Getting back was only the beginning as the most spectacular time-travel adventure ever continues in Back to the Future Part II – the sequel that proves that lightning can strike twice! Picking up precisely where they left off, Marty and Doc (Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd) launch themselves to the year 2015 to fine-tune the future and inadvertently disrupt the space time continuum. Now, their only chance to fix the present is by going back to 1955 all over again before it is too late. From Academy Award-winning filmmakers Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis, Back to the Future Part II proves true excitement is timeless.
By the time that Robert Zemeckis got around to releasing a sequel to ‘Back to the Future’, I was well into my teens and had largely lost my enthusiasm for the idea. I was still a fan of the original, sure, but a four-year wait diminishes excitement for anything – especially when most of that time is spent with no build-up whatsoever.
By 1989, it felt like “too little too late” even to myself; it seemed like an eleventh hour cash-grab that should have been avoided. So I did, and didn’t see the film until many years later, on home video, more out of curiosity than anything else.
‘Back to the Future Part II’ is a film with diminishing returns: while I quite enjoyed it when I first saw it, albeit far less than the original, I’ve experienced a gradual decline in my appreciation of the film in general, as well as the material, the acting, the production, the special effects and the music. In fact, at this point, I’ve never disliked the film more than I do now.
The key element of any good movie is the story. I’ve long been of the opinion that you can throw as much money at a film as you’d like, but you can’t make it good if the script sucks. I’ve also long believed that it doesn’t cost much money to have a good script, because imagination costs NOTHING – almost anyone can do it (you may have to pay a good writer to put the ideas together, though ). So, in my mind, there’s no excuse for a poor story.
‘BTTFII’ begins its downward spiral by getting that part horribly wrong. First off, it gets so convoluted that the filmmakers themselves got lost in the details; in trying to be clever, they obviously overestimated their ability to deliver. Secondly, they took shortcuts to move the story along that make no sense whatsoever, thereby insulting the intelligence of their audience in the process.
Those are two very huge mistakes that no half-decent motion picture should make. Ever. They should always work out the script before moving ahead with any production. And if it’s not relatively fool-proof, then it needs to be fixed first – because a weak script will not only hammer its audience’s brains, it will consequently prevent them from being immersed in what should be a couple of hours of entertainage.
*MAJOR spoilers alert*
*MAJOR spoilers alert*
I mean, not only could the writers not put the pieces together properly for it to work, but the production team wasn’t even able to make the footage from Part II match the first film – not only do they look like different productions, even the recurring actors look different from one shot to the next when they cut both films together. Even basic things like hairdos are different! You’d almost imagine this to have been shot by a completely different director! And yet, Robert Zemeckis was indeed (asleep) at the wheel for this trip through time.
As for the returning cast, they also seemed to be sleeping their way through the film: Michael J Fox displayed none of the charm that he imbued his character in the first one, Lea Thompson couldn’t even repeat her lines the same way that she did the first time around (plus she was horrible as her 2015 self), and Thomas F Wilson made Biff even more irritating than he was the first time around – a real cartoon. Aside from Christopher Lloyd, who barely pulls through, they all trampled over this film like rank amateurs.
The production sucked as a general rule. My guess is that they tried too hard to cover too much ground, were far too ambitious, and ended up watering down the quality of everything. Because, quite frankly, almost every location looked like a set. Oh sure, it was probably all shot on a set, but it should never look like it – especially in 1989. Even the aging make-up was worse this time around than it was in the first film – you could simply not believe any of it. And the special effects are almost all dated – especially the ones from the 2015 timeline. Ouch.
The only great moment in this whole film is that last part with Western Union. Product placement aside, I found it both ingenious and thrilling to see that car drive up, and have the guy come out with a message for Marty. Brilliant! I don’t know how credible that is (did Western Union even exist in 1885?), but that was awesome. And then that final sequence when Doc gets the shock of his life by seeing Marty again? Wicked fun!
Beyond this, ‘Back to the Future Part II’ is a totally lost opportunity. It gives the impression of having been tossed together without much care or thought – which is a real shame because that’s pretty much the opposite of the first one’s vibe.
I wouldn’t say that I wish I could go back in time and get my two hours back, but I won’t be making that trip again anytime soon – not even if I want to watch Part III, which mostly stands on its own without it.