Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Recap: "Back to the Future Part II" Part 1: Future Imperfect

Sequels are tricky. You have to figure out which parts from the first film worked and which didn't. Then you have to put the magic pieces together again while also trying to make something new and different. Otherwise people complain that it's too much like the first one.

So. Back to the Future Part II.

Are we looking at a true companion to the original story, as in The Godfather Part II?

Or a rehash along the lines of Ghostbusters 2?

Let's find out.

One thing I think we can all agree on, though. Thank God this wasn't direct-to-video.
Part II opens up by replaying the final scene of the first film.

Saturday, October 26, 1985.

Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) opens up his garage to discover that his time traveling has changed the present, giving him an awesome Toyota.

Jennifer: "How 'bout a ride, mister?"

But that's not all that's changed.

Yep, Jennifer is now played by Elizabeth Shue. A lot of fans (including myself) believe that this simply means that we're watching the film out of order.

Let me explain.

Marty McFly's life sucks at the beginning of the first film. He goes back in time and accidentally changes things. When Marty comes back, his life is better. Jennifer is still Claudia Wells.

But after the events of this movie, where Marty goes back to the past and changes more things, he alters events and gives his girlfriend a different face. So what we're seeing now is the Jennifer that comes along after the events in the past that haven't happened yet.

The ultimate explanation.
Doctor Who, I can't thank you enough for giving me an easy way to sum up tricky time-travel.
Anyway, things go as they did originally. They almost kiss, then Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) shows up, roots around their trash to find fuel for the Mr. Fusion on the back of the DeLorean, and Marty asks why Doc wants them to go to the future.

Marty: "What happens to us in the future? What, do we become assholes or something?"

In the original ending, Doc responded to that line by brushing it off and immediately insisting that the problem was with Marty's dang millenial kids. But in the reshot scene, Doc looks a bit troubled by that line. Almost as if he knows something....

"Look, Marty, I don't want to go into too much detail regarding your future...
Let's just say you invest a lot of money into HD-DVDs."
Doc Brown: "It's your kids, Marty! Something's gotta be done about your kids."

They all pile in, Doc insists that they don't need roads, and they take off. But this time, we see what was going on off camera as the DeLorean flew away. Namely, Biff running outside to see the DeLorean flying.

Biff: "What the hell is going on here...?"

After the opening credits, the DeLorean arrives in the wrong lane of the skies. See, now that they're in the future, there's flying cars. Obviously. Marty asks exactly when and where they are, and Doc points out the reading on the dashboard.

Doc Brown: "We're descending toward Hill Valley, California... at 4:29 PM on Wednesday, October 21st, 2015!"
Marty: "2015!?"

Yes, 2015. And as of this post, tomorrow.

Marty McFly. Is arriving. Tomorrow.

Marty: "You mean we're in the future?"

For one more day, technically yes. And you can bet your rear end that I'm excited to make every 2015 joke I can possibly think of.

Jennifer is confused, having missed the memo regarding the DeLorean and the events of the previous movie. She takes it well, though. Better than well. She's quickly gets excited about seeing her future and starts asking questions, so Doc hits her with some science thing that makes her sleep.

Marty: "Then what did you bring her for?"

Because the ending of the first one was written without the knowledge that they'd be doing a sequel. The filmmakers outright admitted that otherwise, they wouldn't have brought Jennifer along. And so, left with a character they didn't know what to do with, they had Doc panic over potential paradoxes and knock her out.

The DeLorean lands in a back alley in the pouring rain. And then, right on schedule, the rain stops.

Doc Brown: "Too bad the post office isn't as efficient as the weather service!"

What are you talking about, Doc? They deliver packages on Sunday now. Haven't you seen the commercials?

Well, maybe he hasn't. As he rips off his face, he explains what he did do in 2015. Namely, he went to a rejuvenation clinic.

Doc Brown: "They took out some wrinkles, did a hair repair, changed the blood, added a good thirty or forty years to my life. They also replaced my spleen and colon."

