What The Film!? – Back to the Future: Part II

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What The Film!? is a weekly column exclusive to Under The Gun Review that brings to light the general fuckery Hollywood hoped you’d never notice. Written by Dane Sager, this column shows no mercy to films that try to pull the proverbial wool over our eyes.

If you know a film with major plot holes or those that make you scratch your eyes out, tell us! Email utgjames@gmail.com with the subject “What The Film” and we’ll try to get your suggestion featured on the site.

When I started dating my girlfriend, she told me she hated science fiction. Hated it. I couldn’t understand how someone could hate science fiction, as it’s such a blanket term for a million different things. Science Fiction isn’t so much a genre, as it is a story telling method. If you make the impossible and find a way to make it possible (example: cloning dinosaurs), you’ve made science fiction. Live Free or Die Hard had a computer/technology based plot line, and despite being Die Hard, it counts as science fiction. Even a movie like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a science fiction movie because at the core of the movie is a machine that allows the manipulation and removal of memories. Science fiction isn’t just William Shatner fighting a guy in a rubber suit, it’s almost everything. Science fiction isn’t a genre, it’s everywhere. 

Man, I made a Gorn reference last week too. I’m getting old.

To prove her wrong, the very first movie I ever made her watch was Back to the Future, which to be honest, is also one of the earliest movies I can remember seeing. My mom rented it for me on VHS when I was little and I loved it. It’s one of those movies that I loved as a child and here I am fifteen to twenty years later, still loving it. Back to the Future is one of the greatest adventure movies of all time and it doesn’t get enough credit. It’s fun for literally any age. There really isn’t anything else you can say about it. If you don’t like Back To The Future, then you seriously have some sort of emotional problems.

Unsurprisingly, Back to the Future did really well, becoming the highest grossing movie of 1985. The amount of money Back to the Future made was literally double what the second highest grossing movie of the year was. So, of course, a sequel was greenlit.

Back to the Future: Part II and Back to the Future: Part III were shot at the same time, similar to how Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End were shot. Doing so allowed them to save money on not having to rebuild sets or rehire/renegotiate cast and crew, but also to limit continuity errors across the franchise as it was being done at the same time. There wasn’t going to be a flub like how James Bond is ignorant of how to type in Chinese in Tomorrow Never Dies but stated that he studied Oriental languages at Oxford in You Only Live Twice, because damn it, they’d see a mistake like that by putting all out at the same time.

…Right?

You know that look on his face. Bond just got past the last level in Angry Birds: Star Wars

Now, you could look at how Back to the Future: Part II portrayed the then distant year of 2015 (it’s 2015, all those Photoshops are lying to you) and laugh at it, but there’s two reasons why you shouldn’t:

  1. Past ideas of future technology always seems way too ambitious/intense and future events will almost always never match up to the fantastical on the timeline given. Star Trek: The Original Series speaks of a massive war that was basically mass genocide in the distant year of 1992. The most recent movie, Star Trek Into Darkness, makes references to this war, not changing any of the dates. Lost in Space as well as Escape from New York both took place in the distant future year of 1997. Guess what? The fact that we didn’t go to Jupiter twelve years ago doesn’t make 2001: A Space Odyssey any less of a classic. To pick apart what’s different from their future to now is silly and would make a bad What The Film!? Especially when you realize that:
  2. Back to the Future trilogy director Robert Zemeckis didn’t even want to make an accurate 2015. He didn’t spend several years with scientists and professors like Steven Spielberg did for Minority Report, he decided to have fun with it. The scenes in 2015 were made to be intentionally silly with technology that he didn’t think would exist. Rather than make a future that would be dated or some bizarre retrofuturism mess, they made the decision to make their 2015 as funny as they could. Bob Gale, the writer of the franchise stated “We knew we weren’t going to have flying cars by the year 2015, but God we had to have those in our movie“.
  3. It becomes even sillier to make fun of what they got wrong, when you realize what they got right. Putting cameras absolutely everywhere seems like a joke in 1985, but in 2013, that seems totally normal. Asia was portrayed as a superpower with reaching influence into the United States, flat panel televisions with picture-in-picture abilities are shown, as well as video chatting not unlike Skype. The largest leap in technology is in a joke where a child makes fun of an old arcade game for necessitating in having a controller. Microsoft didn’t even start on development on Kinect till 2005, sixteen years after Back to the Future: Part II came out.

Microsoft saw the world playing the Wii and thought “Man, I bet we can make people look even stupider while playing a game”

Long story short, the problem with Part II  is that it doesn’t follow its own logic. The movie begins with Marty and Doc traveling to 2015 to solve some small problem, but they unknowingly allow 2015 Biff to steal the time machine to get a future Sports Almanac to 1955 Biff. With this information, 1955 Biff bets on almost every game he can, growing a massive fortune. 2015 Biff returns the time machine back to 2015, with Marty and Doc unaware of what just occurred. It doesn’t hit them till they go back to 1985 and find that the small town they lived in is now a corrupt mess, run by a power hungry and very rich Biff.

Marty suggests that they go back to 2015, in order to stop 2015 Biff from stealing the time machine and almanac, but it’s not possible. When 2015 Biff brought the almanac back to 1955 Biff, he created a second timeline. There are now two timelines, one where 1955 Biff received the Almanac (that led to the 1985 mess), and the timeline where 1955 Biff never did, being the accurate timeline (as accurate as you can be after Marty changed his parents into completely different people and started to live a life that he had no memories of).

Since Marty and Doc were currently in the 1955 Biff-has-the-almanac-timeline, the 2015 that they would travel to would not be the 2015 they needed to go to in order to stop 2015 Biff. The only way to stop 2015 Biff’s plans is to go back to 1955 where the timeline originally split, and make sure the split never occurs, saving the day. In this now corrupted timeline, it’s impossible to return to the 3D Shark-heavy 2015 wonderland they originally went to. It just cannot happen.

Except 2015 Biff did.

2015 Biff took the almanac from 2015 and went back in time to 1955 and changed the course of history. Despite this, he managed to go back to the original unchanged 2015 to return the time machine to Doc and Marty. I’m fairly certain not even Doctor Who could have managed that one (not the BBC Timelord, my Indonesian dentist. I’m not sure why I felt the need to bring him up. He can’t rollerblade either. Cool guy, though).

He always bugs me about flossing. It’s like can we talk about something besides teeth, I mean COME ON.

Despite filming two movies at the same time to save money, time, and to maintain a consistency through the movies, they managed to negate themselves in the first sequel. The plot point that starts the plotline of Back to the Future: Part II and Back to the Future: Part III doesn’t make sense in the universe they’ve built. It’s like some weird cartoon universe where the laws of physics can be broken if it’s to create a plotline.

And despite that, the franchise is still wonderful though. 

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