21 March 2004 | clydestuff
From the present, to the future, back to the present, then back to the past. One great ride!
When Back to The Future was initially conceived, director and writer Robert Zemeckis and writer Bob Gale had no idea how much notoriety it would eventually achieve, nor of the big box office records it would break. They were happy just to see their project come to fruition. When they wrote the original film, the ending they had written was supposed to be the end of it. Because of it's success, however, and Hollywood being Hollywood, there had to be the inevitable sequels. The problem was that with the original ending, they had painted themselves into a corner as to where they could go with the sequel. What they finally came up with in Part II, is a film that is every bit as whimsical as the original, yet moves along at a pace that will leave you breathless.
For part II the cast is pretty much intact from the original film. The exceptions are Crispin Glover as George McFly has been replaced by Jeffrey Weisman and Claudia Wells has been replaced by Elizabeth Shue as Marty's girlfriend Jennifer. George McFly's role in the sequel is more talked about by other characters than his actual on screen time, and Jennifer's time on screen is quick and brief also (although she has one great scene that takes place in the future)so neither casting change is of any consequence.
The original film dealt with how Marty had threatened his own existence because of changes he had accidentally initiated in the year 1955. For Part II, we learn what happens when the interference is of a much larger scale and consequence. As you recall, the original film ended with Doc Brown(Christopher Lloyd)whisking Marty (Michael J. Fox)and Jennifer away with him to the year 2015 to straighten out their kids. For all his harping about messing with historical events, Doc is not above initiating a bit of interference himself. In their attempt to rescue Marty's future offspring, an aged but still obnoxious Biff Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson), steals the Delorean to transport himself into the past and to bestow upon himself a Sports Almanac book that contains the results of sporting events for years to come. Shortly thereafter, Doc and Marty return to 1985, only to find that not only is Hill Valley not what it used to be, their own lives are in pretty sad shape and far different than what they had been before. And the changes aren't good ones, or as Doc puts it "I can't imagine Hell being much worse."
What makes the Back To The Future series so terrific, is that Zemeckis and Gale took the time travel concept, applied a little originality to it, then let their imaginations run wild. In BTTFII, we get a story that moves along like a runaway freight train. Not content to give us what the year 2015 may be truly like, since making such predictions are usually wrong anyway, they decide to let it all hang loose and just have fun with it. There are holographic theaters, Cafe 80's shops, antique stores that sell dustbusters and other things, skateboards that hover, paying for cab rides with thumbprints, etc. etc. Yet, for all the glossy, multi-colored stores and goofy concepts, we still recognize it as the same old Hill Valley. Something else Zemeckis and Gale do is to take some events from the first film, and replay them in 2015 Hill Valley. Usually, things like this would be seen as the lack of an idea, but in this case its simply Zemeckis having a little fun and letting us in on it. It works perfectly.
Likewise, the alternative version of 1985 Hill Valley is an exercise in how far one's imagination can go. Instead of a quaint peaceful town and suburbs, Zemeckis and Gale do everything in their power to give us the equivalent of an opposite. To go into too much detail here would undermine your own viewing experience and give away a bit too much of the plot.
Then to add fuel to the fire, we once again revisit Hill Valley in 1955, where things really go berserk what with two Marty's and two Docs inhabiting the same year. Zemeckis does a great job of cutting new scenes into footage from the original film with different angles and different perspectives of previous seen activities.
As for the cast, Fox and Lloyd keep their characters of Marty and Doc on the same entertaining level as before. Fox is also given the chore of playing his nerdy son of the future, Marty as a middle aged man and even his daughter of the future. He is pretty much successful except I do think playing his daughter was a bit much. Lea Thompson, again has the difficult chore of bringing Lorraine Mcfly to us in three different characterizations, and as before handles it admirably. Her 1955 Lorraine will always be her most memorable characterization in these films, but the others are equally well done. As for Thomas F. Wilson as Biff, Biff is biff, no matter how old, how young, or how powerful he may be, and his consistence of performance is also noteworthy.
Some have complained about being able to follow Zemeckis and Gale's storyline. If you have seen the first film, you'll have no trouble in that regard. I sure didn't, and for me it was one heck of a comedic thrill ride from beginning to end. If you don't have fun watching Back To The Part II, then the only thing I can think of is that your as much of a curmudgeon as old Biff from 2015. It's not often that a sequel can live up to it's predecessor, but when it does, and introduces some originality along the way you get my grade, which for Back To The Future is an A.