Seeing the 25th anniversary re-release of Back to the Future (BTTF) on the big screen is not unlike time travel itself as it took me right back to my childhood.
I had never seen the original at the cinema, only catching the sequels on the big screen first time round, although I had seen it more times than I cared to mention on TV and DVD. This mattered not as I approached the screening with the same excitement as if it were a brand new release.
And it can more than hold its own in today’s world of everything being released in 3D thanks to its simple but winning story. As a film it held up not just magnificently but majestically, both against those films touted as family friendly fair today and even those from ‘whence it came, circa 1985, such as The Goonies and Ghostbusters. They are both classic films but BTTF just raises the quality bar and actually, even today doesn’t look to have aged in the slightest in its pacing or any aspect of its unfolding story.
It was a delight to watch the familiar story unfold with characters we have got to know and love every nuance and line of and see them giant on the big screen. It’s of great testament to the writers, Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis, that the story, a modern day Wizard of Oz of sorts, still holds true and is practically timeless, which is perhaps as much to do with its setting as much as its writing.
Script wise it is practically faultless and doesn’t miss a beat, the perfect movie script, nothing is wasted no plot thread is left hanging and each piece of dialogue dovetails into the next and has real meaning and consequence. It’s piece of storytelling without an ounce of fat. Everything occurs and happens for a reason, right down to the tiniest of nuances and should be high on anyone’s list wanting to study the craft.
It’s almost as if the film was not made in 1985 but set in 1985, new audiences scoffing as much about Marty McFly’s bulky walkman as much as we did first time round about there being no Diet Pepsi!
The film itself bounds along at a fair old pace, another sign of its unflabby script and it not out staying its welcome, and at 1 hour 40-something is practically short by today’s standards where we have become used to the somewhat ponderous unfolding of the likes of Harry Potter, Frodo Baggins and one Captain Jack Sparrow, part 2 of the Pirates trilogy even having an interval in many cinemas!
It’s also refreshing to see a film where everything looks real and doesn’t have that muted CGI feel to it, everything in both time periods look and feel real and solid, almost as if you can touch them. Sure, we know the Hill Valley of the 1950s is a film set on the Universal backlot but we know that it was all recreated for us to see up on the big screen and not rendered in some computer.
The cinema that we went to see it in was busy and jostling with people and although everyone else was familiar with how the film unfolded there were still laughs to be heard when it came to Doc Brown and his constant questioning of the use of the word ‘heavy’, guffawing at the really rather more excellent than you ever remember Crispin Glover as the hopeless George McFly and the feeling of excitement building in those key action sequences.
The viewing experience was almost akin to watching someone you know do well on the sports field or on stage. You know they were good last time you saw them and are pleased that they’ve given a barn storming performance this time round. Often favourite films or programmes viewed when growing up tend to lose their charm or appeal, but with this one it only grows. It’s as if you know the film intimately.
But the film also has its melancholy side as well, not so much in the feeling that this is a period that we are so far removed from – even when referring to the 1980s – and is almost unrecognisable but also in the shape of Michael J Fox. He’s never been more breezy and likable, well okay I’ve got a soft spot for The Secret of my Success as well, but with his absence from our screens due to his Parkinson’s it’s a reminder of the loss of such an effortlessly comically gifted actor.
He will forever be Marty, much like Matthew Broderick will always be Ferris Bueller. He is stuck, quite fittingly, in a time capsule for us to enjoy again and again.
The whole trilogy is being released on Bluray for the first time on October 25th. It’s an essential purchase of course, the sequel neatly inverting and adding a new dimension to the original and third and final instalment heading way out west. But before you buy Back to the Future on Bluray do yourself a favour and go Back to the Cinema to see the original as it was always meant to be seen.