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Robert Zemeckis
Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover, Thomas F. Wilson, Claudia Wells
Writing Credits:
Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale

17 year old Marty McFly got home early last night. 30 years early.
Rated PG.

Academy Awards:
Won for Best Sound Effects Editing.
Nominated for Best Screenplay; Best Sound; Best Song-"The Power of Love."

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
English, Spanish

Runtime: 116 min.
Price: $56.98
Release Date: 12/17/2002

• Q&A with Director Robert Zemeckis and Producer Bob Gale
• Audio Commentary with Producers Bob Gale and Neil Canton
• “Did You Know That? Universal Animated Anecdotes” Text Commentary
• “The Making of Back to the Future
• “Making the Trilogy: Chapter One”
• Enhanced Conversation with Michael J. Fox
• Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary from Producer Bob Gale
• Outtakes
• Production Archives
• Original Makeup Tests
• Excerpts from the Original Screenplay
• Theatrical Teaser Trailer
• Cast & Filmmakers
• Production Notes
• Special Announcements
• DVD-ROM Features

Score soundtrack

Search Products:

Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Back to the Future (1985)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 26, 2002)

You know those “don’t try this at home” disclaimers that appear along with programs like Jackass? They needed one when Back to the Future ran theatrically in 1985. I saw the film at the splendid Cinerama Dome in Los Angeles during my first-ever solo vacation about a month before I left to start my college career. This meant I had a rental car. Though I don’t remember the model, it wasn’t anything special, but it certainly outpowered the Chevette I drove at the time.

Future terrifically excited me, as I thought it provided a fun and rollicking adventure. With that screening under my belt and the zippy car at my disposal, I hit the LA freeway and decided I should crank the speedometer up to 88 miles per hour to see if anything would happen.

No, I’m not a total idiot – I didn’t actually expect to journey through time if I matched that magic number. However, this indicated the delight Future inspired in me, as my excitement prompted me to fly more than 30 miles over the speed limit, something not exactly typical for my fairly conservative self.

Future introduces us to Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox), a high school student who aspires to be a guitar hero. His life seems decent but unspectacular. His musical career seems to be going nowhere, and his family consists of some bickering losers, but he has a hot girlfriend named Jennifer (Claudia Wells) and he pals around with eccentric inventor “Doc” Brown (Christopher Lloyd).

The latter connection gets him in trouble with his parents, who don’t approve of the nutty professor. Still, Marty likes the old coot, and he aides him in a new experiment. Doc invents a car that he says can travel through time, and they’ll test it in the parking lot of a local mall in the middle of the night.

Doc asks Marty to videotape the trial, but matters go awry. You see, the souped-up DeLorean used as the vehicle requires plutonium to power its flux capacitor, the device that makes moving through time possible. To get the required radioactive material, Doc builds a bomb for some terrorists. However, he makes sure it doesn’t work, and when the Libyans find out about this, they come gunning for Doc – literally. They blast him in the mall parking lot, and Marty hops in the Delorean to escape.

In his haste, he floors it, which leads him to achieve that magic speed of 88 miles per hour. With that, he heads back in time to 1955. Doc set the DeLorean’s gauge to that year since it was when he invented the preliminary design for the flux capacitor, so Marty gets to see his town 30 years in the past.

Unfortunately, the journey expends all of the DeLorean’s plutonium, so Marty needs to figure out how to return to his era. He plans to seek out that era’s Doc Brown, but along the way he encounters his parents, who then were teenagers. This leads to massive complications as Marty’s mother Lorraine (Lea Thompson) develops a crush on him. Since she and his father connected at the upcoming “Enchantment Under the Sea” dance, this means that his presence may alter the future and lead to the eradication of his siblings and himself.

As such, Marty needs to act to get Lorraine and his father George (Crispin Glover) together by the dance while he also helps Doc find a way to get him home. Another complication arises due to the obnoxious intervention of town bully Biff Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson), a buffoon with the hots for Lorraine. Biff immediately develops a dislike for Marty and he makes his life much more difficult.

Man, I never realized just what a convoluted plot Back to the Future offered until I tried to type up this synopsis! And believe me, the complications don’t end there. I could have written much more about the film’s intricacies, but I suppose I need to leave some things unsaid.

