Back to the Future Part II

Synopsis: “Roads? Where We’re Going, We Don’t Need Roads!” – Doc Brown

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.
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Back to the Future Part II 6.5

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. indifferent0004 Free Emoticons   Indifferent

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. sad0038 Free Sad Emoticons

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 winking0002 Free Emoticons   Winking). So, in my mind, there’s no excuse for a poor story. mad0071 Free Emoticons   Anger

‘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. mad0137 Free Emoticons   Anger

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*

To prove my point that ‘Back the Future Part II’ could have been much better, but was hobbled by p!$$-poor writing, let me advance a few arguments:

When Doc takes Marty into the future to save his kids, he doesn’t bother explaining anything at all under the pretence that the less Marty knew about his own future, the better. However, it would have been essential to brief him on the fact that he’d be impersonating his own son, and that he’d be meeting up with Griff, Biff’s grandson, so that he could act the part appropriately and not screw things up further. The only reason Doc didn’t was to give the audience a few surprises. Lame. rolleye0015 Free Emoticons   Rolling Eyes

In this first sequel, Marty has suddenly become a complete idiot. He obviously wasn’t the brightest bulb in the pack, but he was smart enough to handle himself. In ‘BTTFII’, he never seems to understand what’s going on, even though he should already have grasped that the world is going to be different from 1985 if he time-travels. Instead, he’s always confused, not realising why things are different, …etc. He’s basically Forrest Gump-smart, and that’s out of character. The only reason for this is to force some laughs and/or move the story along in ways that it wouldn’t if he was smart. Sad. mad0071 Free Emoticons   Anger

It was utterly insipid that Doc Brown left Jennifer in an alley and that Marty was okay with this. Not only is it dangerous for her, but her existence in this timeline could conceivably change the natural course of events and, thus, future history; Doc would have been wiser to keep her in his car, instead of taking her out and leaving on his errand (which was never properly explained, actually!). Why did they do this? Only to justify the next sequence with Marty’s family, now 30 years older – a sequence that could not happen if Jennifer wasn’t found unconscious in the alley. Ridiculous! mad0137 Free Emoticons   Anger

Of course, if they hasn’t done this, then old Biff wouldn’t have had the opportunity to steal the time machine from them and go warn young Biff. All he would have been able to do is overhear Doc and Marty’s exchange about time travel and then would have spent the rest of his life wondering exactly what had happened that day. Not that he should have overheard them, anyway – because, to do this, he had to walk through a shop, make his way to the employee side-entrance without being hassled and then discretely listened from the screen door… in the vain hope of catching a few words while they shuffled about. Duh. confused

Anyway, the whole scene with old Biff taking the time machine is crap because he wouldn’t know how it works in the first place. And, considering how poorly he drove it, and the noise it was making on that dead silent road, Marty would have heard him steal it. Plus which, there’s no way that he would have broken his cane on the way out – it was solid wood and the car was likely made of plastics. And, even if he did break it, he wouldn’t have left the f-ing handle in the car like a total moron. The only reason this was allowed to happen was to contrive Marty and Doc’s next two trips in time. Dumb. sad0133 Free Sad Emoticons

And here’s the clincher:

If old Biff had gone to 1955 and given young Biff the Almanac, permitting him to change the future, then old Biff wouldn’t have been able to return to the same 2015 as he once knew – he would have returned to an alternate reality that he isn’t suppose to exist in, and Doc and Marty would have been trapped in a 2015 that no longer exists! I’m sure that, based on Doc Brown’s theories, this would have done something not-so-good to the time-space continuum and would likely have torn the universe apart. However, old Biff was allowed to return and everything carried on smoothly. mad0071 Free Emoticons   Anger

And the only justification I can find for this one is: the writers were damned idiots. Because, quite frankly, if you’re eager enough to play with time travel and mess around with different timelines, you really need to think things through. Clearly, the only thinking that was done on this film was “What could we do that’s super cool?”, followed by “How do we make this happen?”. Urgh. mad0137 Free Emoticons   Anger

Back to the Future Part II: “Consequences? Where we’re going we don’t have consequences!” mad0071 Free Emoticons   Anger

Other, more minor examples of weak writing are:

-that small bit where young Biff, in 1955, asks someone where Calvin Klein is, and describes him as “the guy with the hat”. Seeing as this was the one feature that would distinguish him from the rest of the youth at this dance, it makes sense for Biff to do that (mind you, it was probably too bright an idea for him winking0002 Free Emoticons   Winking). Except that he doesn’t see Marty in his fedora and leather jacket until AFTER that sequence! confused

-the only way that the writers could explain all the tragedy that would befall Marty and his family is by giving him some strange new disorder that makes him react and act like a maroon every single time someone calls him “chicken” – even well into adulthood. Not only is this a brand-spanking new disorder that he didn’t have in the first film, but his character is so moronic that no amount of tragedy can prevent him from reacting this way – he never learns his life lessons.  rolleye0015 Free Emoticons   Rolling Eyes And, to top it all off, his whole family lets him continue this way unchallenged.

*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! rolleye0015 Free Emoticons   Rolling Eyes 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. sad0133 Free Sad Emoticons

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. confused

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. happy0021 Free Emoticons   Happy And then that final sequence when Doc gets the shock of his life by seeing Marty again? Wicked fun! happy0027 Free Emoticons   Happy

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. indifferent0004 Free Emoticons   Indifferent

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.

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