See, in the first film, Christopher Lloyd wore some subtle old-age prosthetics as 1985 Doc Brown to make him look older in those scenes. But it was decided that putting Lloyd in old-age makeup for the majority of  two films was a bit of a hassle, so they had Doc get rejuvenated. And he wore a mask of his own face to ensure that Marty would still recognize him.

Is anyone else expecting to see a murderous cartoon character underneath that mask?
Marty starts getting enticed by the idea of what the future has to offer, but Doc gets him back on track.

Doc Brown: "Marty, please, take off your shirt."

Oh, come on, Doc. First Lorraine, now you?

Doc outfits Marty with some 2015 clothes as he runs off to keep tabs on a kid who looks oddly like Michael J. Fox. Marty puts on his self-lacing sneakers and an oversized coat as Doc returns. Marty complains that the coat doesn't fit, so Doc hits the button that activates the automatic resizing.

Doc Brown: "Pull out your pants pockets. All kids in the future wear their pants inside out."

I know, right? Dang ol' kids these days. Back in my day, kids wore their pants six inches too low and liked it. And when Doc adds an awesome color-changing hat, the ensemble is complete.

Doc Brown: "You're the spitting image of your future son."

They deposit Jennifer's body into the alleyway for reasons near some old laserdiscs and CDs somebody's throwing out. About time, too. Mp3 and Blu-Rays, man. Get with it!

Once that's done, Doc explains the plan. Marty is to head into the Cafe 80's, pretending to be his own son. I can only see this ending well, due to Marty's extensive knowledge of his son's mannerisms and the culture of the year 2015.

Couldn't be simpler.
When approached by some guy named "Griff," Marty is supposed to decline Griff's proposal. Otherwise, according to Doc's copy of tomorrow's USA Today (October 22nd, which is Christopher Lloyd's birthday, BT-dubs), Marty, Jr.'s going to end up behind bars. Though I wouldn't trust a paper that says that refers to Barack Obama as "she" and refers to a "Queen Diana," obviously assuming that Queen Elizabeth would have passed on by now. As well as assuming... you know.

Um... let's move on.
The paper says that within two hours of his arrest, Marty, Jr. got fifteen years.

Doc Brown: "The justice system works swiftly in the future now that they've abolished all lawyers."

Wait, so they just arrest you, ignore "innocent until proven guilty," and stick you in the slammer? Sounds about right for 2015.

And to make matters worse, next week, his daughter will get caught trying to break her brother out and get 20 years herself. One small event will tear his family apart.

Doc's alarm goes off, so he reiterates the plan and runs off to hold up the real Marty, Jr. while Marty heads to the Cafe 80's. And so, Marty McFly gets to see the world as it is in 2015. Cars from other sci-fi movies like Blade Runner and The Last Starfighter abound. Payphones that nobody's using, the courthouse made into a mall, and what seems to be the voice of Stephen Hawking shilling for Texaco over a loudspeaker. Which is doubly surprising, since Texaco doesn't actually technically exist anymore.

"Hey, the gig paid well."
And yes, I checked the scene to see if I could find the price of gas written anywhere. Nothing.

But then Marty gets quite literally attacked by a 3-D movie as a holographic shark advertising Jaws 19 tries to take a bite out of him. Marty freaks out, but like all CGI characters, the shark isn't really there.

Marty: "Shark still looks fake."

Oh, come on, Marty. It's marginally more realistic than the wildlife of Avatar.
On the other side of the street, the image of Goldie Wilson the Third is shilling for hover-converted cars for only $39,999.95. Man, inflation's rough. But an antique shop catches Marty's eye with it's 1980's memorabilia. And a sports almanac with every sports result from 1950 to 2000....

"'Original Star Wars trilogy'? They made more? I bet they're good."
But enough looking around in shop windows, Marty enters the Cafe 80's, where "Beat It" plays in the background. The place is fairly empty, which makes sense when you consider that the 80's nostalgia craze has now been replaced with the 90's nostalgia craze. I'll bet that there's a Cafe somewhere with old Nicktoons characters and Bill Clinton plastered all over the walls getting far more business.