Without question, Future offers one of those films for which you need to suspend disbelief. I mean, you really need to suspend disbelief for this one, as the layers of interaction become pretty mind-boggling after a while. All of the connections between future and past and present snarl together in such a way that you just want to shut off the logical part of your mind and go with the flow.

If you do so, you should really enjoy the piece. Future offers a simply terrific melding of comedy and action. We don’t often see hybrids that work quite this well, as it fires on all cylinders from start to finish. Sure, the movie often makes no sense, but who cares? It gives us such a delightful time that one can easily forgive its convoluted nature.

Director Robert Zemeckis seems at the top of his game here. Actually, 1978’s I Wanna Hold Your Hand probably remains my favorite Zemeckis flick, but Future comes in a close second. Before he went gooey on us with Forrest Gump, Zemeckis proved able to connect elements of different genres into one neat and sweet package. In truth, Future probably favors the comedy, but it still spans fields nicely and integrates the elements well.

Future benefits from a star-making turn from Fox. Actually, virtually the whole cast seems good. From Thompson’s lusty young Lorraine to Glover’s spazzy nerd to Wilson’s obnoxious moron, all of the main supporting actors play stereotypes to some degree, but they do so with verve and charm.

Still, Future might have fizzled without the comic energy of Fox behind the wheel. Prior to this film, most knew him as the smarmy Reagan-era high school Republican Alex Keaton from TV’s Family Ties. Not many actors quickly leap from the tube to the silver screen, but Fox made it look easy. Future instantly turned him into a movie star, and while he never did quite turn into a leading man, he obviously enjoyed a nice little career after this flick.

Fox probably also never replicated the easy likeability and spark that he displayed in Future. To be sure, he’d not come across as winningly in the sequels, where he actually seemed a little tired at times. Not so in Future. Fox provides a ball of energy throughout this sucker, as he handles all the story’s challenges with the same engaging vigor. As with most fans, I’d still love to know how Eric Stoltz – the actor who originally won the role as Marty – would have done, but in the end, I’m glad Fox got the part instead.

Parts of Back to the Future haven’t aged terribly well, and sometimes it seems a bit dated. Nonetheless, it still possesses the same fun kick and pizzazz that made it the biggest hit of 1985. A delightful farce, Future remains a winner.

Note: the presentation of Back to the Future seen here returns to its theatrical origins. All the film’s home video releases included “To Be Continued” before the end credits ran, but the movie never displayed those words when it played on the big screen. The DVD of Future omits “To Be Continued”.

The DVD Grades: Picture B / Audio B+ / Bonus A-

Back to the Future appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Despite a mix of small concerns, Future provided a generally positive picture.

Sharpness looked very good. The movie always remained nicely distinct and accurate. I noticed virtually no instances of softness in this tight and well-defined presentation. However, I detected occasional examples of jagged edges and shimmering, and I also witnessed a little light edge enhancement at times. In regard to print issues, grain periodically appeared somewhat heavy, and I saw a few signs of speckles and grit. The grain seemed most evident during the film’s first act, and the flick mostly seemed clean.

Colors varied somewhat. The hues usually came across as reasonably vivid and bold, but they periodically seemed a little heavy. That concern occurred more than a few times for Eighties flicks, however, and it seemed acceptably inconsequential here. The colors were a little dense, but not badly so. Black levels appeared nicely deep and rich, while shadow detail was appropriately clear and not too thick. The image of Back to the Future didn’t excel, but it seemed more than satisfactory for a film of its era.

I found myself even more pleased with the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Back to the Future. When I saw the movie theatrically in 1985, the audio greatly impressed me. While it now seemed like nothing special compared to modern titles, the sound still worked quite well for the movie.

As one might expect of a moderately older flick, the soundfield largely favored the front spectrum. Within that realm, the audio showed good life and movement. The elements popped up in logical places and blended together fairly smoothly. Music also demonstrated nice stereo imaging. As for the surrounds, they usually just reinforced the score and ambient sounds, but they came to life well when appropriate. The more intense action scenes at the end and also big sequences like the dance used the rear speakers well, and a few bits even manifested split surround information; for example, toward the conclusion, a helicopter zoomed effectively from rear right to rear left.

