Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Back to the Future Part II (1989)

Really good sequels are hard to come by.  I don’t know if it’s just me, but there was a time when follow-ups were little more than an attempt to get a little more money out of audiences.  Home Alone was cute.  The second one was unnecessary.  I have a vague recollection that others may have been made.

There are cases, like the Lord of the Rings movies that were planned all at once.  It’s not a series of movies, but rather one story told in installments.  For whatever reason, each entry into the franchise is solid and worthy of paying for another admission.

The Back to the Future trilogy is an odd occurrence.  The first movie was going to be one movie.  There was the final scene where Doc takes Marty and Jennifer into the future, but it was meant to be just that:  The final scene.  When the movie did well, two more movies were made, back to back.

Back to the Future Part II picks up where Part I left off.  Doc takes Marty and Jennifer into the future.  Doc tells Marty and Jennifer that their children are in trouble.  The DeLorean has been modified so that it can accept waste as fuel, making things easier.  Oh, and where they’re going, they don’t need roads.  The DeLorean can now fly.

There are a few signs that the sequel wasn’t planned.  Jennifer has to be sedated, as Doc can’t have her asking too many questions.  (From what I recall, her presence wasn’t though that far through.  Sedating her was easier than changing the end of Part I.)  It does lead to a little trouble, as she’s taken to her future house and meets herself.

Once Marty and Doc return to 1955, they soon realize that they have bigger problems.  Marty hatched the idea to take a sports almanac back with him.  Doc discovered the plan and admonished Marty.  Unfortunately, Biff overheard them arguing and stole the idea.

Biff took the DeLorean back to 1955 and gave the almanac to his younger self so that he might bet on stuff and win big, which he does.  This leads to Hill Valley (and the surrounding areas) becoming an urban wasteland.  Marty enters his house to discover another family living there.  Principal Strickland is reduced to chasing away newspaper thieves with a shotgun.  And the clock tower is now the BiffCo casino.

This leads to a somewhat complicated third act where Marty and Doc have to return to the past to set the present right again.  They also have to avoid their former selves so that the events of the first movie aren’t changed.  It takes Marty a lot longer than it should to retrieve the almanac, but he does and eventually burns it, setting things right.  The movie ends with the DeLorean being hit by lightening (with Doc inside) and being sent back to 1885.  Thus, we get to see some pre-credit coming attractions for Part III, which takes place in the Old West.

The most noticeable thing about the movie for some is the conspicuous product placement.  (Personally, I’m still waiting on that Black & Decker device to rehydrate my Pizza Hut carryout order.)  Fortunately, it’s not that bad.  It is fun to see the CafĂ© 80s, where Ayatollah Khomeini and Ronald Reagan have been given the Max Headroom treatment and compete to take your order.

Marty and Jennifer get to see where they live, which is nice.  One thing that’s always bothered me, though, was having kids that look like one of the parents.  Both Marty, Jr., and Marlene are played by Michael J. Fox.  With the son, I can understand.  An important plot point rests on this being the case.  Still, do we need to have both kids played by the same actor?  Not to mention that Thomas F. Wilson plays both Biff and his grandson Griff.

As with the first movie, people have raised questions, a few of which I have myself.  First, why didn’t time change around Marty and Doc when Biff came back from the past?  If this would be the case with Jennifer and Einstein, why not anyone else?  (It’s probably a conscious decision to allow for the story to hold together.  It is a bit odd, though.)  Also, how did Doc know to drop the rope at the end of the tunnel?  That was pretty good timing.  Maybe Doc got lucky.  Maybe not.  We may never know.

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