Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Recap: "Back to the Future" Part 2: Thunderstruck

So, when I made that "Twin Pines" joke in Part 1, a thought struck me.

Has anyone else noticed this?

I can't be the only person who's had this thought.
If the reference was intentional, then kudos to Alex Hirsch. Very subtle.

More subtle than the titular characters of Rick and Morty, at any rate.
And so, Marty McFly, accidental time traveler, rushes into the nearby diner, where the owner, Lou, asks him if he jumped ship.

Marty: "What?"
Lou: "What's with the life preserver?"

But Marty's not in the mood to debate the finer points of 1985 fashion, he just wants to borrow the phone. Leafing through the white pages, he quickly finds the listing for Dr. Emmett Brown.

Marty: "Great, you're alive."

Uh, no durr he's alive, Marty. Not only does he have thirty years before he's shot by Libyans, but he told that story about how he was falling off his toilet in '55.

Speaking of the number five, Doc's number is Klondike 54385. Which, translated from the old-style phone number, means 555-4385. So it's a period-accurate fake phone number.

No one answers when Marty calls the number, so he tries to ask for directions. "Tries" being the operative word. See, Lou's not too happy about this young sailor who just waltzed in, ripped a page out of his phone book (Seriously, Marty, what the heck?), and is now trying to leave without ordering anything. So Marty decides that he should probably at least get something to drink.

Marty: "Gimme- gimme a Tab."
Lou: "A tab? I can't give you a tab unless you order something."
Marty: "A'right, gimme a Pepsi Free."
Lou: "You want a Pepsi, pal, you're gonna pay for it."

Heh. You know what's funny? These days, kids Marty's age are probably as clueless as Lou is about the drinks Marty's ordering. You can still find Tab if you look for it, but Pepsi Free is about as widespread as Crystal Pepsi these days.

Anyway, Marty orders the only drink Lou has with no sugar. Coffee. But before he can drink it....

Voice: "Hey, McFly!"

It's Biff Tannen. But he's not talking to Marty, he's talking to the teenager sitting at the counter to him. George McFly.

Biff: "You got my homework finished, McFly?"
George: "Uh, well, actually, I figured since it wasn't due until Monday-"
Biff: "Hello! Hello! Anybody home? Huh? Think, McFly, think. I gotta have time to recopy. Do you realize what would happen if I hand in my homework in your handwriting?"

Whoa, deja vu.

Marty, watching all this go down, gets the classic Biff greeting.

Biff: "What're you lookin' at, butthead?"

Personally, I'm looking at Billy Zane in his first film role. Black jacket.
Biff and his gang leave, and Marty is simply left to stare dumbfounded at George.

Yeah, Crispin Glover usually elicits that reaction.
As George starts to wonder exactly why this young sailor is staring at him, Goldie Wilson, the African-American busboy, comes over to begin a little speech about determination and sticking up for yourself.

Goldie: "I'm gonna make something of myself; I'm going to night school and one day I'm gonna be somebody!"
Marty: "That's right, he's gonna be mayor!"

Goldie likes the sound of that, though Lou's not impressed.

Lou: "A colored mayor, that'll be the day."

Actually, California's first black mayor was Edward Duplex of Wheatland, who was elected in 1888.

While Goldie distracted Marty, George done run off, so Marty chases after him on foot. Eventually, he follows George to the suburbs where he sits up a tree with a pair of binoculars. But the bird he's watching isn't the feathered kind, if you catch my drift.

Marty: "He's a peeping tom!"

Eeeeewwwww. The inherent creepiness of secret voyeurism aside, that's got to be like finding your dad's porn stash. The worst I ever had to put up with was seeing old photos of my dad with a porn 'stache. Which, to be fair, was the only thing he was allowed to grow on his face in the Air Force.

But George's secret peep show is cut short when he loses his balance and falls out of the tree into incoming traffic. Marty manages to push him out of harm's way, but gets hit by a car for his troubles. As George runs off, the driver yells to his wife to help get this young man in the house.

