by a rail system, making it all look like something from Disney World’s Tomorrowland. In Logan’s (Michael York) futuristic society, life is pleasant and hedonistic with casual sex and drug use. No one has any cares except for their looks. The only drawback is that once you reach your thirtieth birthday, you’re euthanized.

6. Demolition Man: Welcome to San Angeles, a city rebuilt from Demoliton Man on patrolthe ashes of Los Angeles, San Diego and Santa Barbara. Along with clean streets and civil order, Taco Bell is the winner of the Franchise Wars and courteous behavior is strictly enforced. Also, crime is so rare that when a master criminal from our present (Wesley Snipes) is thawed out he creates chaos since cops in the future can’t cope. Enter John Spartan (Sylvester Stallone), a roguish policeman from the same time period, who is also unfrozen in order to stop him.

meet the robinsons5. Meet The Robinsons: Young inventor Lewis time travels to the year 2037, which is a time period heavily influenced by Tomorrowland. There, he meets the wacky titular family and contends with a mysterious villain from his past. Lewis also experiences a colorful world filled with curvy skyscrapers, genetically enhanced frogs, flying bubble cars, robots and even cloned dinosaurs. It’s a bit like The Jetsons, but much cooler looking.

4. 2001: A Space Odyssey: Unfortunately, most of the nifty innovations and tech showcased in that monumental 2001 part 2film weren’t available by the time the actual year of 2001 came along. That year would’ve been better if we had some of the inspiring developments depicted in Kubrick’s masterpiece like space planes, commonplace space travel, a moon base, and super-advanced AIs. On second thought, we’re probably better off without the super smart and neurotic AIs like HAL 9000.

Minority Report

3. Minority Report: Director Steven Spielberg worked with futurists to create a believable and probable future stocked with stupendous technologies and inventions. Sure we have no privacy and eroded civil rights in Washington, D.C., circa 2052 thanks to the PreCrimes police force led by Jon Anderson (Tom Cruise). But take a gander at Minority Report’s amazing depictions of the future. Personalized holograms for customers in stores, electronic papers, glass-based computers, jetpacks, and robotically controlled cars that can scale walls. It all makes that future seem bearable to live in.

Hill Valley BTTF Future

2. Back To The Future, Part II: What’s not to love about the optimistic future seen in this follow up to the first Back To The Future? Start with the cool-looking flying cars that clog skyways. You can convert your old cars to fly for just $39,999.95; it’s a steal! Next move on to dehydrators, holofilms, dust repellant paper, and hoverboards by Mattel (just avoid using them over water. All these innovations were part of a whimsical look at Hill Valley, CA, circa 2015. Even the clothing is uber cool–power Nikes with auto laces and jackets that adjust to your size! Worried about crime? No need to, with lawyers being abolished, justice is swift and efficient. Just watch out for those tranks, lobos and zipheads!

Starbase 11. Star Trek films Beginning with Star Trek: The Motion Picture and continuing most recently with Star Trek Into Darkness, Star Trek films have shown audiences pleasant and sometimes astounding images of our future. From Earth all the way to deep in the galaxy, humans have made san franciscoincredible social and technological advances. Gone are war, disease and poverty. Innovations like faster-than-light space travel, transporters, replicators and holodecks enrich humanity. The Star Trek films also displayed an Earth in the 23rd and 24th centuries that look clean and pristine. Take a look at the dazzling cityscapes of London and San Francisco in the latest Star Trek film. They set the bar for breathtaking and enviable views of the future. Of course, humans have to deal with Klingons, Borg and other alien bad guys. But with the likes of James T. Kirk (William Shatner, Chris Pine) and Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), humanity can breathe easier. 😀

Lewis T. Grove

Top 10 Butterfly Effects

One theme that runs through many time travel stories is that of the Butterfly Effect. Most famously demonstrated in Ray Bradbury’s short story “A Sound of Thunder” where time travelers go back to prehistoric times on a dinosaur safari and inadvertently change the future by carelessly killing a butterfly in the past. The most recent example of the Butterfly Effect is in Stephen King’s newest literary release 11/22/63; in that book the assassination of John F. Kennedy is prevented resulting in a radically altered timeline.

This list will cover some of the best Butterfly Effects presented on several media that I’ve seen or read (sorry haven’t read Lest Darkness Fall or The Time Ships yet), and are based on Effects directly due to time travel and the amount of time spent exploring those altered worlds.

10. “Storm Front, Part I & II” from Star Trek: Enterprise; the fourth season opener concluded the maligned and confusing temporal cold war storyline. Captain Archer and the Enterprise crew are trapped on Earth during World War II in a timeline altered by aliens. This resulted in the Nazis being more technologically advanced and occupying parts of the U.S.

