Last week, Robert Zemeckis’ 80’s classic Back To The Future went on a limited cinema re-release here in the UK and which – happy, happy day – will be released on Blu-Ray on October 25th, along with its two sequels.
Watching a press screening of the film last month at the EMPIRE Leicester Sq with my lifelong pal James – who declares BTTF to be his favourite film – two things were swiftly apparent: firstly, the digital remastering job they’ve done on the film is magnificent, the film looking better and more vibrant than it ever has and which made the opportunity to see it on the big screen again after so many years doubly special. Secondly – and more pertinently – this film has aged wonderfully. Twenty-five years certainly has not dimmed the films wit, invention, thrills, heart and all-round sense of fun. Indeed, I was thrillingly reminded that pretty much everything about Back To The Future is pitch-perfect.
The notion of “The Perfect Film” is by its very definition a wildly subjective one, but I’ve long held the opinion that, in terms of blockbuster cinema, one film that truly delivered on every level and was a flawless viewing experience was Steven Spielberg’s Raiders of The Lost Ark (1981), one of my all-time favorite films. Having seen the Spielberg-produced Back To The Future again, that opinion needs revision.
Michael J Fox’s boundless charm gives the film a strong anchor, but Marty McFly’s youthful yearning for pipe-dream careers (a rock star) and his innate fear of ending up like his parents, stuck where they grew up, hollow and disappointed, is as identifiable now as it was back then. Similarly, Fox’s Marty has great chemistry with Christopher Lloyd’s endearingly-eccentric scientist Doc Brown (although, let’s take a moment here to note that, if BTTF were made now, the relationship between an elderly man and a teenage boy would be viewed with great suspicion and likely be the victim of test audience revision. Doc would be an uncle, at least. Ah, simpler times…)
Indeed, the one thing that really struck me was that, for a movie released at a time when the summer period was becoming firmly defined by effects-heavy spectacle, Back To The Future is actually not that heavy on special effects. In fact, it’s comparatively light. This is one summer blockbuster where story and script firmly rule, not the flash and pizazz that so often covers up narrative inadequacies. Like Raiders, BTTF is a very tight tale, moving with a brisk pace and doesn’t have any moments of seat-squirming dullness.
Consequently, a real pleasure of the film is the array of little details that become apparent in successive viewings and which underline what a wonderfully-nuanced story Zemeckis and co-writer Bob Gale crafted: Goldie Wilson campaigning for Mayor of Hill Valley in 1985 and Marty actually giving 1955 Goldie the idea to run, Marty meeting Doc at “Twin Pines Mall” in 1985 which then becomes “Lone Pine Mall” at the films climax because Marty ran over one of Old Man Peabody’s prized pine trees shortly after he travelled back to 1955 and – always my favorite – the book jacket of George McFly’s debut novel features an “alien” that looks exactly like “Darth Vader from the Planet Vulcan” who threatened to melt George’s brain in 1955. Beautiful…
A particular shout-out too to Alan Silvestri for his highly-memorable score, a vigorous symphonic work dominated by horns and a superb array of themes. Speaking of which, specialist soundtrack label Intrada released a massively-expanded versionof Silvestri’s score, including not only the full score but also the alternate cues from the early scoring sessions – excellent stuff.
It’s a total classic and absolutely deserves to be seen on the big screen – especially looking as good as it does after the digital clean-up. So, take advantage of the opportunity to see some quality screen entertainment… they rarely make ’em like this anymore.
Also, if you want a terrifically cool piece of (unofficial) BBTF merch then check out this great t-shirt design …