9 October 2011 | ElMaruecan82
Back to the Old West ... Back to the Roots ... Back to the Future ...
And here comes the conclusion of one of the finest and most likable cinematic trilogies: "Back to the Future Part III", more than a sequel, a resourcing in the spirit that made the first film such an endearing classic, with an even more escapist value in the setting, the Far West during the 1880's. As a Sci-Fi Family Romantic Comedy, "Back to the Future Part III" is already a winner, but the Western is the defining aspect of its originality.
"Back to the Future Part III" was directly made after the second, basically recycling the same material, and using the same team, the same casting etc. The continuity between the two films is so determining that there's no way watching the second without getting immediately to the third, it's like keeping in touch with the same family. Indeed, as much as I can watch the first one alone, because it's a class on its own and a film I consider slightly independent from the two sequels, on the other hand, I consider the sequels too connected to each other not to be seen in a row. This continuity helps to appreciate the second part that feels more like a link between the two other films while "Part III" resurrects the spirit of the first one by focusing on the emotionality rather than the eternal "back to the future" mission.
This has always been Marty's preoccupation and the thrust of the trilogy but the travels also had the merit to solve some familial issues and help a beloved character to improve something in his life, if anything, the trilogy defines the notion of 'coming-of-age' as the inspirational aspect of the film, its encouragement for success through self-improvement. But since people were facing less materialistic issues than during the 80's, I guess there was a need to take some distance from these so-called philosophies of successes and a huge step back one century earlier when the 80's followed the Secession War and preceded the Industrial Revolution that would lead to demise of the frontier spirit. The Far West is less a setting or an era, than a state of mind, embodying the roots of the American spirit in its purest form, before greed and profit perverted its meaning. The Far West setting perfectly fitted the tormenting desire of Doc Emmett Brown for retirement and a tacit existential quest for love.
Consequently, while the central character of the first film was George McFly and the second part focused on the McFly Family, Gale and Zemeckis took the last film as a great opportunity to enrich the character of Doc Brown and close his story's arc through a love story in order to replace the "mad scientist" label by a necessary element of three-dimensionality. On the surface, Marty's mission is to prevent Brown from being killed by the villain who –for our greatest delight- is Biff's ancestor, Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen, but while Marty and Doc try to find a solution to push the DeLorean to 88 mph, destiny puts them in Clara's path. So Doc meets Clara Clayton (Mary Steenburgen), a teacher whose fate was to fall in the Shonash ravine canyon and give it a posthumous name.
At that point of the trilogy, we're all aware of the time travels' mechanisms, we can even be surprised by Marty's incapability "to reason fourth-dimensionally", who he traveled so much. But here, the film invites us to put all the scientific stuff into perspective and think of the real elements that predefine our fates. There's a strong philosophical material hidden behind the love story as the film concludes its approach on time travels with the idea that nothing is written except by our free will and our capacity not to let external elements direct our lives. But I may make the film sound too intellectual when it's also a great comedy and one hell of a western.
The film is the opportunity to rediscover and say goodbye to the wonderful characters of Hill Valley, to see the first McFlys in American land, to witness the inauguration of the clock tower which, as Doc said, was fitting that he and Marty could witness, not to mention Marty pretending to be named Clint Eastwood, at the risk of tarnishing this name by becoming the biggest yellow belly in the Old West. And the delight on the comedic level is in the way the humor works on a meta-referential level as if the film was breaking an imperceptible fourth wall, playing on its own trademarks. I can't resist to the scene where Marty, realizing that he might be killed instead of Doc utters a "Great Scott" followed by Doc's comment "I know this is heavy", when Marty wonders why they always have to "cut these things so damn close" or when, in the most dramatic situations, he reacts by an ironic 'perfect'.
And speaking of dramatic, the film also provides great thrilling moments you'd expect from a Western, and probably the most heart-pounding climax from the trilogy with the train sequence, so suspenseful, I remember I had to pause for seconds the first time I watched it. This was one of the few times, I needed to take a break because it was just too suspenseful, but what a fitting and rewarding conclusion. Action, escapism, duels, stage, rides, Indians, cavalry, "Back to the Future Part III" is also an independent homage to the Western genre with some exhilarating moments, served by Alan Silvestri's terrific score, probably his best work in the trilogy.
And this is why I consider "Back to the Future" as the greatest trilogy after "The Godfather" with a slight advantage that remains the consistency in terms of spirit, thrills, laughs and emotional value. So thank you Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale, Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd and all the team for these three unforgettable classics!