9. “Turn Left” from Doctor Who; the episode examines what would have happened if Companion Donna Noble never met the Doctor. It’s a grim timeline that features the deaths of the Tenth Doctor, Martha Jones, Sarah Jane Smith, Torchwood and Britain under martial law.

8. “Year Of Hell, Part I & II” from Star Trek: Voyager; the crew of the lost starship Voyager stumble upon an obsessed alien intent on using time as a weapon in his region of space then as a means to restore his wife after utilizing the weapon erases her from history. The Voyager crew literally go through hell as they try to track down the alien and restore the timeline. It was so well done many fans grumbled when things went back to normal!

7. Flashpoint; The DC Comics mini-series and its spin-offs has the Flash preventing his mother’s death while time traveling, which forever alters the DC Universe. First the Flash is trapped in a nightmarish, violent version of the DC Universe with many altered heroes and villains then the storyline concludes with the creation of the New 52 titles running today with updated versions of the DC heroes.

6. “The Hanged Man” from Journeyman; it’s a short-lived series from 2007 that in a similar vein to Quantum Leap had the hero (reporter Dan Vasser-played by Kevin McKidd) uncontrollably time traveling and changing history. In this episode, Dan leaves behind a digital camera in 1984 that is reverse engineered. When he returns, not only is technology more advanced but his young son is erased and instead has a daughter, leaving him with a deep moral dilemma.

5.” Profile In Silver” from The Twilight Zone of the 1980s; the late Lane Smith portrays a history professor who goes back in time to study the assassination of his ancestor, John F. Kennedy, and winds up saving him. This of course begins a cataclysmic chain of events due to time trying to compensate for the alteration. In other words World War III is about to erupt. In true Twilight Zone fashion, the ending is a real twist.

4. The Guns Of The South; Harry Turtledove’s masterpiece is about what happens when Confederate soldiers are armed with AK-47s by time-traveling racist white South Africans. Obviously this turns the tide of the Civil War in the Confederate’s favor and readers learn that Lincoln loses re-election, Robert E. Lee becomes president of the C.S.A., the U.S. gets into a war with Britain and the Confederacy becomes a technologically advanced nation.

3. The Age of Apocalypse Storyline from the X-Men books; Professor X of the X-Men is accidently killed in the past by his son. This chain reaction leads to the villainous mutant Apocalypse conquering America and committing genocide on non-mutants. For months the crossover X-books featured alternate versions of mutants such as a heroic Magneto leading the X-Men, Wolverine with a missing hand and teams with different members some of whom are villains in the regular books like Sabretooth.

2. The Nantucket Trilogy comprised of S.M. Stirling’s books Island In The Sea Of Time, Against The Tide Of Years and On The Oceans Of Eternity; the storyline has the island of Nantucket, its modern-day inhabitants and a Coast Guard ship sent back in time to the Bronze Age. Their necessary interactions with the people in that time period lead to early introductions to gunpowder, primitive air travel and increased global trade and contact. Naturally trouble starts when renegades leave Nantucket and begin to carve out their own kingdoms leading to armed conflict.

1. The Back To The Future Trilogy; Robert Zemeckis’ three films about a time-traveling teenager and his buddy scientist is actually a fantastic examination of the Butterfly Effect. In the first film, Marty McFly travels from the 1980s in a DeLorean to the 1950s and prevents his parents from falling in love. The obvious effect is that he and his siblings are being erased so he has to restore the timeline (audiences are helped by the rapid fire explanations of Doc Brown about the nuances of time travel). He succeeds for the most part. While his parents do wind up together they are changed due to their future son’s influence and this results in Marty’s family being better off when he returns to the ’80s.

In the second film, a trip to 2015 results in a more dire Butterfly Effect. The trilogy’s villain Biff Tannen steals the DeLorean and travels to the ’50s to make his younger self rich. When Marty McFly and his friend Doc Brown return to the ’80s, their hometown has been transformed into a nightmarish vision. Seedy casinos and chemical plants are everywhere,

crime is rampant and even Richard Nixon is still president while the Vietnam War rages on. Marty’s family life is radically changed as his father is dead and his mother is married to Tannen. In the third film, the Butterfly Effect is reflected in the duo’s adventures in the 1880s; chiefly with their confrontation with Tannen’s murderous ancestor which could lead to their premature deaths. The Effect is last touched upon in the end when we see a landmark renamed and Marty McFly altering an event in the ’80s that has an unknown yet hopeful alteration to his future.

José Soto