Sometime later, Marty wakes up in the dark and hears his mom's voice.

Marty: "I had a horrible nightmare. Dreamed I went back in time."

But Marty is informed that it's the same year it's been for the past ten months or so. Good old 1955.

Marty: "1955?!"

Bolting upright and turning on the light, he comes face to face with his mother, Lorraine. Only, she's not his mom yet.

Marty: "Yeah, but you're hoooahhhhh... You're so ho- You're so... thin!"

Freud would have a field day with this movie.
She introduces herself and tells "Calvin" that her he's still got a bruise. But Marty's a little preoccupied with the location of his pants. They're not where he left them. On his legs.

Lorraine: "Over there... on my hope chest. ...I've never seen purple underwear before, Calvin."

Okay, wait. I get why she removed his vest and outer shirt, but why the heck did she take his pants off? There are only two options.
  1. There's some kind of weird folksy remedy at work. You know, "Feed a cold, starve a fever, remove pants in case of concussion."
  2. The usual reason anybody would want Lea Thompson removing their pants. Yowza.
So her masterplan was to hope that this beautiful young man woke up, noticed his pants were missing, and simply shrugged it off and said, "Well, as long as I'm sans pants, lil' missy, how's about you and me canoodle a bit?" Yep. That certainly sounds like the well-thought-out plan of a teenage girl.

But Marty has no interest in doing the nasty in the pasty and just wants to know why she keeps calling him "Calvin." Apparently, she read it on his monogrammed underwear. Calvin Klein. Marty sets her straight with his real name of... Marty, and she moves over to sit next to him.

Lorraine: "That's a big..."

Lorraine, your next word determines this movie's MPAA rating.

Lorraine: "...bruise you have there."

Well chosen.

After Marty leans away so much he falls off the bed, Mr.s Baines shouts up for her daughter. Scrambling to avoid being caught with Marty's pants down, she tosses his jeans at him before she runs off.

Once fully clothed, Marty comes down for dinner, where he is once again mistaken for a sailor by Mrs. Baines. Mr. Baines is fiddling with the TV while Marty is introduced to Lorraine's siblings, including little baby Joey in the playpen.

Marty: "Better get used to these bars, kid."

Lorraine insists that Marty should stay for dinner as Mr. Baines wheels in the TV so they can watch The Honeymooners while they eat. You know, it's funny. Back in the day, people ate special "TV dinners" to sit in the living room when they ate, or put the TV on wheels. I don't know about you, but I literally can't remember the last time I sat in my own dining room to eat dinner. The times, they are a-changin'.

Lorraine: "Do you have a television?"
Marty: "Yeah, y'know, we have... two of 'em."
Milton: "Wow, you must be rich!"
Mrs. Baines: "Oh, honey, he's teasing you; nobody has two television sets."

If I showed these people an iPad, I seriously think their heads would explode.

But Marty recognizes the episode of The Honeymooners that's on. His dad was laughing at it yesterday thirty years from now.

Milton: "What do you mean you've seen this? It's brand new."
Marty: "You know, I saw it on a... rerun."
Milton: "What's a rerun?"

No, the bigger question is how they're watching "The Man from Space" when the episode that should be on is "The Sleepwalker."

Mrs. Baines: "You know, Marty, you look so familiar to me, do I know your mother?"
Marty: "Yeah, I think maybe you do."

Marty ends up spinning a yarn about how his parents are out of town and gets some directions to Doc's house while he's at it.

Marty: "A block past Maple- that's- uh, that's John F. Kennedy drive."
Mr. Baines: "Who the hell is John F. Kennedy?"

Just some Senator from Massachusetts. Don't worry about it.