Although the soundfield seemed generally unspectacular, the quality of the audio has held up well. Future suffered from some moderately weak dubbing at times, but the speech nonetheless sounded natural and distinct, with no issues related to edginess or intelligibility. Effects came across as accurate and vivid. Those elements lacked distortion, and they packed a nice low-end kick when appropriate. For example, the rumble of the DeLorean showed fine bass response. Across the board, the music sounded quite good, and Alan Silvestri’s score really demonstrated terrific clarity and dynamic range; his work came across surprisingly well. Ultimately, Back to the Future presented a nice soundtrack that has aged pretty positively.

Back to the Future packs a slew of extras. We start with an unusual form of audio commentary. Instead of a traditional screen-specific track, we hear a Q&A with Director Robert Zemeckis and Producer Bob Gale. Hosted by DVD producer Laurent Bouzereau, this chat comes from a session at the University of Southern California, and it offers a nicely informative conversation. Of course, it never becomes screen-specific, but the two Bobs cover a lot of good topics. We get notes about the film’s origins and long struggle to the screen as well as many issues related to the production and reactions to the final product. We get more info on the firing of Eric Stoltz as well as fun trivia like the changes the suits at Universal wanted. This session provides a very useful and engaging piece. (Note that this piece ends at around the 99-minute mark, so it doesn’t fill the entire length of the movie.)

A second audio commentary provides a more standard format. This one involves producers Bob Gale and Neil Canton, both of whom sit together for a running, screen-specific piece. At its start, Gale warns us to listen to it after we check out the disc’s other supplements, and that makes sense, as this track mostly functions as an elaboration on other topics. Actually, much of it delves into fun trivia bits, so don’t expect a thorough discussion of the film’s production.

That doesn’t mean that this commentary doesn’t offer a lot of solid information. Gale heavily dominates the track, as we hear very little from Canton. Gale tells us many fun tidbits about the production. He points out locations and goofs as well as issues related to the cast and their performances, among other issues. The commentary suffers from a few too many gaps, but as a big Future fan, I really enjoyed it.

Called Did You Know That? Universal Animated Anecdotes provides our third commentary. A text affair, this one sporadically presents notes about the movie. We learn a lot of this information elsewhere; we hear that they originally planned to use a refrigerator as the time machine about 100 times throughout this disc. Nonetheless, the track points out some interesting bits at times, and it gives the dedicated fan some decent trivia.

For our first video-based supplement, we go back in time to 1985. A featurette from that period, The Making of Back to the Future fills 14 minutes and 27 seconds with movie clips, images from the set, and interviews. We receive remarks from director Robert Zemeckis, actors Michael J. Fox and Lea Thompson, special effects supervisor Kevin Pike, executive producer Steven Spielberg, singer/actor Huey Lewis, production designer Lawrence Paull, producer/writer Bob Gale, and composer Alan Silvestri.

Most archival featurettes stink, especially those clearly created for promotional purposes like this one. However, “Making” actually gives us a pretty solid examination of the project. It includes good basic notes about the script and the story and takes us through a mix of other elements. From Fox’s harried work schedule to the challenges of recreating the setting to the music, “Making” doesn’t paint a full picture, but it presents an entertaining program.

Newly created, Making the Trilogy: Chapter One takes 15 minutes and 29 seconds, and it fills in some of the blanks left by the prior show. It mostly shows film shots and interviews; we hear from Zemeckis, Gale, and Fox. We encounter a moderate amount of redundant information here, but some new details emerge, and since “Chapter One” offers the only shots of Eric Stoltz seen anywhere on this DVD, it merits a look.

That’s right, you won’t see Eric Stoltz in the deleted scenes, but the clips offer some very entertaining material even without those famous outtakes. This area includes eight cut sequences, and they last a total of 10 minutes, 38 seconds. While I enjoyed all of them, I agreed that they should have been cut, with the exception of the peanut brittle shot; yeah, it’s redundant, since it just tells us info we already know about George, but at least it explains why the McFlys eat so much candy at dinner. (I always thought they did so just because they’re such losers.)

You can watch the deleted scenes with or without commentary from producer Bob Gale. He doesn’t tell us much more than the reasons for the excisions, but that’s good enough for me. None of the cut sequences seems significant, but all offer some fun material.

