Back to the Future – What it Means for the Present

The lead in my pencil is dangerously close to running out as I write this sentence on the pulped, fibrous pages of my moleskin notebook. Some of you reading this may now wonder if I am some kind of Victorian age madman scribbling away on the dead skin of a blind, burrowing mammal. I can assure you that I am not. It is also clearly, a lie. I am writing this on a laptop from my handwritten notes. However, in this day and age of computerised books and self driving cars it is something that is increasingly becoming an antiquated practice. When I was of national school age I can clearly remember that initial difficultly I had remembering how to utilise a pen to write down what I had done for my summer holidays on the first day back. That three month break from the practice of handwriting had shoved it to the back of my brain and it took a good ten to fifteen minutes to retrieve the information needed as I clumsily wrote down my thoughts on the Sligo coastline or the latest blockbuster I had seen in our local one screen cinema. Back then, there was no internet to ruin the movie for you. When I saw a film I was seeing everything for the first time. The only lads who knew what was going to happen were the lads who went to America on their holidays and had seen the film and wouldn’t shut up talking about how class it was. The original spoilers.

Doc and Marty in Back to the Future - headstuff.org
Doc and Marty in Back to the Future via i09.com

Time is either like a doughnut, with a hole in the middle, or a flat circle, like a pancake. I can’t recall which theory holds the more weight but it was thirty years ago that a Marty McFly almost went back in time in a refrigerator in a film called “Spaceman From Pluto”. He eventually went back in something that looked like a cross between a Millennium Falcon and a Lamborghini, the awe inspiring Delorean in the less confusingly titled “Back To The Future”. I was eight years old when I first saw Robert Zemeckis’ now classic film in Birr cinema in the summer of 1985. I have seen it countless times since and I would watch it again if it came on the telly right now. It remains one of those rare films like “Goodfellas” that are perfect in their construction; there is no fat that needs to be trimmed. Every scene furthers the story along and everything makes sense, which is what every film should aspire to. At its heart was a hypothetical question that everyone could relate to, it was the golden age of “high concept” film-making when the term simply meant “a good idea”; if you were in high school with your parents would you be friends? In 1985 Marty has a beautiful girlfriend, he’s front man and lead guitarist with The Pinheads and possesses the futuristic powers of a skateboard which no teenager in 1955 would have until he went back in time and invented it. Marty is also cute, but not drop dead handsome. In short, popular but short. His Father, George McFly, was a science fiction nerd and a peeping Tom which today would class him as a Nerd and a Perv, respectively. He also has a Hitler haircut which I can’t imagine was very popular just ten years after the end of World War 2. He wasn’t the most popular kid in school. I don’t think Father and Son would have ran in the same circles.

Marty McFly - HeadStuff.org
Marty McFly via empire

Marty also has to deal with being sexually stalked by his hot young Mother as she cannot resist the futuristic power of Marty’s Calvin Klein underpants. When I saw it as an eight year old I didn’t realise the ultimate sexual connotations of Lorraine’s advances on Marty. I remember thinking, confused, “Why is Marty so freaked out, all she wants is a kiss on the cheek? He’s funny”. As time marched on these scenes became funnier when the sexual penny dropped and I began to hang bone. I also never questioned the relationship between Marty and the Doc. It felt as natural as a country and western duo of the same name. It would be like questioning Geppetto’s motivations behind wanting a real boy and not just one made from wood. Sometimes it’s not always the worst case scenario. Some people are just nice. I never questioned why there wasn’t a scene showing the Libyan terrorists buying Ak-47s and a bazooka and then killing a bunch of Hippies and stealing their van. I just assumed that’s what they had done. This was before the internet made arguments as to why the things you like that are good are actually not great and telling you this will blow your mind or be the funniest thing you will read all day as long as you keep on clicking. If a film is very good these things don’t matter. It’s movie logic. At least the current craze for rebooting every recognisable movie property into terrible new monstrosities does not include Back To The Future. These reboots, whether they are “soft” or “hard”, seem to be made for self obsessed internet fanboys to watch whilst checking references off a mental checklist in their tiny brains. We are now at a point where an original idea is referred to as an “untested” idea. I’m not saying that these movies shouldn’t be made, I’m just saying that they should be movies that work on their own terms and not just a bunch of things you recognise from other films that have come before it and I would cite “Terminator Genisys” as being probably the best example of this piece of shit type of film. If “Back To The Future” was pitched to studios today it would probably be rejected as “too risky” and they would just make another Spiderman instead which they already are.

