Back to the Future Part II (1989)


Better to Devote Myself to Study the Other Great Mystery of the Universe: Women!

Because I cannot simply watch one, I follow my previous review with it’s sequel.  I compulsively feel the need to watch Back to the Future at least once per year and, once I have watched the first movie, I cannot keep myself from watching the entire series.  This movie took a pretty big hit critically, jumping down on Rotten Tomatoes from the 97% of Back to the Future to 64% for Part 2.  Have the mighty fallen?  We shall see in my review of Back to the Future Part 2, again written by Bob Gale, again directed by Robert Zemeckis, and starring mostly the same cast of Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Thomas F. Wilson, Lea Thompson, Elisabeth Shue, Joe Flaherty, Jeffrey Weissman, James Tolkan, Flea, Billy Zane, Jason Scott Lee, Darlene Vogel, Elijah Wood, and footage of Crispin Glover.

At the end of the first movie, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) is reunited with his girlfriend, Jennifer (Elisabeth Shue), just in time to have their party crashed by Doctor Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd), having just returned from the future.  The Doc throws Marty and Jennifer into the time-travelling DeLorean, telling them that they have to go Back to the Future to do something about their kids.  The worry, of course, is that Marty and Jennifer’s kids have turned into assholes, but it’s much worse than that.  They travel from October 26th, 1985 to October 21st, 2015.  Jennifer starts asking too many questions, forcing the Doc to knock her out, but he’s nicer than me so he uses a sleep-inducing device instead of the brick I would’ve chosen.  Doc explains to Marty that the grandson of Marty’s nemesis, Biff Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson), a cybernetically-enhanced bully named Griff, gets Marty’s son involved in something that gets Marty Jr. imprisoned for 15 years, which leads to Marlene, Marty’s daughter, trying to break Marty Jr. out of jail, getting her incarcerated.  Marty must pose as his son and say no to Griff, but Marty gets goaded into a fight because Griff calls him a chicken.  Thankfully, Marty uses a hovering skateboard to run away from Griff, causing them to smash into City Hall, getting them arrested and saving Marty Jr.  Marty finds a book called Gray’s Sports Almanac in an antique store and decides he should buy it and use it to make a few bucks.  Doc is not pleased about this, but gets distracted when they see that Jennifer, who they left in an alley, has been found by the police and is getting transported back to the house where she and Marty live in 2015.  Doc and Marty need to go save her because she might see her future self and there’s no telling what that could cause.  They head off to save her, throwing away the almanac as they leave, but it’s picked up by the much older Biff.  As Doc goes to save Jennifer and Marty wanders off, Biff gets into the DeLorean and drives off, reappearing shortly after in a great deal of pain.  Doc gets Jennifer and the three head back to 1985, but things are different now.  Somehow, Biff is now rich and powerful and has turned Hill Valley to haven for gambling and other bad behaviors.  Even worse than that, George McFly (sometimes Jeffrey Weissman and sometimes footage of Crispin Glover) was murdered, Lorraine McFly (Lea Thompson) is now married to Biff, and the Doc Brown of this time was committed to a mental institute.  Marty and the Doc desperately need to figure out what’s gone wrong and fix it, or be doomed to this version of 1985.

