Wednesday, July 20, 2016

What's On Netflix?: BACK TO THE FUTURE

Welcome to another installment of WHAT'S ON NETFLIX?, where we pick out a film currently playing on Netflix and review it for the fans.  This week's selection is the 1985 time travel classic...BACK TO THE FUTURE.

I can understand and sympathize with people who say that they have trouble picking a favorite movie. It's a pretty big question, and in the wide world of cinema, it's hard to narrow that field down to just one movie. For me, though, I've not had trouble picking for years now. Unquestionably, my favorite movie of all time is the original 1985 classic, Back to the Future, which celebrated its 30th anniversary last year. And now, the entire trilogy has recently made its way onto Netflix, which gives me the opportunity to write this. You see, this article serves two purposes. First, it's a giant PSA to let people know that this movie is available to anyone with a Netflix account, especially since a shocking number of people haven't seen this timeless classic yet. But more immediately, this serves as essentially a platform for me to gush about my favorite movie of all time. So, get comfortable, if you will. This is going to be fun.

For the 8 people who don't know the story, the plot focuses around the plucky everyman, Marty McFly, a teenager living in the town of Hill Valley, a picture-esque Californian town. Marty's your typical cool kid (circa 1985, anyway), but his life isn't nearly as cool. He's trying, unsuccessfully, to start a musical career in rock, his dad is a wimp who's still being bullied by his high school bully, his mom's an alcoholic, and life keeps getting in the way of sealing that kiss from his girlfriend, Jennifer. The one thing he does have going for him, though, is that he's friends with the local inventor/crazy mad scientist, Doctor Emmett Brown, who's never invented anything that worked. That is, until one night, when he shows Marty his latest invention, a DeLorean car rebuilt as a time machine. Through a series of unfortunate accidents, Marty ends up transported back 30 years ago to the year 1955, where he has to enlist a young Doc Brown to help him get back to the future! Of course, things get even more complicated when he inadvertently prevents his own birth, making it a race against time to fix the timeline and get back to 1985.

Part of what makes this movie so special is the expert casting. Michael J. Fox as Marty and Christopher Lloyd as Doc Brown form the perfect duo, playing each other with such natural chemistry and charisma in every scene they're in. Crispin Glover and Lea Thompson lend their talents as Marty's parents, playing both young and old George and Loraine, who are both hysterical in the role. Other actors, like Thomas F. Wilson as the bully Biff, James Tolkan as high school principle Mr. Strickland, and Claudia Wells as Marty's girlfriend Jennifer, round out an exceptional cast. It's the kind of cast with a chemistry where, if you remove or add anything else, it wouldn't be as good, it's the perfect recipe for success. Most of the main cast gets plenty of memorable dialogue to say, from Marty and Doc's iconic catchphrases ("This is heavy, Doc!"; "Great Scott!") to some great incidental gags all throughout. A lot of the best parts just come from banter, be it between Doc and Marty or between Marty and his young dad. Marty is probably the most memorable character, and he's the one we relate to. In a weird way, you could almost argue that he's too perfect seeing as he doesn't go through too much of a character arc. He has a small bit where he has a fear of rejection, but for the most part, what keeps him relatable is his endless charisma and his quick wit. He gets more of a real arc in the sequels, but for now, he's the vehicle for us to experience the world of Hill Valley.

Hill Valley itself is probably one of the other best parts, and is an aspect that becomes even more important in the sequels. It's a set that's very detailed, with the main square with the clock tower being the most famous and most often-used set in the movie. The detail in everything from the shops on the street to the theater playing movies appropriate for the time to even the famous diner where Marty meets his dad is full of detail that brings the world to life. What helps is also the music. The score, I'll discuss in a bit, but the soundtrack is equally good. Some great period tracks like the Four Aces' cover of Mr. Sandman to the song played at the school dance, Earth Angel, really evoke the period. Of course, the soundtrack itself is also peppered with tracks like Johnny B. Goode as well as a few tracks by Hewey Lewis and the News, but going back to the atmosphere, even the way the film pokes fun at how much had changed since the 50's is great. In one early scene, Marty was staying with Loraine's family, and accidentally let it slip that his family owned 2 TV's, while this 50's family has barely gotten their first, as had many families at the time. One of the kids in the house even exclaims, "Wow! You must be rich," to which his father replies, "Don't be silly. No one has two TV's."

The film's action is also great, with some of the most iconic moments in cinema under its belt, like the car chase in the town square, the unveiling of the DeLorean, and the climactic race to get back to the future while Doc makes sure everything is in place to let the lightning strike the clock tower just right so they can harness it to power the time machine. It's a tension that's enhanced all the more by the score, which is wonderfully composed by frequent Robert Zemeckis collaborator and famed composer, Alan Silvestri. After collaborating with Zemeckis for Romancing the Stone, Zemeckis brought Silvestri on to compose his next movie, Back to the Future, which, to this day, stands as some of his best work, in my opinion. His triumphant main theme, played often throughout, does an amazing job at driving the action forward and making it feel intense and satisfying at the same time. The pair would go on to work together again on films like Who Frames Roger Rabbit? and Forrest Gump, not to mention Back to the Future Part II and Part III. Silvestri himself would also go on to score movies like Captain America: The First Avenger and The Avengers, but his breakthrough and standout score will always be Back to the Future. 

Really, I could go on forever why Back to the Future is a movie you need to see if you haven't already. It's funny, it's heartwarming, it's got great action, great characters, great music, and some of the best sequences in film history. It's unquestionably my favorite film of all time, and easily the best thing Robert Zemeckis has ever made. If you've never seen it, don't make the mistake of going any longer without it. If you've already seen it, now's the perfect time to give it another go. It is your density. Or maybe just your destiny.

Tony's Score: 10/10

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