The cafe is also equipped with built-in stationary bikes so you can exercise as you eat, as well as an old Pac-Man machine labeled as a "priceless artifact." The waiters themselves are CGI 80's celebrities in TVs, each with a Max Headroom stutter for extra 80's-ness.

"Reagan": "Our special today is mesquite-grilled sushi."

Of course, Ayatollah Khoimeni butts in to offer the Hostage Special instead, referencing the Iran Hostage Crisis.  ....Boy, that's some edgy humor for a simple diner.

When Marty insists that all he wants is a Pepsi, he gets a bottle of Pepsi Perfect, which is very impressive, considering that Pepsi Perfect is a limited edition run of 6,500. The cafe also offers Original, Diet, and Pepsi Max. Which also became a real thing, but nobody seems to care.

Voice: "Hey, McFly!"

The familiar voice comes from Old Man Biff Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson) in the corner. Old Man Biff mistakes Marty for his own son, telling him that it must be rough being named after a complete butthead, going on to call Marty McFly, Sr. a Loser with a capital L.

Old Man Biff: "The man who took his life and flushed it completely down the toilet?"

Before Biff can elaborate, his identical grandson, Griff, comes in and yells at his grandpa for only putting a single coat of wax on his car.

Old Man Biff: "Hey, kid. Say hello to your Grandma for me."

Oh, yeah, the woman you tried to force yourself on back in high school?
I'm sure that'll go down well.
Over in the corner, Elijah Wood and some kid just got an old Wild Gunmen arcade cabinet (which must be a custom job, since Wild Gunmen was never released in cabinet form) working.

Elijah's looking a little... little. They must be filming a new Lord of the Rings movie.
The two can't figure out how to work the machine, so Marty comes over and shows off his 1337 game skillz.

I'm sure this isn't foreshadowing anything....
Elijah Wood: "You use your hands?"
Kid: "That's like a baby's toy."

Look, some people didn't have the luxury of growing up with the X-Box Kinect, okay?

And this is probably what they know Wild Gunmen from in the first place. Dang kids.
But alas, Doc seems to have been unsuccessful, because Marty, Jr. comes in and orders a Pepsi Perfect, making Marty hide when Griff re-enters to yell at him. And then punch him.

Once Griff brings up tonight's "opportunity," Marty, Jr. starts chickening out. Even though this is good, Marty's a bit taken aback at how much of a wimp his son is. Griff hurls Marty, Jr. over the counter to where Marty's hiding. Marty, Jr. deliriously agrees to Griff's deal, so Marty decides to step in for his son.

Refusing to let his son join a gang? Isn't that just like a parent?
Marty: "The answer's no, Griff."

Griff doesn't take it well and reacts like... well, no sane person would.

Griff Tannen is just a weird guy. Doc made a comment that he's not alright in his cyborg brain, but everything about him is just not quite right, from his odd vocal inflections to the weirdly-contorted faces he makes that seem oddly familiar....

But that hasn't stopped Griff from following his dreams and becoming an internet "reviewer"/paranormal "expert."
As Marty walks away, Griff pushes the right button.

Marty: "What's wrong McFly? Chicken?"

Marty's berserk button. The one he didn't have in the first movie.

You know how Marty's entire family changed after the events of the first film? There's a theory that after Marty nearly disappeared from time, he came back... different. All his old memories were intact, but being raised differently by a more assertive George McFly left him more susceptible to being egged on this way.

Griff whips out a bat to attack Marty with, but Marty ducks at the last second, embedding the bat in one of the TV waiters. Griff responds by activating his cybernetics, which let him catch a punch to the face after Marty tries his "What's that?" tactic again. So Marty simply kicks him in his robo-junk and runs off. Outside, he finds a girl on a hoverboard, breaks off the stand, and uses it to make a getaway.

