Thursday, May 16, 2019
Time and Time Again
This is my entry in the It's a Young World Blogathon hosted by Pop Culture Reverie
Back to the Future (1985), Back to the Future II (1989) and Back to the Future III (1990):
Marty Mc Fly (Michael J. Fox) is a typical teenager of the 80's. He has dreams of being a rock star, getting into the panties of his girlfriend and just surviving high school. That third part may not be so easy since Principal Strickland (James Tolkan) has an abiding dislike for slackers. Strickland was around when Marty's father was a student at Hill Valley High School and doesn't think much of his family.
Strickland also looks down on Marty because Marty has a habit of hanging around the town weirdo, Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd). "Doc" has a lot of eccentric ideas, and his latest thing is a time machine.
Wait a minute, Doc... Are you telling me you built a time machine...out of a DeLorean? -Marty:
Doc has a time machine, yes. Made out of a DeLorean. (For those of you who were born post 1983, the DeLorean Motor Company made a brief blot on car history, but it was basically just a classy looking dud )
Doc built it based on an idea he had in 1955, and it took him 30 years to do it, but it works. Unfortunately, he made it by hoodwinking some Libyan terrorists into thinking that the plutonium they stole was going to be used for a bomb, but he gave them some defective stuff and is using the plutonium to power the time machine. And of course, the terrorists come looking for him.
Marty uses the car/time machine to try to escape, which, when it hits 88mph turns into the time machine. Which sends Marty back to the day that Doc came up with the idea of a time machine back in 1955.
It also happens to be the day that Marty's mom and dad first met. But along with the typical fish out of water flick as Marty deals with an 80's mentality in the 50's, there is an added twist. Marty interferes with the meeting of his parents and instead of Mom falling in love with Dad, she falls in love with Marty. (uh-oh).
Now Marty and his history is gradually disappearing as he has created a classic time travel paradox. Before he and the 1950's Doc can arrange to somehow get him back to his future, he first has to arrange for his parents to fall in love, otherwise he won't have a future to get back to.
As a window into 50's teens, it does have some flaws. (my parents were teenagers in the 50's, so I had some background to research it. It seems more like an 80's view of what the 50's were like rather than an actual window into the 50's, but it is still fun.)
Of course, eventually Marty does manage to get his parents together and return to the present, although there are a few changes. Nothing drastic like the future the time traveler returned to in Ray Bradbury's classic story A Sound of Thunder, but in terms of his own present there are a few changes.
Back to the Future II picks up where the first movie left off, with Doc, having returned from the (then) future of 2015 to get Marty to go with him to help save his kids. The future of 2015 had flying cars (and imagine the disappointment when 2015 has come and gone and I still don't have a flying car...) and a myriad of other neat little things, some of which we do have.
The future Marty is living a life not quite unlike his father in the pre-time travel present of the first movie. It is established that his dream career of being a rock star went down the tubes after an accident that occured when he was a teenager. (Marty hates to be called "chicken" and gets into a lot of trouble throughout the second and third movies as a result.)
Marty's son, Marty, Jr. (also played by Fox) is on the verge of ruining his future because he is going to get into an illegal act with the local bully. Marty has to pose as his son, which he can do since he is the same age. But in the process of doing so, his girlfriend, who came along for the ride, ends up at his future home and they have to rescue her.
As an added twist, Marty, thinking only of himself, buys a copy of a sports almanac which tells the results of every sporting event from the 50's to the 200's. But Doc makes him throw it away. Only Biff (Thomas F. Wilson), a nemesis of his father in the 50's, now an old man, fishes it out of the trash, and using Docs time machine, takes it back to the 50's and gives it to his younger self.
Which makes for an extremely tough time when Marty and Doc return to the present. Because they return to a present in which Biff has become top dog of Hill Valley, and the "present" is nothing like the present that Doc and Marty left when they went to 2015. They determine that the only solution is to go back to 1955 and prevent future Biff from giving past Biff the book.
Potential paradoxes abound as Marty not only has to interact with some of the same characters but he also has to avoid running into the other Marty who is also still in the 1955 scenario. Confusing? Well, not if you are up on time travel theories. Michio Kaku, a astrophysics theorist who has written about such things says they got the whole thing right in an interview on my DVD.
The second movie ends with a cliffhanger as Doc, in the time machine, is zapped by a lightning bolt and ends up in the Old West of the 1880's. Marty is seemingly stranded in 1955, until a Western Union man delivers a message that has been held for the past 70 years to direct Marty in to how to return to the future (his present).
But in Back to the Future III, Marty ignores the future Doc's request that he not come back to get him, because he finds out that Doc was to be killed by an outlaw. So using the 1955 Doc's help, Marty goes back to 1885. Talk about a fish out of water. Marty, who has decided to use the alias of "Clint Eastwood" gets together with Doc and tries to finagle a way to get the time machine back to the present. Which is inhibited by the fact that there is no gasoline in 1885, thus no way to get the car up to the requisite 88mph on its own power.
Not only that, but Doc has acquired a love interest in the person of a local schoolmarm (Mary Steenburgen). A schoolmarm who, by the way, was supposed to have died in a wagon accident, but was rescued by Doc before said accident occurred.
The whole Back to the Future saga will keep you on your toes in terms of it's scientific theories. But fear not. Even if you aren't quite up-to-date on potentials for paradoxes, it is still a hoot.
This old Plymouth couldn't get up to 88mph even with a shove by a jet engine, but it will get me home. Drive safely, folks.