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(Spoilers ahead)
Marty McFly is a likable guy
Who’s known as a slacker at Hill Valley High.
His dad is a nerd in each sense of the word,
Who often is bullied by Biff undeterred.
Emmet Brown is a doc, whom most people just mock;
He has an invention to turn back the clock.
The Doc has created a time machine dated,
A tricked-out DeLorean; Marty’s elated.
When Doc Brown is shot for the fuel that he got,
McFly speeds away for the sake of the plot.
When he goes too fast, Marty’s stuck in the past,
1955, where there’s quite the contrast.
He sees George McFly, still Biff’s least favorite guy,
And saves his own dad, who is painfully shy.
The blow he prevents Marty quickly laments,
For now he has changed the whole course of events.
His mother Lorraine now has him on the brain,
And his interference could be his own bane.
With Doc, still alive in 1955,
They plan for a carefully-engineered drive
To harness the spike of a timed lightning strike
And send Marty back to the time they all like.
Yet first he must try to conspire and lie
To pair up Lorraine and the proper McFly.
George steps up when needed, and Biff is defeated,
But even though Marty’s maneuvers succeeded,
He speeds down the block for the requisite shock
To send him back home to the still-living Doc.
It seems all is well, and the future will tell,
But why wait when there is a sequel I smell.
When Doc Brown returns with some pressing concerns,
He takes Marty back to the future. He learns
That mischief is done with McFly’s only son,
So Marty must stop it before it’s begun.
In 2015, Marty meets on the scene
Old Biff and his grandson, both terribly mean.
Their efforts succeed, but temptation toward greed
Lets Biff get away with a self-serving deed.
Unaware of the slime, they return to their time
And find ’85 full of sorrow and crime.
A sports almanac that the old Biff took back
Allowed his young self to grow rich from the track.
This present nightmare, full of death and despair,
Can only be changed by the time-travel pair.
They go back once more to the dance long before
To steal back the book and the future restore.
Both Marty and Doc do their best not to walk
Into their other selves, who must meet at the clock.
The book time demands several times changes hands,
And Marty gives chase ere Doc’s flying car lands.
The duo prevail, but the car in the gale
Is shocked to the past, as explained in the mail.
The Doc is alive in 1885,
And Marty needs past Doc to help him arrive.
With help from the Doc, who passed out at the clock,
Marty finds the DeLorean hid under rock.
He sees and is stressed that Doc in the Old West
Died days after writing his final request.
Doc doesn’t condone, but still Marty, alone,
Goes back to save Doc from his coming tombstone.
The time machine’s harmed, and soon Marty’s alarmed
When Biff Tannen’s ancestor threatens him armed.
Doc saves his young friend and endeavors to mend
The time machine ere his unfortunate end,
But they find, alas, that the car’s out of gas;
A train is the only way they can go fast.
A woman nearby nearly learns how to fly,
But Doc rescues Clara and catches her eye.
A hoedown that night deepens Marty’s new plight
When “Mad Dog” demands that they schedule a fight.
Now Marty’s in danger, and Doc the time-changer
Breaks up with his Clara with truths that estrange her.
Doc Brown is distraught, and Mad Dog wants a shot
At Marty, who learns when to fight and when not.
With this Tannen bested and swiftly arrested,
They hijack the train in which all is invested.
Clara comes on the scene as they push Doc’s machine,
And with her in danger, Doc must intervene.
He rescues his mate, but the car travels straight
And travels through time when it hits eighty-eight.
Though Marty makes it, the DeLorean’s hit,
And all’s back to normal, as time will permit,
And Doc on a train that he tricked out again
Tells Marty the future our lives will ordain.

What can I say about the Back to the Future films that hasn’t already been said? Robert Zemeckis hit a home run with this, the original convoluted paradox movie. Full of clever twists and turns, all three films interconnect in amazingly imaginative ways, with running jokes and scenarios repeated in different time periods. The situations are so pervasive that I forgot that Marty’s whole “chicken” hang-up was only introduced in the second film rather than the first.

Michael J. Fox as Marty and Christopher Lloyd as Doc Brown were impeccably cast, creating for each of them their most iconic roles. Fox especially exhibits a wide range, from his cool 1985 self to his wimpy 2015 son to his wise 1885 ancestor to even his own daughter (I swear I just noticed that last one!). Lea Thompson as Lorraine/Maggie McFly and Thomas F. Wilson as Biff/Griff/Mad Dog Tannen also span several unique but similar identities throughout history. Supporting performances are also excellent, such as Crispin Glover’s geeky mannerisms as the first film’s George McFly. The role of Marty’s girlfriend Jennifer changed from Claudia Wells in the first film to Elizabeth Shue in the sequels; perhaps it’s simply because she has more screen time, but I think I prefer Shue.

I’ve always loved time travel, and though even more complex films have been made since, Back to the Future’s various paradoxes, alternate time lines, and potentially universe-destroying encounters boggle the mind while remaining altogether fun. The second film is particularly complex, yet it’s probably my favorite, with its visit to a positive but not idealized future and its more active time traveling. The first is the most classic; the second is the most breathlessly entertaining; and the third boasts the best action sequence, the train-hopping finale with a thrilling crash that is much more impressive and real-looking than the similar climax of The Lone Ranger.

The films are also famous for their humor, such as the irony of building a time machine out of a DeLorean. My favorite comedic moments are the reactions: Doc’s crazed gaze when Marty convinces him he’s from the future, Marty’s stunned expression when his younger mother kisses him, Jennifer’s shock at seeing herself older/younger, Doc’s “Great Scott!” when Marty says he’s “back from the future,” Doc’s reaction to the Wake-Up Juice, etc. By the time of the third film, much of the situations are too familiar, but even then the Wild West milieu offers a different lens for everything; I might compare the trilogy to the Disney show Phineas and Ferb, in which a highly predictable formula is altered in small clever ways to still be entertaining and funny.

Back to the Future was one of my dad’s favorite films, and though over time he has complained that it’s dated, each film boasts endless watchability. Even my most recent viewings have yielded new details I had never noticed, like how Twin Pines Mall becomes Lone Pine Mall after Marty runs over one of Mr. Peabody’s two trees in 1955. Though the company went out of business before the first movie was filmed, the DeLorean will always be remembered as Doc Brown’s time machine, and Fox and Lloyd will always be fondly known as Marty and Doc. With its thirty-year anniversary approaching, including a London musical (and a 2015 that unfortunately doesn’t quite possess all the conveniences shown in Part II), Back to the Future still remains as fun as ever.

Best line from Back to the Future: (George McFly) “Last night, Darth Vader came down from Planet Vulcan and told me that if I didn’t take Lorraine out, that he’d melt my brain.”

Best line from Part II: (Doc, as 1985 Jennifer is being taken to her 2015 home) “I foresee two possibilities. One, coming face to face with herself thirty years older would put her into shock, and she’d simply pass out. Or two, the encounter could create a time paradox, the results of which could cause a chain reaction that would unravel the very fabric of the space time continuum and destroy the entire universe! Granted, that’s a worse-case scenario. The destruction might, in fact, be very localized, limited to merely our own galaxy.”

Best line from Part III: (Marty) “Listen, you got a back door to this place?”  (bartender) “Yeah, it’s in the back.”

Rank: 56 out of 60

© 2014 S. G. Liput

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