Back to the Future 2 - HeadStuff.org
Back to the Future 2 (1989) via blastr

The success of the first film led to two sequels that were shot back to back in case Michael J. Fox aged terribly and very quickly which hasn’t happened even today as he now still just looks like an old teenager. “Back To The Future 2” was released in 1989 and now time has come full circle (like a doughnut) and we have arrived at the exact day when Marty and the Doc went forward into the future. Our future, right now. There will be countless articles written and published online and in old fashioned newspapers and magazines about the 2015 that was predicted by Robert Zemeckis and his co-writer Bob Gale in their sequel. In fact, there already are. Because this is now the past (like a pancake). These articles will tell you how they were accurate when it came to things like flat screen televisions and way off the mark when it came to things like fax machines and the release of the eighteenth sequel to “Jaws”. They also had flying cars which has been a staple of nearly every future set science fiction film since forever and is what human beings desire more than any other thing.

Crispin Glover as George McFly in Back to the Future - HeadStuff.org
Crispin Glover as George McFly in Back to the Future via denofgeek

What these articles might not mention is how the first sequel was originally set to feature George McFly in a prominent role. The story had to be drastically changed as Crispin Glover, who had created a memorable character in the nervous George McFly, complained about the message of the first movie being all about money equating happiness. At the close of the film George McFly is a successful science fiction writer and looks comfortable but not super rich, just rich enough to buy Marty that pickup truck he always wanted. And he has a better relationship with his wife Lorraine as he grabs her bum and she clearly approves so we can assume that they will have martial sex later. And she’s not a functioning alcoholic! And they both look great! The moral here is obvious; if you just have confidence in yourself and make sure you punch the bully in the mouth because he’s trying to rape the woman you love then good things will happen. I’m surprised that Crispin Glover didn’t realise that, what with him being in the film and all. He was an eccentric actor who made a short career out of playing quirky types until Johnny Depp made that kind of thing unbearable so it’s a shame that he wasn’t involved in the sequel but the reworked story did turn it into a very strange film that featured a hellish alternate 1985 and a trip back to 1955 where Marty is running around trying not to run into himself. It was a plot that would surely have caused the end of time itself if it were real due to all the paradoxes. I’m not an expert in that field I’m sorry to say; my understanding of time is based on sweet treats. Those articles will probably be better written than this one and not a lot of them will mention the third instalment except in passing because generally, people are interested in the future and what that might be like with flying FIAT Uno’s whizzing around. And that’s a shame because I think the third movie is better than the second.

Doc Brown in Back to the Future 3 -HeadStuff.org
Doc Brown in Back to the Future 3 via thefilmbox.org

When I saw “Back To The Future 2” in Nenagh in 1989 I was on the brink of manhood and it didn’t have the same effect on me as the original movie did. I still enjoyed it very much but that was also the summer that Tim Burton’s “Batman” was released and that was such an intense cinema experience I nearly broke a tooth chewing on my strawberry bon-bons. The cool thing about the end of the second adventure with Marty and the Doc was the short teaser they showed for the third movie that was set in the year 1885. Some folks don’t much care for the Western genre and tend to overlook “Back To The Future 3” but some of the earliest blockbuster films were Westerns and the staples of the genre are instantly familiar to audiences simply because it has been around forever. I was really looking forward to seeing a time travelling adventure story with cowboys and hoe-downs and ZZ-Top! Some of my favourite films are Westerns. In fact, I actually prefer number three to the second movie. It’s a much simpler tale and a great close to the trilogy.

The original movie will, however, always remain a classic and just keeps getting better the older it gets, just like a fine wine or Sean Connery. I have watched it on a loop on a dozen televisions as I sat on the tills in Woodies when I worked there and they needed a movie to show off the display of sets they had for sale. Five days a week for eight hours a day and it never got old. I went to an open air screening of the film on a second date that led to a third. I have recently been enjoying watching the first movie with my niece and nephews, the oldest of which is the same age I was when I viewed it for the first time although he seems more amused by the Doc saying “serious shit” than I was at that age. There have been spin off cartoon shows and a Universal Studios ride and even an idea for a fourth adventure where Marty and the Doc visit ancient Rome. I don’t know what kind of activities they would get up to then but it would probably push the rating up to, at the very least, a 15A. But let’s not do that Hollywood, please, let’s just leave it alone, we don’t have to re-imagine it, it already exists. Please let that image of the massive flying, time machine made out of a train remain the last thing we see of those time travelling lads.

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