As Huey Lewis and The News’ Power of Love plays for the fourth time in fifteen minutes, Back to the Future would be pushing its luck if it were not so charming. It is, as Lewis himself says in his cameo role, “just too darn loud,” although that is not the issue. Pump it up as loud as it goes, because hearing the odd little bleeps of science-fiction special effects and the immortal lines from within this Robert Zemeckis masterpiece is an experience in need of the loudest, most tinnitus-triggering volume available. Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) figures that out in the opening moments, and his decision to stand in front of that oversized speaker is, perhaps, his own dumb fault. But that is the beauty within Back to the Future, it is a film based on the faults of idiots who dared to dream.
Having Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) cross both terrorists and the government, it is surprising how light a tone Back to the Future gets away with. Libyans, rifles, radiation. That beautiful rule of three gives Back to the Future all the gusto its storyline could ever need. Much of the story is formed through foreshadowing. The wishful thinking of a family getting by with the same issues they held thirty years prior. Crispin Glover’s role as father George McFly is marvellous. A real unsung hero of this feature, and a performance that displays the negative qualities of his future self, and how they’re squashed by a stranger who is his son.
That’s the beauty of Back to the Future. That intimate relationship these three characters have, the chemistry these actors show between one another, it all makes for a remarkably believable time. Time travel is a hard pill to swallow, and harder still to portray with any form of simplistic believability. Inevitable lapses in judgment or happenstance occurrences often crop up unexpectedly, but Back to the Future uses its frequent friend, the old foreshadowing trick, so often that it feels rather comfortably set. We do not need flashbacks to why this event happens, just a sly little quip from Fox or Lloyd, and the audience are left to fill in the blanks. Zemeckis offers the audience a chance to feel as though they have accomplished something. They’ve filled in a piece of the puzzle, rather than watched someone fill it in. That much never changes.
Endlessly rewatchable, in part because of the quality work put in by Fox and Lloyd, but also because of that inevitable friend, nostalgia. Old enough to see the marathon on ITV2 way back when in 2015, young enough to never have seen it in the cinema. A comfortable middle ground for one of the finest time-travel features ever made. Never look back, though. If Back to the Future has one message to it, it is that time travel is meddlesome, confusing and articulates a dark period of regret for the characters. Sure, they are better off for the actions founded by their son from the future, but it is his rebellious nature against their initial lives that sets that train in motion. Surely, we all wish for a do-over. But that is to live life without risk, danger, fear, excitement. Don’t look back, but look back to the future.