I cannot figure out how this movie gets rated lower than the first one.  At least not drastically lower as it has been rated.  I love this movie almost as much as I love the original.  It’s still a fantastic story, it still has lots of action and comedy, but not as much focus on romance for this one, and I could think of a couple of minor logic loopholes.  I also like that this movie gets a lot darker than the previous movie, mainly when we get back to 1985, find out that not only is Lorraine married to the McFly family nemesis, but that George was murdered by Biff.  I liked this dark turn for the series.  It gets us more involved in the story.  I also like how their return to 1955 lets them use the same footage from the first movie, but also shows us different angles of those scenes (like when Marty was playing guitar on stage) and scenes that we never saw in the first movie (like Biff harassing Lorraine after she picked up her dress from the store).  Of course, I thought about a logic loophole that was originally pointed out in the movie itself.  When they go back to 1985, Doc explains that they can’t go into the future to stop Biff from taking the DeLorean because they would be going into the future of this version of 1985.  But if that was the case, once Biff had given the almanac to the younger version of himself then it would have altered the timeline and he’d have been unable to go back to the version of 2015 that Doc and Marty were in.  In the movie’s defense, I have seen the movie many many times and didn’t think about that until this very viewing, so apparently who cares?  Plus, the concept of not being able to go the the proper 2015 from that timeline makes sense and the movie would’ve stopped right there with my idea included.  Another thing I thought about for this one was that they could’ve completely dodged the bullet of having to save Jennifer if Marty had just gone up to the police, let them identify him as her husband, had them make a comment about how young he looks for his age too, and they would’ve left Jennifer with him.  They seemed to forget to explain why Biff was in such pain when he got back from 1955.  He basically died by a dumpster and never really told us why.  I think I remember seeing something about it from deleted scenes, but it was a pretty big oversight on their part.  They do the thing about history repeating itself a couple more times here.  The biggest one was the skateboard chase from the first movie turning into a spectacular hoverboard chase.  The makeup effects are still very good at aging their cast in this movie, except for the ones on Elisabeth Shue for some reason.  I didn’t find her makeup convincing.

Because this movie goes into the future, it creates a danger that I’ve discussed in other movies set in the future.  You sometimes set loftier goals for the future than we can accomplish.  We still have three years from the time of writing this review, but there’s a lot to do in that time.  Power laces is something we can put on our Nike’s right now, but I don’t know who would want to spend the money it would probably cost to purchase those shoes.  Flying cars and hoverboards is a bit loftier in the goal department, and I’m not sure we’ll be ready as a culture technologically or as drivers.  Most people are bad enough drivers on the ground, I can’t imagine putting them in the sky.  I’m sure we can get rid of doorknobs right now, but I don’t know if I feel like it’s necessary to push my thumb to doors to save myself the trouble of turning a knob.  The biggest and most impossible thing is up to Steven Spielberg.  He’s got 15 more Jaws movies to make in only three years!  And you know if he rushes them out that quickly, they will mostly be much worse than even Jaws 4 was.

The performances don’t really change in quality here.  They’re still amazing.  Michael J. Fox is still fantastic, still does comedy and action superbly, but also has a little more emotional scenes to work with, but he still pulls it off fantastically.  Christopher Lloyd is still fantastic, and still does a mostly comedic performance in this movie.  Claudia Wells looked a lot different in this movie for some reason.  Oh wait, she was replaced.  Wells couldn’t do the sequels because her mother was diagnosed with cancer, so she was replaced with Elisabeth Shue.  Shue did a great job as Jennifer, but I still missed Wells.  Fox had a certain chemistry with Wells that he didn’t really have as much of with Shue, and I missed it.  But Shue still did great.  Speaking of replacements, Crispin Glover apparently asked for too much money (more, I heard, than Fox and Lloyd got paid) and was not in these movies.  I liked Glover in the first movie, but it’d be ridiculous to assume he’d get THAT much money.  And it actually worked out to be a better story that George McFly was murdered.  Also, he didn’t have anything resembling a big part in the movie, but most people don’t know that Elijah Wood pops up in this movie.  He’s one of the little kids playing the video game in the diner in 2015.  I just like to point that out, especially with how big he is today.  Jason Scott Lee (from Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story), Billy Zane, and Flea also have small parts in this movie.

I don’t know the reasons that some people bag on this movie as being so drastically worse than the original.  The original movie was amazing, and this one was too.  It’s not so bad to be slightly less amazing than something that’s so great.  I love the story and especially how it got dark in the middle, there’s still a great deal of comedy and action, and the performances have remained fantastic.  There were a couple of minor logic problems, but nothing that kept me from enjoying it.  This movie also gave me a quote that I still like using today, though it’s not an easy one to find an appropriate place for.  But I like to yell “MACFRY!!” like Marty’s boss, Fujitsu-san, did, usually out of nowhere and for no reason whatsoever.  But I like saying it.  Either way, you have to watch the entire series.  Maybe slightly worse than the original, but still amazing.  Back to the Future Part 2 gets “He’s got a few short circuits in his bionic implants” out of “Shark still looks fake.”

Hey, peeps. Why not rate and comment on this as a favor to good ole Robert, eh? And tell your friends! Let’s make me famous!

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