Doc Brown: Where we’re going we don’t need roads.
Beware: Spoilers may follow.
Time travel takes many forms in the world of movies and television and this movie ranks as one of if not the most iconic of the concept. Not only does it hold up due to nostalgia but it aside from maybe a couple of the visual effects proves to be more effective than ever.
The story involves young California teen Marty McFly living in the year 1985. After an experiment by his eccentric scientist friend Doc Brown goes wrong Marty finds himself in the 1950s where he meets younger versions of his parents and interrupts their meeting. Marty must ensure they meet and fall in love otherwise he will cease to exist while also return to his own time with the help of a younger Doc Brown and save the present version of his friend in the process.
Robert Zemeckis’ direction works well in ensuring that every scene in the movie counts and using it to sharply define multiple key characters. There are multiple parallels between the past and the present and even the tiniest of details have a reason for existing. Each bit of information is presented piece by piece. It comes off as background information in a way that feels natural but as the movie continues we understand the importance of the information, as without the set up pieces the plot would have been muddled.
The writing also does well in keeping the rules of time travel simple: Don’t alter the past or it will have catastrophic effects on the future. And it does well in allowing the audience to follow along and understand. There are certainly some plot holes to the way the time travel functions in this world but these aspects can be overshadowed by the enjoyment that the actors bring and the movie’s overall aesthetic.
Michael J. Fox gives quite the charismatic performance as Marty McFly and he does well in making the character likable in not only this movie but the sequels as well. On the one hand Marty can be arrogant, reckless, overconfident, and have disrespect towards authority but despite his flaws and sometimes making some stupid decisions he does try to fix his mistakes and always remains loyal. These aspects are what make him such a good lead: He may be flawed but he is relatable in said flaws.
Christopher Lloyd was absolutely fantastic as Doc Brown giving him this over the top wide-eyed and wild demeanor as he delves into his experiments and it makes him one of the most memorable mad scientists in movie history. Sometimes it’s just his expressions that say it all about a moment. The relationship between Doc and Marty is funny and heartfelt at the same and the actors have great chemistry perfectly playing off each other’s dialogue.
There are quite a number of iconic moments in the movie such as when the Delorean launches into time travel, Marty’s skateboard antics, and Marty’s guitar playing at the dance and the score by Alan Silvestri does well in giving each of these moments a great deal of weight.
Even though the movie could have easily ended as just one movie it brilliantly frames a sequel with the final words of the movie spoken by Doc which leave a mix of grandness and chill as the movie ends. And looking back on the sequel years later, it truly did deliver.
Overall Back to the Future utilizes the gimmick of time travel in a simple manner but the way it’s written, directed, and acted out provide a great deal of engagement to fall back on. Its overall presentation leaves many a cinematic and cultural impact that still makes it relevant today.