I should open by saying that Back to the Future* is one of my all-time favourites movies. It has been one of my favourites since I was about 7 years old and the only copy we had was one my parents had videotaped off the TV. As is often the case with our revisits, there are mild spoilers below.
There are many, many reasons why I love Back to the Future so dearly. It has humour, heart, action, adventure and some cracking music. I have always loved time travel stories (except, strangely enough, Dr Who. Too many aliens for me) and was absolutely fascinated as a child with the idea that we could travel to a different age or time period. The 50s seemed forever ago when I was a kid and so suitably far back for Marty to travel to. Now, I see that it works because it is a wildly different time to the 1980s and yet still within a generation’s reach.
I don’t mind telling you that I had a massive crush on Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly. I mean, who wouldn’t? He was cute, he was funny and a proper scamp to boot. He was friends with a cool, bonkers scientist and knew his way round a skateboard. I was so envious of that Jennifer. The older I get, the more I appreciate Fox’s great skill as a comic actor and the way he manages to convey all sorts of things with just a raise of his eyebrows.
Similarly, I love everything about Christopher Lloyd’s performance in this film. It is at once both silly and impressive, Lloyd managing to toe the line between science genius and scatterbrained maniac. Lloyd also does a neat line in well-timed comedic gasps. The whole of the big action scene at the end, from Marty arriving at the clock tower to the final drive down the street is utterly perfect. Lloyd’s performance as Doc tries to navigate his way round a clock face to ensure the experiment goes ahead is reminiscent of Buster Keaton classics.
The whole, Marty’s-mom-has-the-hots-for-him bit didn’t really register with me for years. Now I watch and am like ‘Whaaaaaaat is going onnnnnn?’ But when I was a kid, I thought it was sort of funny. Really. I also didn’t really understand aging make-up or how that worked. I thought it was AMAZING how Marty’s parents looked old one minute and young the next (and they are really young you guys, just look at Crispin Glover’s baby face). This also meant that my mind was temporarily blown while watching Dennis as a kid and not understanding how Doc Brown could be in it and not be ancient. Like, I really struggled with this for days afterwards.
Back to the Future is pretty wonderful, but it still has its loose ends and off points. I have always loved the ‘happy ending’ to the film, with Marty returning to find his life about 10 million times better than when he left it. But what has continued to bother and perplex me is the idea that Marty has no real memories or relationship with his family as they are all so different at the end. Yes, they’re nicer, better versions of themselves, but still. How is he not more freaked out by this? Why doesn’t Doc have a decent explanation? Also, why would you even bother with Biff anymore, if you were George? Especially as he sexually assaulted his wife (that scene always frightened me, but now it really makes my skin crawl). Wouldn’t you banish him back to the manure pile where he belongs?
These niggles aside, Back to the Future is a hugely enjoyable film that really can be watched and enjoyed by the whole family. It’s pretty hard to find someone who doesn’t like it, y’know. It holds a treasured place in my childhood memories, as I watched it over and over again with my brother and it remains one of those things that anyone in my family would agree to watch at any time. For all these reasons and many more, it will always be a favourite.
*Let’s be clear now: I am strictly talking about Back to the Future 1. As far as I’m concerned, that’s it. The abominations that are films 2 and 3 never existed.