By Blythe Alspaugh
What do flying cars, hoverboards and self-lacing shoes all have in common?
If you guessed that they’re all in “Back to the Future, Part II,” you are correct.
“Back to the Future, Part II” is the second installment in the ‘80s time-travel trilogy and was released in 1989–four years after the first film. Initially, producer Bob Gale and director Robert Zemeckis had never planned on expanding the first film into a trilogy, but due to the success of the first film, Universal wanted more.
The second installment of the trilogy starts off where the first film ended. However, as Doc, Marty McFly and Jennifer Parker take off into the future, Biff Tannen bears witness to the Delorean flying into the sky and disappearing, which sets up the main arc of the film. Doc, Marty and Jennifer travel to Oct. 21, 2015, where Doc knocks Jennifer out, because she was never supposed to know about the DeLorean and time travel in the first place. Their sole purpose for traveling to the future is to stop Marty’s son, Marty Jr., from committing a crime that lands him in prison.
After that is taken care of through a hoverboard chase that nearly mirrors the first film’s skateboard chase (which old Biff Tannen comments on), Marty goes to an antique shop and buys a sports almanac with the intent to use knowledge of past events to make money betting on teams. When Doc finds out, he lectures Marty and throws the almanac in the trash. They leave to go to the house of future Marty and Jennifer because police took a passed out Jennifer home. Old Biff follows them and, when they leave the car, escapes into the past and returns to the future a few minutes later.
When Marty, Doc and Jennifer go back to 1985, it’s not the same 1985. Rogue gangs and bikers rule the streets of Hill Valley, George McFly is dead and Biff is a millionaire who all but owns Hill Valley. Doc and Marty discover Biff used time travel to give his past self the sports almanac from 2015, which changes the present. They find out that Biff went back to Nov. 12 1955, which was the day Marty went back to the future. Doc and Marty then have to return to 1955 to get the almanac from Biff to set things right in the present.
The original draft of the script took place in the ‘60s, in which Biff gave his 21-year-old self the almanac, so he could immediately start betting on horse races. When Marty and Doc go back in time, Marty runs into Lorraine and accidentally meddles with her going to visit George in school, which interferes with the conception of one of his siblings and leads to him threatening his existence again. Due to disagreements with Crispin Glover, who originally played George McFly, this draft of the script was ultimately scrapped and Zemeckis and Gale decided to try something new by sending the characters back into the first movie.
Zemeckis initially didn’t want to send Marty, Doc and Jennifer into the future because he felt that every time a movie takes place in the future, the future is mispredicted. Many fans today tend to make fun of the way the characters dress in the 2015 imagined in the movie and are less than satisfied with the current hoverboard prototypes. However, one nice thing about the future imagined in “Back to the Future, Part II” is that it is not a dystopian world, but instead a bright, colorful and pleasant place. The many consumer goods date the film (among other things), but it adds a nice touch. They also had video telephone calls in the 2015 imagined in the film, and we have that technology today through FaceTime and Skype. It’s something I’ll gladly take over 19 “Jaws” sequels.
With Oct. 21, 2015 approaching, many companies and even Universal are getting in on the excitement. Pepsi has released a limited edition ‘Pepsi Perfect’ collectable bottle featured in the film, and cinemas across the country are showing the full trilogy on Oct. 21 at 4:29 p.m.–the exact time Marty, Doc and Jennifer arrive in the future.
As far as the film itself goes, it’s my least favorite of the three. That being said, I still love the movie with all my heart. I like how Part II seamlessly bridges Part I and Part III, despite a sequel never initially being planned. The biggest hurdle for Doc and Marty was knocking Jennifer out and getting her back to the DeLorean, which was a little weak in terms of plot, but I can understand why Zemeckis and Gale went that route. If they had known they were planning a sequel, they would have never put her in the car at the end of the first film. They legitimately had no idea what to do with her, so they ultimately decided to knock her out due to the dangers of knowing too much about time travel.
Likewise, the way they filmed actors in the same scene with themselves was done incredibly well for the technology in the late ‘80s. At one point in the film, Michael J. Fox plays older Marty, his son Marty McFly Jr. and his daughter Marlene McFly, all in the same scene. In 1955, we see old Biff hand young Biff the almanac. We also see younger Doc and older Doc have a conversation with the only barrier being a lamp post, and we see Marty from Part I and Marty of Part II at the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance. The only flaw is that when they reshot some of the Johnny B. Goode scene for the second film, they didn’t keep the solos consistent to the point where it’s glaringly obvious. All the same, the editing was done well, and the ambition of the idea is respectable.
With the date less than a week away, there’s no better time than to give the second installment of the “Back to the Future” trilogy a chance. For its intricately detailed plot, originality and charm, I give it four out of five stars.