I'm looking at what I originally wrote years ago for my Canon of Film entry for "Back to the Future" (I've mentioned this a few times before but, most of these post I wrote years before I ever started this blog and I mostly use those pieces as the original base for these posts, with some re-editing of course), but it's clear to me as I read it, that, I don't have any idea what the hell I'm talking about.
Or maybe a more precise thought should be, "Why this film?" Of all the damn postulation about time travel, dating back to the beginings of cinema, and I don't know, eh, H.G. Wells, or perhaps Mark Twain, or if you really want to press it, since Washington Irving, or just or fascinations with other time periods of the past, or possibilities of what the future will be like, how did "Back to the Future" become the film that is forever lauded and ingrained in our consciousness as the perennial example of time travel?
What is it about "Back to the Future", really? I mean, I'm with everybody on it, it's one of my all-time favorites, and this seems to be the one iconic '80s movie that even Hollywood sees absolutely no point in reviving or bringing back, and they would get bloody hell, from everybody in the world if they ever tried. This movie, about a DeLorean, turned into a time machine, that involves a plot revolving around a mother falling in love with her son, is the greatest,- or at least the most beloved time travel film of all-time? And there's a lot of time travel films out there; I even had a screenwriter professor tell me not to write time traveling scripts, because they don't accept them anymore in Hollywood, 'cause there's too many of them, and there's nothing really new to add to it, so we've sorted through this idea pretty thoroughly, and yet, explaining why this crazy, kinetic, zany film is the beloved masterpiece that everyone says it is, is truly almost impossible.
I think a lot of this has to do with the brilliant execution, perhaps a lot of it is expectations as well; we know how all the time travelling theories and films worked and the movie knows them too, so maybe it's just because it's such an out-of-nowhere version of such a story that we had. Perhaps it's just that the film is so relatable, literally. Most time travel films were contemplations on the more historical ideas of the concepts. You know, what would happen if you step on a cricket in the stone age, and you come back and the Nazis won World War II, stuff like that. This movie, has a little bit of that, but it's much more personal instead of philosophical, it's about those little moments that lead to our own existence at all?
I'm gonna propose that, the popularity of the movie has quite little to do with time travel. Ironically, it does hold up on that level, but the movie is just pure absurdist id. It revels in just how preposterous the story is. Christopher Lloyd, I realize now, gives one of the greatest performances in film history, making a completely ridiculous character who's job is to, basically explain the importance of everything that's happening, (Exposition dialogue, always the toughest dialogue to do) and make him an interesting enough character that we're intrigued by him, and questions like, "Why and how is this mad scientist good friends with Alex P. Keaton?", seem completely irrelevant.
It's just fun; it just works. I wish there were more concrete ways to explain why "Back to the Future" is so great, but...-, well, it just is. Whatever it catches onto us, whether we just love Michael J. Fox and Marty, whether we like the idea of a DeLorean turned into a time machine, or the mythos works, or the idea of going into the recent past and changing how our actions effect the future, whether it's just a great comedy, the amazing score by Alan Silvestri, the incredible using of building drama, even at the most unexpected times, etc. etc. It's really quite brilliant, and yet, explaining why it's brilliant or better than others.... I guess this is one of those times where, for those few people who haven't seen it, you'll just have to trust me and say that, "Just watch "Back to the Future" and trust me, it's good."