Lorraine insists that with Marty's parents out of town, he should spend the night with them. In her room. And she grabs his leg. Fun fact: Lorraine's attraction to her unknown future son is what caused Disney to pass on the project. Meanwhile, other studios wanted to crank up the raunchiness.

Marty quickly excuses himself and leaves, leaving Lorraine to pine after him from the dinner table.

Mr. Baines: "Lorraine, you ever had a kid who acts that way, I'll disown you."

Welp, Lorraine's getting disowned.

Eventually, Marty finds himself at Doc's luxurious house and finds the man himself, wearing a weird hat. It's an alleged mind-reading helmet, and he's decided that this strange boy who just knocked on his door randomly is the perfect test subject.

Didn't the Riddler invent this in Batman Forever?
Doc Brown: "Let's see now, you've come here from a great distance?"


Doc Brown: "You want me to buy a subscription to the Saturday Evening Post?"

False, but Marty did get the date from a newspaper and has a Saturday night on his mind....

Doc Brown: "You want me to make a donation to the Coast Guard Youth Auxiliary?"

Well, false, but there was a lady in '85 who pestered Marty for a donation. And he did claim to be a member of the coast guard at Lorraine's house....

Marty: "Doc. I'm from the future.I came here in a time machine that you invented. Now, I need your help to get back to the year 1985."
Doc Brown: "My God. Do you know what this means? It means that this damn thing doesn't work at all!"

Well.... that might not be entirely true. Doc might not want to give up on that device; I'm sure that somebody who can make good use of it will come along.

Like this young man, for instance.
Doc ignores Marty's protestations, even when he whips out a driver's license and a photo of him and his family where his sister's wearing a Class of '84 shirt.

Doc Brown: "Pretty mediocre photographic fakery; they cut off your brother's hair."

Yes, because to fake writing on somebody's shirt, you need to add another person into the photo.
Wait, what?
Doc Brown: "Then tell me, Future Boy. Who's President of the United States in 1985?"
"Ronald Reagan."
Doc Brown: "Ronald Reagan? The actor?"

Man, makes you wonder how Doc would react to the Governator. Also, the actual Ronald Reagan liked that bit so much they he had the projectionist play it again.

Doc Brown: "Then who's Vice President, Jerry Lewis?"

Doc runs off and locks himself in his garage to get away from this prankster, leaving Marty to recount the story of how Doc fell off his toilet and drew the Flux Capacitor. And that gets Doc's attention. So much so that he agrees to follow Marty to where he hid the DeLorean. And seeing the Flux Capacitor inside the car seals the deal.

After sneaking the car back to Doc's house, Marty hooks up his camcorder to Doc's TV.

Doc Brown: "Look at me! I'm an old man!"

You say with that head full of white hair. You know, Christopher Lloyd was 18 in 1955. How the heck old is Doc supposed to be, anyway?

But you can bet your butt that Doc's impressed by the idea of a miniaturized TV studio.

Doc Brown: "No wonder your President has to be an actor, he's got to look good on television."

Marty fast-forwards to the part where 85-Doc explains about the nuclear reaction, sending 55-Doc into a bit of a tizzy.

Doc Brown: "One point twenty-one jigowatts!? One point twenty-one jigowatts.... Great Scott!"
Marty: "Wait, what the hell is a 'jigowatt'?"

So let's talk about the infamous "jigowatt" pronunciation of "gigawatt."

It's a perfectly valid, if outdated, pronunciation. Not only that, but the two Bobs met with a scientific advisor before production who pronounced the word that way and they liked how it sounded. So they wrote it into the script, misspelling the word as "jigowatt."

Anyway, Doc heads back inside and laments to his framed portrait of Thomas Edison about the situation. He simply can't generate the power. Maybe if he had some plutonium, but it's 1955. The only Americans who have plutonium are trying to figure out how to kill the damn Commies with it.

Doc Brown: "Marty, I'm sorry, but the only power source capable of generating 1.21 jigowatts of electricity is a bolt of lightning!"

