Back To The Future, October 21, 2015 & Beyond

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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 cubbies windoes 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.

eyewearIn 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 doc explains timelinetake 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.

marty and docThe 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 time travelinis 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.

José Soto

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

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“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.

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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