Additional unused footage appears in the Outtakes area. It runs two minutes, 44 seconds, and unlike the typical gag reel, it actually offers some amusing shots. Even the standard goofs seem more amusing here, as they generally provide something unusual, like Fox’s battle with a problem window.

During the movie, you can access additional information in a branching feature called Enhanced Conversation with Michael J. Fox. With this activated, six times during the film, a little icon will appear in the lower right corner of the screen. Hit “enter” on those occasions and you’ll get short interview clips with Fox. These run between 85 seconds and three minutes, 29 seconds for a total of 13 minutes, 19 seconds of footage. Fox adds some good notes about the different movies, and these pieces seem reasonably informative.

Next we find two minutes and 17 seconds of original makeup tests. We see examples for Doc Brown and the older versions of Biff and Lorraine. These offer a great look at the design process, especially since they include a little audio as well.

The “Production Archive” breaks into four smaller domains. Marty McFly Photo Album includes 76 photos of the cast. Most seem pretty ordinary, but it was cool to get a look at fake high school pictures of Marty’s brother and sister. Behind-The-Scenes Photographs adds another 23 shots, most of which include Robert Zemeckis; they come across as fairly uninteresting. The 34 stills in The DeLorean Designs appear more useful, as they detail that vehicle. Lastly, Time Travel Designs features 18 pieces of art that explored the physical depictions of time travel explored in the movie, and they also offer nice information.

For some very intriguing material, go to excerpts from the original screenplay. Over 16 text screens, we see an early version of the scene in which Doc shows Marty an example of the time machine’s workings. It’s a great piece to read.

A few smaller pieces round out the disc. We find the film’s cool theatrical teaser trailer as well as some special announcements. The latter lasts a minute and includes two promotional spots for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, both of which feature the actor along with Muhammad Ali. Cast & Filmmakers provides short biographies of actors Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover, and Thomas F. Wilson plus director Zemeckis, producers Bob Gale and Neil Canton, and executive producers Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy, and Frank Marshall. Some decent text production notes finish the set, and the package’s booklet offers general remarks about the trilogy along with details about the three DVDs.

For those with DVD-ROM drives, however, we find more material. The “Total Axess” link sends us to a site with a few extra pieces. Currently, it includes a few “exclusive” videos and photos, and it promises more of these in the future.

Much more interesting is the film’s original screenplay. Indeed, this does offer the original script, which means this text bears very little resemblance to the final film. That makes it exceedingly cool to read. I felt astonished to discover just how different the two are, and that means it’s a lot of fun to examine the earlier draft.

One nice touch: almost all of the video extras include subtitles. These provide text in English, Spanish and French. Oddly, of all the video materials, only the deleted scenes lack subtitles. I have no idea why they failed to add text for those pieces.

Before I got these DVDs, I hadn’t seen Back to the Future in quite a while, and I’d almost forgotten just how much fun it offers. A lively and giddy romp, the movie suffers from some dated elements – anybody remember Pepsi Free? – but it packs so much gleeful comedic energy that it doesn’t really matter. The DVD provides somewhat inconsistent but generally positive picture quality along with surprisingly robust audio and a terrific set of extras. Back to the Future falls into “must have” territory.

Note: This film can be purchased only as part of Back to the Future: The Complete Trilogy, a three-DVD boxed set that also includes the movie’s two sequels. While it’s certainly possible that Universal may eventually issue the titles on their own, as of December 2002, they only come as a package deal. I like all three flicks, so I felt happy to pick up the boxed set, especially since it lists for less than $57; a retail price of $19 per movie makes them a serious bargain. Heck, it’s still a good deal for anyone who likes two of the three, as they still would go for $28.50 each.

However, I can understand why folks who only enjoy one of the films would feel unhappy with this edition. Personally, I’d pay the whole tab just to own Back to the Future, as it remains one of my all-time favorite films. Nonetheless, that’s a lot to shell out for only one flick. For those who fall into the “I only like one of them” category, I wish I could hold out hope that you’ll eventually see the flicks released separately, but honestly, I don’t expect it’ll happen. I think the Complete Trilogy will remain the only way to get any of the Back to the Future films on DVD, though I hope I’m mistaken.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.7272 Stars Number of Votes: 231
8 3:
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