What a coincidence, Marty has a piece of paper in his pocket that talks about the exact date and time a bolt of lightning will hit the Hill Valley clocktower. 10:04 PM. Next Saturday.

The Plan
Channel the lightning into the time circuits. Hmmm... putting that much energy into a 1955 power cable might be a bit much. Hopefully, Doc knows a thing or two about capacitors.

Oh, wait, he does.
Marty can't leave his house, lest he damage the time stream.

Marty took his dad's place in the incident that made his parents fall in love.

Marty's siblings are slowly disappearing from that photograph. And soon enough, Marty will disappear from existence.

Doc and Marty arrive at Hill Valley High School the next day to try and fix the problem.

Marty: "This sounds pretty heavy."
Doc Brown: "Weight has nothing to do with it."

They quickly spot George McFly on the receiving end of a "Kick Me" sign.

Doc Brown: "Maybe you were adopted."

Strickland walks up to the bullied youth and yells at him for being a slacker. I think he's just upset over Superboy ruining that experiment and making him bald. Doc rightly asks why the heck Lorraine ever fell for this dork, so Marty tells the tale of how she nursed him back to health after her dad hit him with the car. Doc recognizes this as the "Florence Nightingale effect," where nurses fall in love with their patients, and tells Marty to go fix the issue. Marty attempts to introduce George to Lorraine, but she's much more interested in Marty.

Her hands are all over his forehead like Peggy Carter on Captain America's abs.
And when the class bell rings, Marty is left in the hall with Doc, having accomplished nothing. And Doc fears the worst.

Marty: "Are you trying to tell me that my mother... has got the hots for me?"
Doc Brown: "Precisely!"
Marty: "Whoa, this is heavy...."
Doc Brown: "There's that word again. 'Heavy.' Why are things so heavy in the future, is there a problem with the Earth's gravitational pull?"
Marty: "What?"
Doc Brown: "The only way to get those two to successfully mate is if they're alone together."

What are they, pandas? Also, Doc, your preoccupation with them "mating" is skipping a couples steps. See, first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in the baby carriage.

Marty realizes that his parents need to be on some kind of date.

Marty: "I don't know, what do kids do in the 50's?"

Good question. Every single thing that teenagers do today didn't exist back then. Playing video games, Facebook, smoking bath salts, texting, sexting, planking, reading review blogs....

Luckily, the big "Enchantment Under the Sea" dance is coming up, so the new plan is simple: Get George to take Lorraine to the dance. Marty meets up with ol' George in the lunchroom and finds him writing science fiction stories in his notebook.

Marty: "Get outta town, I didn't know you did anything creative."

Well, he's got no friends and no life. So what else is there to do but write sci-fi? Um... not that.. um... I would know anything about filling the void in my soul by writing science fiction.

Pay no attention to those notes and drawings on my desk.
Actually, it makes sense that George would be writing his own science fiction. With Star Trek about a decade away, there's no such thing as "fan fiction" yet, so people were forced to fill in that aforementioned void with their own worlds and stories.

Also, pay no attention to that Ultimate Spider-Man fan fiction on my other desk.
Marty wants to read some, but George really doesn't want him to. Or anyone else.

George: "Well, what if they didn't like them? What if they told me I was no good?"

Well, then they won't be publishing your science fiction. Which would also be the case if you keep it to yourself. Honestly, you have nothing to lose by going full steam ahead with your work. I mean, look at me. Blip rejected my show application a few years back, so I started the NewtCave as a text-based site anyway. And I've amassed at least... off the top of my head, six, maybe seven readers since then? Let's see, there's Yusei, Azkaban Prisoner, Michale Barney, That One Anon, cassius 335, Enda McNabola.... Hey, Shanethefilmmaker, do you still read my blog? I can't tell; you haven't commented in a while.

