RogerBW's Blog

Back to the Future Part II 06 March 2022

1989 science fiction/comedy, dir. Robert Zemeckis, Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd: IMDb / allmovie. We've got to do something about your kids!

The original film was a complete story; but it made lots of money, so there had to be a sequel. Which is where Zemeckis and Gale regretted putting Jennifer in the car at the end of the first film: they simply couldn't think of anything for her to do in the future (except for very briefly meeting her older self and returning to the state of unconsciousness in which she spends most of her time). "Don't worry, she's not essential to my plan."

Some things work; others don't. Yes, this starts off as the same skate chase sequence as before, but it shifts: Marty can't escape by simply doing the same things as before. But then the embarrassment of 2015 recapitulates the embarrassment of 1985, in a way that devalues the gains of the earlier film. You already had one miracle making your life better, which is one more than most people get; that wasn't enough for you? ("Can't bear to be thought a coward" is at least a character trait, though one feels that it comes out of nowhere, and of course it doesn't pay off until part 3.)

I'm not usually especially sensitive to the standard three-act structure of feature films, but perhaps because the transitions are so clearly signalled I found it quite obvious here: 2015 (the café, the chase, the house), bad 1985, and 1955.

This is the film that got a bad reputation for having a complicated plot, and that was the part I liked best. Yes, some of the details are still left flapping in the breeze, but the way the 1955 section wraps round events with which we're already familiar and tries not to disturb them is just great fun, and not something I often see in time travel stories – much more often they take the easy way out and use time travel primarily as a way to get to where the adventure is going to happen (as, for example, the first and third films mostly do).

Why Biff doesn't simply beat up George the next day, though… well.

(That third act wasn't the sequence that forced ILM to try digital compositing for the first time; that was the domestic triple role for Fox as young Marty, middle-aged Marty, and Marlene.)

It works very well, but of course it is only half a film.

More of my witterings can be had at Ribbon of Memes.

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