So, it’s official: the future is finally here. It’s taken 26 fucking years but we’ve finally gone back to the future. For those of you not in the loop, yesterday was the day Marty and Doc travel forward to in the sequel to the much loved Back to Future. October 21st 2015 was supposed to be a time of hoverboards, flying cars, self-tying shoes and self-drying clothes. There has been a lot written in the past few weeks about how accurate these predictions were. People are going fucking mental because a few conicidences have meant that some things are kind of similar to the vision of the future depicted on film. It’s really irritating. I mean let’s not forget how many of them have only come about because it was dreamt up in 1989. Even Robert Zemeckis thought the future scenes were fucking stupid. Regardless, Back to the Future day is a good excuse to revisit an important and well-loved franchise. The first film is a favourite of most people and the third is just a fucking awesome romp in the old West. But what of that tricky middle child?
Back to the Future Part II picks up exactly where the first one ends. Marty has returned to 1985 to find his life perfect. After being reunited with his girlfriend, Jennifer, good old Doc turns up to warn them that they must go to the future to save their son so it’s off to 2015. Marty Jr. is set to be goaded into taking part in a robbery thanks to Biff Tannen’s grandson, Griff. Marty poses as his son to prevent this and, after a future hoverboard chase reminiscent of the original film’s skateboard chase, manages to change the future.
However, their actions in 2015 have a horrific effect on life in 1985. Biff has become a wealthy tyrant who killed Marty’s father, married his mother and holds all of Hill Valley as hostage. The only way to stop him? Going back to 1955. The pair must revisit the events depicted in the first film in order to stop Biff gaining the information that makes him rich.
The plot is really just circumstantial here. Everything happens so Marty and the Doc can go to the future and return to the past. Aside from the many comical predictions made in the 2015 sequences, very little stands out during the first half of the film. It pushes the plot forward but is mainly just an excuse to introduce flying cars and have all the actors dress as older/younger/different gendered versions of themselves. Now I’m not against having your actors take part in a bit of healthy dress-up but the make-up is so fucking terrible that these elements stick out like a sore thumb.
It takes the first film’s credibility and takes a massive shit on it. Back to the Future Part II lacks much of what made the first film great. It lacks the original’s power and focus. There is so much going on whilst, at the same time, fuck all is actually happening. The film attempts to monopolise on its predecessor success by revisiting certain key scenes and replaying them from a different perspective. It’s hard to deny that this is fun but only because you’re reminded of a much better film.
Quite simply, the problem arises because there is too much fucking Biff in this film. Now Biff was a great nemesis in the first film but there’s only so far his gurning, grunting and teeth grinding can get him. It gets tired very quickly and there’s no amount of old man make-up or meat-tenderiser-future-helmet that can prevent that. We needed more Marty and we definitely needed more Doc.
However, that’s not to say the film isn’t enjoyable. There’s something pleasant about the formulaic plot and the slapstick comedy that flourished in the original is still at play here. The problem is: Back to the Future Part II wanted to be a bigger and better film than it actually became. Rather than being a great film in it’s own right, the sequel has simply become a stepping stone between the first and the third.