Friday, August 11, 2017

Back in Time

Year 9, Day 223 - 8/11/17 - Movie #2,712

BEFORE: I'm nearing the end of "Geek Week", and now you see why I dropped in that documentary on Drew Struzan - Michael J. Fox and Steven Spielberg both carry over as interview subjects.  We're getting down to last few documentaries on Netflix about geek movies - after this there's just one about "Ghostbusters" fandom, then I can get back to my usual narrative business.

THE PLOT: A look at the immense cultural impact of the "Back to the Future" trilogy, 30 years after Marty McFly went on an epic adventure.

AFTER: It all kinds of makes sense, I started with the films with the biggest fans, like "Star Wars" and "Star Trek", and now I'm doing the clean-up work with a profile of the fans of "Back to the Future".  I'm sure they're fine people, they just come to it from a slightly different angle, maybe they're all a bit more low-key or laid-back about it.  After all, the film definitely set its sights on the Gen X crowd, the children of the baby-boomers, and now that Gen X crowd is all grown up with teen children of their own.  And the cast (the ones that saw fit to appear in this documentary, anyway) ar getting up there in age too - Michael J. Fox is 56 now, which means he was 24 when the first "Back to the Future" film came out, even if he was playing 16 or so.

I just wish the crew that got interviewed here was a little more enthusiastic, for the most part it seems they all want to talk about how they got the gig, or how the story or the casting developed, and that's all pretty basic stuff.  I mean, come on, we all know that writers write and directors direct and producers...umm, do whatever it is they do - you don't really need to explain the filmmaking process, that's more suited for the "behind the scenes" extras on the DVD release.  Beyond that, I don't know if there's enough fan-based material to support a whole film on the "BTTF" phenomenon, once you exclude the explicit fan fiction where Marty McFly gets to third base with his own mother.

They spend a lot of time on people who have bought Deloreans and turned them into replicas of the time machine, which seems like a no-brainer.  Yet every single one of them says, "I built a time machine" instead of "I built a replica of the Delorean from the film."  They all know it can't really travel through time, right?  The best of the bunch is probably the couple who built theirs when the husband was given a cancer diagnosis, and after surviving they now travel around the country with it, raising money for Michael J. Fox's charity.  Good for you, guys.  Those other people who modified Deloreans were all just self-serving a-holes, right?  A lot of people were also proud to work on the Delorean that was on display at Universal Studios, which was allowed to fall into disrepair somehow.  Meanwhile a collector in Massachusetts bought TWO that were seen in the sequels and kept them in mint condition...

The doc also mentions the things that "Back to the Future 2" got right when it depicted its "future-verse" of 2015 - stuff like flatscreen TVs, video phone calls (Skype) and drone technology, even hoverboards (not those fake ones with wheels, real ones, which we're now kind of close to.)  But since they released this film on October 21, 2015 (the future date that Marty traveled to) they couldn't have worked in the prediction that the Cubs would win the World Series.  The film's prediction was off by just a year, which you can easily account for by noting the baseball strike of 1994.  So there.

In other news, someone built a mini-golf course with a "Back to the Future" theme - so what?  And a man proposes to his girlfriend at a "Back to the Future" convention, with the actor who played Goldie Wilson in attendance.  Ho hum.  And there's a band called "The Flux Capacitors" that covers the song "The Power of Love".  Wake me when there's footage of ZZ Top from the third film...

There's a whole segment on "Rick and Morty", by the way, without anyone even mentioning what that is, or what its connection to "Back to the Future" is.  Not all of us watch children's animation shows, you know.  OK, I do watch some, but not that one.  And then there's the footage that everyone wants to see, which comes from the six weeks of shooting before Eric Stoltz was replaced by Michael J. Fox in the lead role, and the film comes very close to saying, "Oh, it exists, but we can't show you any of that here, it wouldn't be appropriate."  What a tease.

The most interesting bit of trivia revealed here is the fact that in an early draft of the screenplay, the time-travel device was in a refrigerator, and not a Delorean car.  Getting back to the future involved harnessing the power of a nuclear explosion from a test site, a scene which later found itself worked in to the opening of "Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull".  Hollywood recycles everything, it turns out.

They also acknowledge that "Back to the Future" is not a perfect film.  There's no character development for Marty McFly in the first two films, he's just a guy that time travels and meets family members in the past and future.  They needed a THIRD film just so he'd learn some humility in the Old West, and not fight everyone who challenges him.  From a story standpoint, that shouldn't have worked. I do like the films, especially since as screwed up as they are, they make more sense than most other time-travel films, but I don't know if there's enough to build a whole fandom around.  There was even some talk about doing a musical version on Broadway, and that seems like madness to me.

Also starring Robert Zemeckis, Christopher Lloyd (last seen in "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For"), Bob Gale (also carrying over from "Drew: The Man Behind the Poster"), Lea Thompson (last seen in "J. Edgar"), Huey Lewis, Alan Silvestri, Dean Cundey, Claudia Wells, James Tolkan (last seen in "The River"), Donald Fullilove, Jeffrey Weissman, Adam F. Goldberg, Dan Harmon, with archive footage of Crispin Glover (last seen in "Wild at Heart"), Eric Stoltz (last seen in "Little Women"), Danny DeVito (last seen in "The Rainmaker"), Michael Douglas (last seen in "Ant-Man"), Kathleen Turner (last seen in "Dumb and Dumber To"), David Hasselhoff. 

RATING: 3 out of 10 guitar solos

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