I said you had three months, Mattel! What have you been doing all this time?
Initially, Robert Zemeckis claimed that hoverboards were real, but parent groups had been holding them back due to safety concerns. Which meant that Mattel were getting a lot of calls from people wanting one.

Griff and his goons chase after him on their own boards. After a familiar chase scene....

Old Man Biff: "Something very familiar about all this...."

Marty ends up suck floating over a decorative pond. Turns out that hoverboards don't work over water. Unless you've got jet engines strapped to one, but who would own something like that?

Uh oh.
Luckily, Marty manages to splash his way to the surface and Griff's gang end up overshooting and crashing into the Hill Valley Courthouse Mall in a shot that nearly killed one of the stuntwomen involved after she hit a column instead of the glass.

Biff: "Buttheads."

After Marty's jacket dries itself off, an old man named Terry asks him for a donation to save the clock tower. But suddenly, a large TV behind them announces that the Cubs won the World Series against Miami. Which is certainly impressive, since the 2015 World Series has its first game six days after this scene.

And actually, this whole bit was a joke. Miami didn't have a team at the time. You know what else was a joke? Favoring the Cubs for the World Series.

Ain't that spooky.
Either way, looks like the Toronto Blue Jays will have to wait another year to show me once again that America doesn't always win the World Series. And Miami couldn't have played against the Cubs, since they're both National League teams. See? I know some things about Sportball.

Terry wishes that he could go back to the beginning of the season and put a bit of money on the Cubs, which gives Marty a bit of an idea. Soon enough, he's in the antique shop buying the almanac.

Store Lady: "Now this has an interesting feature. It has a 'dust jacket.' Books used to have these to protect the covers."

And then Kindles came along.

Once out of the store, Doc comes by in the DeLorean, triggering some memories in a passing-by Biff.

Biff: "A flying DeLorean? I haven't seen one of those in...."

Before flying cars existed. Something's clearly up. Moreso when the real Marty, Jr. runs into him as he's watching "Marty, Jr." talk to Doc in the car. Marty, Jr. also runs into traffic.

Marty, Jr.: "Don't drive trank!"

Good advice.

Marty pets Einstein, whom Doc left in suspended animation for a bit, and they catch up. As Biff watches, Doc's aghast at the whole situation. Until he checks the paper and sees that everything will work out for the best.

Biff and his gang are getting an unreasonably long jail sentence with no legal representation. ...Yay?
Marty grabs his new hoverboard and almanac as they prepare to get Jennifer, but the almanac drops out. When Doc picks it up and realizes what it is, he goes berserk.

Doc Brown: "I didn't invent the time machine for financial gain!"

Says the man who wanted to check out the next 25 World Series. What happened to “what the hell,” Doc?

Also, why are you okay with the hoverboard, but not the Almanac?

Doc gives a speech about scientific integrity and the ability to watch humanity grow and learn, but it goes right over Marty's head. Doc goes to throw away the almanac, but freaks out again when he sees to cops identifying Jennifer from her thumbprint in the alleyway. And yes, the fact that both officers are female is probably supposed to be a joke. But you know what? I like to think that these two ladies are married. Because that's legal now.

You go, girls.
Since Jennifer's got no illegal drugs in her system and no crimes on record, the officers are going to take her home, which alarms Doc even more because Jennifer might encounter her future self.

Doc Brown: "The consequences of that could be disastrous."
Marty: "Doc, what do you mean?"
Doc Brown: "I foresee two possibilities. One, coming face-to-face with herself thirty years older will put her into shock and she'd simply pass out. Or two, the encounter could create a time paradox, the results of which could cause a chain reaction that would unravel the very fabric of the space-time continuum and destroy the entire universe!"

But of course, he might be exaggerating.

Doc Brown: "The destruction might in fact be very localized, limited to merely our own galaxy."
Marty: "Well, that's a relief."

Doc throws the almanac away and heads off with Marty to follow the cops while Biff recovers the almanac from the garbage.

Biff: "So. Doc Brown invented a time machine."

Coming up in Part 2! Accidents, paradoxes, and contradictions!

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