Ode to Back to the Future

Recently, I was asked why I love Back to the Future so much and instead of responding immediately, I decided to write an essay on the topic.

I don’t quite know how to put into words my love for Back to the Future but I will try to break it down (from memory) piece by piece.

One of my favorite parts in the opening of the movie is when Marty says he’s late for school and it cuts to him skateboarding out of Doc’s garage.  The shot of him skateboarding is the same street that I would drive down all the time in Burbank because I lived there for over 4 years. What I love even more about that part is how it breaks into Huey Lewis and the News while he is skateboarding his way through town.  Therefore, anytime I hear a Huey Lewis and the News song I immediately think of BTTF.

Then we get to meet Mr. Stickland – this character is probably my least favorite in the first film because his purpose isn’t really understood to me – does he move the story along in anyway?  Maybe he is just there to provide some comic relief when we see him in 1955 looking exactly the same.  During our time at the school we learn that Marty has a band and that Huey Lewis is one of the judges for the school band selection process for the dance.  I appreciate his cameo in the film and think it is pretty subtle.

Jennifer – ugh.  She is terribly one dimensional (in this particular part of the film) and really doesn’t provide us with anything except for the fact that Marty has a girlfriend.  She is underused but luckily we see her more in the rest of the trilogy.

I love the nuance when Doc calls Marty to the “Twin Pines Mall” to visit him and test his time machine but when Marty later returns from the future it has changed to “Lone Pine Mall” all because he ran over a tree when he went back to 1955.

I appreciate the transformation of Hill Valley from the gross run down palace that it is in the beginning of the film to the glossy beauty that it becomes when he returns back in time. Seeing streets of Pasadena transformed for the film (places that I recognize – particularly character’s homes) makes it even more special to me because I have been there.

The beats of the film continue from one movie to the next which provides comfort to me knowing what is going to happen next which is why I find the introduction of 1955 George McFly to be that more interesting. The idea that Marty can go back to the future and see his parents in high school is really what I love most about the film.  It takes us to a pinnacle point in their relationship with each other and puts it on its ear.  Now that Marty is involved and needs to not only get back to 1985 but needs to alter events in 1955 so that he might be born raises the stakes and makes me care about his character. I also like that his involvement in his parents’ lives while they were in high school actually makes their lives better at the end.

There is a complete understanding that he would absolutely wouldn’t have been born once he interfered because of the whole butterfly effect thing but I guess that is the one specific suspension of disbelief that I chose to ignore.

I love how much BTTF has transcended culture as well.  I can cosplay as Marty McFly and pretty much everyone will understand who I am.  I love being able to go to a theme park and hear the score and instantly think about the movie.  There are a lot of movies out there and I love how much BTTF has been able to become culturally relevant.  When I am asked to think of something that has to do with time travel it is the first thing I think of.  That means something to me.

And of course the DeLorean: I know that particular car was chosen because it looks like a spaceship but anytime I see one I automatically think of the movie.  The same isn’t true for other vehicles I may recognize from other movies.  I don’t see a Bug and think of Herbie, or a Big Rig and think of Maximum Overdrive or Duel.  It really is the only car that I think associate with a film.

Ok, I’m going to need to end it here for now because this is getting crazy, but that (so far) is why I love Back to the Future so much.  Nostalgia, friendship, adventure, and time travel all together create an entertaining movie experience (plus I love the Johnny B Goode scene and the fact that Chuck Berry totally plagiarized that song is hilarious to me 😉 ).