Anyway, Marty tells George that Lorraine wants him to ask her to the dance, but George is not only worried about her saying "no," he thinks she'd rather go with Biff. At this very moment, Biff is getting way too far inside her personal space. When she slaps him for being a loudmouthed jerk, Marty comes over to defend her honor. And suddenly realizes how big Biff's muscles are. Luckily, Strickland's there to ensure that Marty doesn't get pummeled, so Biff lets him off with a warning.

Biff: "So why don't you make like a tree... and get outta here?"

Heh. That and all the various "butthead"s were ad-libs. Gotta love Thomas F. Wilson.

After school, Marty follows George home and insists that he should ask Lorraine out. But George protests that if he goes to the dance, he'll miss his favorite TV show, Science Fiction Threatre! Truth be told, I have a similar problem. But I solve it by TiVo-ing Doctor Who while I visit my girlfriend on Saturdays. I'm pretty sure that George doesn't have that same luxury.

And a little fun fact about Science Fiction Theatre; it was a real show starring Michael Fox, aka "The Reason Why Michael J. Fox Uses His Middle Initial."

George: "Look. I'm just not ready to ask Lorraine out to the dance. And not you nor anybody else on this planet is gonna make me change my mind."

Which gives Marty an idea. That night, as George sleeps, Marty sneaks into his room and puts headphones on George's ears before blaring some Van Halen riffs from his Walkman directly into George's eardrums. And when George convulses awake, he's greeted by Marty in the radiation suit.

Look out! he's got a hairdryer!
Marty: "Silence, Earthling! My name is Darth Vader. I am an extra-terrestrial from the planet Vulcan!"

Man, George is due for a weird blast from the past about every decade. In the 60's, there'll be a TV show featuring a "Planet Vulcan." In the 70's, there'll be a few films with a "Darth Vader" in them. And in the 80's, he's going to have a son that looks remarkably like that "Calvin Klein" guy he and Lorraine knew in high school. But at the moment, it's the next day in 1985. George McFly missed school by sleeping in all day (due to some chloroform that was cut out of the movie) and finds Marty to see if he can get some help asking Lorraine out.
Marty: "Okay, keep your pants on, she's over in the cafe."

Well, if he's meeting Lorraine, then keeping his pants on is going to be a problem. She tends to remove those.

Marty: "Listen, what made you change your mind, George?"
George: "Last night, Darth Vader came down from planet Vulcan and told me that if I didn't take Lorraine out that he'd melt my brain."

Sounds reasonable.

Marty tries to tell him to act natural and go talk to her, but he can't think of a thing to say.

Marty: "Jesus, George, it's a wonder I was even born."

Marty tells him to go in and say some BS about destiny. But before he can do that, George needs a drink to loosen himself up.

George: "Lou! Gimme a milk. Chocolate!"

He manages to make actual words sprout from his lips when he talks to Lorraine, but I'm pretty sure George has some form of dyslexia because he starts babbling about density. And to make matters worse, Biff comes in to tell George to get out. Trying to fix the problem, Marty decides to trip Biff. It does not go well, to say the least. But before Biff can even threaten Marty, he tricks Biff with the ol' "What's that behind you?" gag and decks him before running off. Once outside, he borrows a kid's homemade scooter, breaks the bottom off, and uses it as a skateboard to escape.

Biff and the gang give chase in Biff's car, but a short chase scene ends with Marty getting away while Biff crashes into a manure truck, getting said manure all over himself and his beloved car.

Man, I feel sorry for the guy in back.
Lorraine, having watched the whole thing, is no doubt experiencing levels of teenage arousal heretofore undiscovered by science. And she vows to find out exactly where Marty lives.

Marty soon arrives back at Doc's house, where Doc is going over the tape again. Specifically, the part where the Libyans catch up to him and Marty. Marty tries to explain, but Doc absolutely refuses. After all, if he knows too much about his own future, then there's a danger of a paradox. Just like the one Marty accidentally created for himself.  Doc then changes the subject by bringing Marty over to an incredibly detailed monochrome replica of Hill Valley.

