The Back to the Future trilogy will always be near the top of my list of favourite films, though I will admit for the longest time I wasn’t all that keen on the first film of the trilogy. I fell in love with the films when I was a kid, and the second and third films were always the ones that I looked forward to the most. However, as an adult I have a great deal more appreciation for the film and this comes from having developed as a writer.
As a kid I wrote prose, and while I still do, I write scripts now as well and Back to the Future is a masterclass in how to write a great script. I hadn’t realised just how good it really was until I attended a scriptwriting course and the first few minutes were shown as an example of how a film doesn’t necessarily need to start with dialogue straight away. The scene panning through the Doc’s garage giving hint and clue to his life and the story is just spectacularly brilliant. (Thank you Gavin Williams for pointing this out to me)
And then there is one of my favourite scenes in the entire trilogy, when the Doc conducts the first time travel experiment, and explains how the time machine works. Now normally this sort of information dump explanation for the benefit of the audience would signal to me lazy writing, but for one simple fact; Marty is taping the explanation. He is specially doing it for historical record and then it later becomes a vital plot device to help the Doc of 1955 fix the time machine and get Marty back to 1985. In one simple move, the audience knows what’s going on, the characters know what’s going on and the quality of the film isn’t comprised by a tacky information dump.
Also an as adult I have a much greater appreciation for the nuances of the relationship that Marty has with his father. Marty wants his father to be a strong and confident father figure, and he doesn’t have that; George is still bullied by Biff as an adult and that has probably had an effect on Marty’s own self-esteem. It explains why he had such a good friendship with the Doc, who is a confident father figure who helps boost Marty’s own confidence.
One of the most noticeable changes that occur because of the time travel is that Marty returns to a George who is a confident adult. I had never realised before that is because Marty gives George some of the best advice I’ve ever heard:
‘If you put your mind to it you can accomplish anything.’
That one great bit of advice transformed George, and helped him develop as a person into someone willing to stand up for himself when he encounters those that would otherwise try to keep him the place they see fit for him to remain. It is a beautiful if subtle development. I used to watch the film because I thought the time travel was cool. I now love watching it because of George McFly’s character development.
I love the film, and if you’ve never seen it before, make sure that you do, because this iconic film is a must see.