Friday, June 16, 2017

Sci Fi Top 100, #21: "Back to the Future" (1985)

Movie Stats:
Released 1985 (USA)
American, in English (small amount of non-translated probable Arabic)
Director - Robert Zemeckis
Stars - Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover

Plot Summary:
Teenager Marty McFly (Fox) finds himself trapped in the past after using a time machine invented by his friend Dr. Emmett Brown (Lloyd). Thompson co-stars as Marty’s mother, Lorraine, and Glover as his father, George.

Blue language; violence; attempted rape; drug use (marijuana).

Bad Stuff:
I’ve always been squicked out by Lorraine lusting (unwittingly) after her own son. While it’s played for laughs, it just makes me uncomfortable.

The casualness with which sexual assault is dealt is exactly what people mean when they say, “rape culture.” Marty discovers that his father used to be a peeping tom and shrugs it off. In the altered timeline, Biff attempts to rape Lorraine and is shown to be friendly with her 30 years later. In fact, Lorraine and George laugh about how the attempted rape brought them together. Gross.

I wish Marty and Doc had one conversation where Marty said, “So you befriended me with full knowledge that all of this was going to happen? Would we have ever been friends otherwise?”

Good Stuff:
It’s got a great sense of humor. Lots of funny one-liners, dialogue, and sight gags. Also, pay attention to things in the background. So many amusing business names, etc.

I like how very much Marty acts like a teenaged boy. I feel like that’s a rare note to hit in a way that’s endearing/amusing rather than annoying. My favorite example of this is in the opening scene, where, when left to his own devices, Marty utilizes Doc’s giant amp to play the loudest guitar riff known to man.

The plot is well thought out. It lays its groundwork at the beginning, so you never feel like the writers made up stuff as they went along. For example, how Marty ends up back in 1955 is clever & makes sense.

The pacing is excellent.

The Verdict:
My whole life, everyone I know has liked this film way more than me. It’s not that I don’t like it; it’s that most people love this film a lot. So I’ve always kind of felt like I don’t like it, or at least that I don’t get the rampant love. I tried to put those feelings aside and watch it this time with the mindset of a critic. And it actually worked! It led me to recognize that this is a really well made film. While it’s theatrical fluff, it’s fun and funny and paced in such a way that it never drags. It feels realistic, like something that could occur if you just so happen to have a mad scientist for a friend. I don’t really care for the icky sexual stuff (although I will admit that it was certainly in line with 1980s sensibilities) and I’m annoyed by the ending, which shamelessly sets up a sequel, but overall I think it’s a fantastic film.

I give it 4.25 stars.


Patricia said...

re: rape culture: yep! In fact, I think watching beloved 80s movies is a GREAT way to highlight this.

re: Doc Brown befriending Marty. I never thought about that, but you are totally right!

I currently have the Huey Lewis theme song playing in my head.

I haven't seen this in decades, but I greatly loved this movie. I suspect I still would, minus the rape culture stuff. This was one of the few films I can remember going to see as a family. I think my dad liked Christopher Lloyd from the television show Taxi, so he was up for this film. Generally, the movie theater wasn't his favorite thing.

I loved how Sing Street did a send-up of this movie.

balyien said...

I don't remember a send up of this in Sing Street. Hrm.

So true re: beloved 80s movies and rape culture. Many of them are guilty of it, some worse than others.