Doc Brown: "Please excuse the crudity of this model; I didn't have time to build it to scale or to paint it."

Oh. So you only had twelve hours instead of thirteen?
Doc... are you on something? I mean, that's a pretty intricate model you've made. Certain... shall we say, "pharmaceuticals" would explain how you made it so quickly.

And it wouldn't be the first time Christopher Lloyd played a drugged-out weirdo.
The plan is simple: Run a cable from the clocktower to the power lines, hook up a hook to the DeLorean that feeds into the Flux Capacitor, and be passing under the line at 88 mph exactly as the lighting strikes.  And in the small scale test, it works. In theory. The model car actually bursts into flame when it come into contact with the power lines, but they had their timing down, at least.

Also, this face.
As Doc puts out the oily rags that have just caught fire, he asks how things are going on the other front. And the answer knocks on the door. It's Lorraine. She followed Marty here. Marty introduces Lorraine to his "Uncle Doc," and we get to one of my favorite facts about this movie. Christopher Lloyd and Lea Thompson have been in five films and a made-for-TV-movie together. This is their only exchange of dialogue.

Lorriane: "Hi."
Doc Brown: "Hi."

No, seriously, that's it.

Lorraine, having fallen in love with Marty, asks him to the Enchantment Under the Sea dance.

Sorry, wait, I forgot, this is 1955. She asks Marty to ask her to the dance. Actually, this isn't too far off from what things are like now.

So, I've mentioned this before, but my dad's a high school teacher. Over the past few years, he's noticed a trend. See, when I was in school, girls would ask guys to the dance because there's nothing wrong with that. But from what he says, these days, girls ask guys to ask them to the dance. But more than that, it has to be an epically romantic gesture. Otherwise they say "no."

Seriously, he told me a buttload of stories, including one poor soul who asked his girlfriend to the Prom only to have her say "no" because all he did was ask her. She basically demanded that he do something YouTube-worthy to ask her out. And if the high school in my town is any indication, this is apparently a regular occurrence? You dang kids these days. I'm not even 25 yet, stop making me feel old with your newfangled courting rituals!

You. Dang. Young people.
Anyway, Marty tries to hint that maybe LORRAINE SHOULD GO WITH GEORGE, but she counters with a speech about how she prefers a strong man who doesn't back down. Making matters worse is that Lorraine is hitting him with the sexy voice and the bedroom eyes. Hell, even Doc looks convinced.

"I'm not saying you should totally tap that, Marty. But I'm thinking it real loud. Hell, I might even make a move myself."
"What? I'm as human as the next man."
"Doc, can we go back to the part where we keep me from being the next man?"
Sometime later, Marty is back at George's house, trying to convince him to go to the dance with Lorraine. There's a bit of a snag, though, seeing as how Marty agreed to go with her.

Lea Thompson. In her prime. Whatever she asks, you say yes.
Marty makes up a story about how she "really" wants to go with George but is just too shy to tell him. Luckily, Marty has come up with a scenario. He'll be in the car with Lorraine, about to do something rather... ungentlemanly, shall we say. So when Lorraine starts yelling at Marty, that's George's cue to rip open the car door, tell Marty to get his damn hands off her, and Lorraine enjoys the rest of her night with George McFly. Easy-peasy.

George: "You really think I ought to swear?"
Marty: "Yes, George, dammit, swear."

George is really nervous about the whole ordeal, so Marty passes on some sage advice.

Marty: "You know, if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything."

Especially if you have one of these.
Coming up in Part 3! Love, lightning, and 'lectric gutars!


  1. Yay, recognition! Also, just sayin' if you ever do publish any fan fiction, I'll be first in line to read it.

    ... That didn't sound sycophantic at all.

    - That One Anon

    1. Didn't I say not to pay attention to those notes?

      ...but thanks.