Friday, January 14, 2011

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butterfly Effect

Yesterday, I reviewed BttF Part 1, and today, I continue the trilogy....

Back To The Future, Part 2

Coming 4 years after part 1 (these being the days when a sequel wasn’t pumped out once a year except when planned that way) and filmed back to back with the final part of the series, BttF2 picks up immediately where part one left off. Almost, as the final scene of part one has been reshot to reflect the casting change of Marty’s girlfriend, Jennifer (Claudia Wells had left acting for personal reasons by the time this was being filmed, and was replaced by Elizabeth Shue).

At Doc’s behest, the couple come with him to the far off time of 2015 to drop some knowledge on their kids. Through a comedy of errors, Biff ends up stealing a sports almanac and the Delorean, heading back to 1955 with both and using the almanac to alter time in his favour, thus screwing with the 1985 that Marty knows and loves, putting Biff in charge of a typical lawless society. It’s up to Marty to travel back to 1955 to retrieve the almanac.

I’ll be honest right from the get go – I have always thought part two was far and away the weakest and most boring part of the Back To The Future trilogy. Sure, it’s a decent enough film, but pressed between the first and third, it’s full of cheese and is surprisingly dull. Particularly in the future, as once you get past the “lol, current things are continuing in the future” sight gag, you are left with the same cheesy view of what the future will be like as we have had in film and TV for decade – stupid clothes, robot shoes, flying cars all over the place, even more pointless TV channels and ridiculous ideas of misplaced nostalgia. Nowhere is this more driven home harder than in the Cafe 80s scene, in which Marty finds himself in an 80s themed diner so ridiculous that every other theme restaurant rolls its eyes – the waiters are modelled after various 80s luminaries, but they’re weird fucked up Max Headroom versions, because that’s how the 80s were. Including a Ronnie Reagan who gets interrupted by an Ayatollah Khomeini – WSD!

It’s stuff like that that really, really dates a film – even if the references are being used in a nostalgia-fuelled way, you pile too many on, and it just comes off as “Hey! People will remember all things that you do in the future”, and just ends up making the whole effort look as dated as giant shoulderpads and Dallas. I know that the film was made two decades ago, but the closer that we get to 2015, with no real chance of the technology shown being used remotely as portrayed in the film, it just gives an extra eyeroll and makes one think, “what the hell were they thinking, really?”

The worst part of the future segment, though, is the insistence that the cast play their future versions, which leads to a bunch of stupid split screen tomfoolery (which I have never been a fan of, even in the rare times it’s pulled off somewhat well – I will admit that, for the most part, it is handled well here, but it is still needlessly cornball). And the fact that the future McFly family at home scene takes up such a large chunk of the film (and just plays like one of those The House Of Tomorrow shorts that Disney pumped out in the 50s) just grinds everything to such a screaming halt that no matter how hard the film tries, it can’t get out of the stall it’s in.

Once the almanac storyline comes into play, the film starts to move like it’s in molasses. It tries to get something of a plot happening, but it’s a really slow and dull chases scene that aims to put right what once went wrong, hoping that each leap would be the lea.....wait, no – that’s a different time traveller.

It’s not all bad news, though – the hoverboard chase in the 2015 segment is pretty boss and Michael J Fox is his usual likeable self, which can cover for some cheese, alas not nearly all of it. The effects are also pretty good for the time – as I said, the split screen effects, cheesy though they are, are well done, with next to no stitch-lines being seen (it’s not 100%, but it’s better than most). I do like the fact that the concept of time travel is actually explored with what looks like some degree of scientific accuracy, at least according to Carl Sagan (and I will not second guess him on science).

When all is said and done, part two tried to do too much, and ended up tripping over itself and dating itself. Between the future of 2015, alternate 1985 and a return to 1955, the film both fills itself with too much while simultaneously not doing enough with what it does have and ends up relying on a story that can’t really hold itself up.

It’s really not a bad premise, if you think about it, and one that I feel could have worked as its own entity – however, as I stated, being situated between parts one and three just serve to highlight what doesn’t work about it. Back To The Future Part 2 holds up as part of the overall trilogy, but not as a film in its own right.

Join me tomorrow for the conclusion of Does Back To The Future Hold Up, when I cast an eye over Back To The Future Part 3.


  1. I'll be honest, you give this film a lot more credit than I did. I don't even watch this one, I hated it that much. I like the first, I love the third, but this one I won't even watch it when it's a Back to the Future marathon.

    Also, what do you think about Crispin Glover? Would it have been worth it deal with him being such a diva to keep him through the series, or was he forgettable anyway?

  2. I liked him well enough as George, but given the fact that the character was basically a non-entity in 2 and 3 (no doubt because of Glover throwing a hissyfit), I didn't miss him. And, honestly, can't really see how he would have had too much of an impact in the stories anyway.

    I do like the guy as an actor, and everything I've seen him in, he's had a sort of creepy charm to him. But ehh, I doubt anyone in the history of the world has said "man, I canNOT wait to see the new Crispin Glover movie."