Tim Babb’s March Blog Madness: Day 19
I got the impression that a few people thought my previous blog about Back to the Future indicated that I didn’t like the movie or that I thought the temporal paradox made the movie less enjoyable…far from it. The Back to the Future series is one of my all time favorites and so as a show of support, I shall defend this beloved movie from the criticisms leveled at it by the Now Playing Podcast. These criticisms are numbered but not in any special order. They’re just in the order I scribbled them down while re-listening to the episode and washing dishes. Also, there are 3 guys on the show Brock, Arnie, and Stuart…I didn’t keep track of who said what. So when I don’t name names below, it’s not to be insulting or anything. It’s just bad note taking. And now, you’ve gotta come back with me…
Criticism #1: Bad/Crammed Writing
One of the guys on the show contends that there is no joy in the way everything is set up and then ultimately pays off. I couldn’t disagree more. That is one of the major joys of this film. From Loraine’s story of the dance, to Doc’s story of the Flux Capacitor, even to Old Man Peabody’s pine trees…everything that comes into play finds a way to come in to play again to service the story. The guy says that he though every line “felt like homework,” I say this is a movie that rewards you for paying attention and doesn’t waste your time with an interminably long pod race.
Criticism #2: Micheal J. Fox is wrong for the role of Marty because He’s not a “rocker”
Again one of the boys over there at Now Playing contend that Michael J. Fox was miscast because Marty is supposed to be a “rocker” and Michael J. Fox is clearly not that. No, sir! Marty is every dork who WANTED to be a rock star. He’s the identifiable guy trying to raise his station in life. That’s why we root for him. “You go boy, you do what I can’t do and sit at the cool kids table.” You know who was miscast? Hayden Christensen as Anakyn Skywalker. (Two! Two prequel bashes…ha ha ha!!!)
Criticism #3: The DeLorean suddenly stalls out at the end
Just before the climactic lightning bolt/clock tower scene, the DeLorean stalls out and Marty can’t get it started. The question is posed, “when did the DeLorean start having engine problems?” He contends it’s never set up in tn the movie before that point. It IS set up when Marty first arrives in the 50’s. After Marty escapes the Peabody’s Farm, the car stalls out and Marty can’t get it started again which is why he has to hide it.
Criticism #4: Marty “forgetting” about what 88mph means/being too confused about being in the 50’s
When Marty first travels through time, he’s in the DeLorean being chased by terrorists (Aw crap! Now this blog just got flagged…everyone wave hi to the NSA. Sorry to waste your time, fellas. You’re doing a great job keeping us safe, though. Keep at it.). So at one point he says, “Let’s see if you bastards can do 90,” and one of the Now Playing guys thought it was inconceivable that he’d forgotten what happens at 88. Well, first of all let’s see what kind of details you recall when there’s a bazooka pointed at you after you’ve just watched your friend die. Secondly, he didn’t even know the time circuits were on. There is a shot where he’s shifting the car and his arm bumps the time circuits and turns them on. He is probably quite surprised when he ends up in 1955.
And as to the point of it being unrealistic that he was so confused about being there. How can the human brain have ANY reference for traveling through time? That’s like if you woke up tomorrow and everything in your town was different and you were the only one who knew…that would mess with your head.
Criticism #5: The movie doesn’t get good until we get to the 50’s
I’m sorry…this movie is good start to finish. The long opening shot in Doc’s lab, the band audition, the reveal of the DeLorean…all great, compelling stuff. Not to mention the race to save Doc’s life. I wholeheartedly disagree with the guy who said that you didn’t care what happened to Doc it was just “plot inertia” at the end of the film. I care for many reasons not the least of which being that you can clearly see that Marty cares.
Criticism #6: Earth Angel/Johnny B. Goode wasn’t necessary
Are you kidding? Of course it was necessary! Would everything that happened between George, Lorraine, and random raid haired bully who shows up have gone down the same way without Marty there? No. As Marty says, “If there’s no music, they can’t dance. If they can’t dance, the can’t kiss. If they don’t kiss, they can’t fall in love.” It pays of Loraine’s line in the beginning that kissing George on the dance floor was when she knew she wanted to marry him. PLUS it pays off Marty’s line where he laments that he’s “never gonna get a chance to play in front of anybody.” Marty finally gets to play the dance that his band was rejected from at the beginning of the movie. Marty completes his arc and at the same time resolves the love story in the movie. More of that great screen writing.
Criticism #7: Geroge McFly can’t be a successful author if we see his first book being published in 1985
I will admit to having this same thought as a kid, but if you actually pay attention, at the end of the movie when Biff brings George McFly’s book into the house, Loraine doesn’t say it’s his first “book” she says its his first “novel.” So it is conceivable that George has been writing non-fiction and/or short stories up to this point. He could have been writing self help books. He had a profound change of life experience. I could see a creative mind spinning that into a book teaching others how to shape their lives. Also, maybe the reason they are still in the same house is that they aren’t rich yet. If this is George’s first novel, maybe the big bucks are just about to start rolling in (hence the gift of a truck to their baby boy). So he’s been getting work as an author to this point, but now he’s getting his big pay day.
Criticism #8: Christopher Lloyd is a bad/over the top actor
Having not seen much of Lloyd’s work outside of Back to The Future, Star Trek III, and Angels in the Outfield (look for me in the stands), I can’t speak to him as an actor in general…but he is magnificent in this film. Sure he plays it broad a lot but there are quite a few soft moments that really drive home the friendship between Doc and Marty. I will grant that it’s never explained WHY they’re friends, but it’s clear they are good friends.
Criticism #9: Lea Thompson/Thomas F. Wilson are not as good in their 80’s incarnations
This couldn’t be more wrong. They both play middle aged so well. Lea especially has a great contrast between her character at the beginning of the movie, her character in the 50’s, and the altered version of her character at the end of the film. I liken it to Christopher Reeve’s Clark/Superman, so many great, perceivable, constructive differences in the characterization. I mean obviously she’s going to nail the younger version of Lorraine (come to think of it, I’d like to nail the younger version of Lorraine…hey-o!) but to pull of that repressed, broken, alcoholic housewife AND that total 80’s MILF…very impressive. I was similarly impressed with Tom Wilson’s Biff. He wasn’t quite to the same level as Thomson but he did a praise worthy job as well. Plus he signed my copy of the Back To the Future soundtrack and is a stand-up comic like me:
Okay he plays the guitar and headlines where ever he goes…but other than that, we’re basically the same.
Ok…that’s all I wrote down. I’m sure there were more criticisms of the film but this blog is long enough as it is. Also to be fair to the Now Playing guys, one of the three seemed to be a huge fan of the film and did a good job singing its praises and defending it. Also the guy who leveled a lot of these criticisms admitted that this was a good movie and he was just being “nit picky.” I can relate to that as a Star Trek fan who loves to take the piss out of Star Trek, but I feel like it comes from a place of love when I do it. On this show, it felt like the dude had genuine problems with the movie and only begrudgingly liked it. So I just wanted to come to this poor movie’s defense. BTTF is my BFF!
But I really have to say thank you to the Now Playing folks, for prompting me to think about this ol’ film and revel in all the things I enjoy about it.