Sunday, 25 October 2015

Review: Back To The Future Part II

World of Blackout Film Review

Back To The Future Part II Poster

Back To The Future Part II
Cert: PG / 104 mins / Dir. Robert Zemeckis / Trailer
WoB Rating: 6/7

And so, it was after a 10 minute break following part one that the lights dimmed in Oxford's Magdalen Street Odeon and Back To The Future Part II began. And that was only the second time I've seen this movie in a cinema, stat-fans.

Although they're still generally regarded as a part of the whole, both the second and third installments of Robert Zemeckis' time-travelling trilogy come in for a fair amount of stick, especially from people who loved the first film, bizarrely. My own peers are split between disliking two and three (although I don't think I know anyone who dislikes them both). Me? Yeah, I love 'em. Okay, not as much as I love BTTF, but that's in no way the fault of the films; things were just different by the time 1989 came along.

Yet as much as I enjoy BTTF2, even I have to admit that the essential spark which made 1985's film such a hit isn't quite there. The writing is far more plot-based this time around, with the intricacies of time-travel taking centre stage. The audience knows the mechanics of the film's causality by now, so rather than coasting along to deliver another box-ticking adventure, the screenplay doubles back on itself and interacts with its predecessor. The fact that Doc Brown literally draws on a blackboard to explain the story to Marty and the audience, yet never comes off as patronising, is an astounding feat of film-making. But what the film gains in narrative complexity, it seems to lose in warmth. The story isn't humourless at all, but the scripted gags seem to fall flatter than last time around, and it lacks the spontaneity and wit of the original.

Another hurdle the film can't quite clear is the absence of Crispin Glover as George McFly, following failed negotiations to secure his return. Re-used footage from Back To The Future and a remarkably capable body/rear double just about plug the hole, but it means his character can't contribute anything new, despite his presence. And while I'm on the subject, Thomas F. Wilson is fantastic as the three ages of Biff Tannen, but overacts to pantomime levels in this film, which is why so much of the humour feels forced. And while I'm on the subject of being on the subject, if Claudia Wells' Jennifer Parker had been given more screentime in the first film, would she have been as annoying as Elisabeth Shue's version from the second one?

Most peculiarly, the woman sat in the row behind Mrs Blackout and I did find the film laugh-out-loud funny, which is great. Her audible amusement was frequent and vocal (throughout this and the previous BTTF, in fact). However, she kept laughing when there weren't any jokes happening on screen, then after a while I noticed that she was laughing a short time before a scripted or visual gag. To the point where I began to think she had her own time-machine and was watching the film 45 seconds in the future…

Oh, and a question for you: In the first movie where Marvin Berry And The Starlighters are playing Earth Angel, the song ends on this orchestral flourish as George and Lorraine kiss and the timeline is set right. Now as there's clearly no string-section on the stage, I'd just assumed this was where the in-movie playlist and Alan Silvestri's score combined for cinematic effect. But in BTTF2 when Marty ends up at the 'Fish Under The Sea; dance again hiding under a table, Earth Angel is playing and ends on this sweep again - even though the focus isn't on George and Lorraine this time around. There's not really any need for the romantic crescendo to the song as the McFly-parents plot point is secondary in the revisited scene. A cynic might even suggest that it was dropped in like that as the sound editor didn't want to remaster the band's performance without the bolstered ending.

So, since the 'full' version of Earth Angel is used as background (being given the same narrative status as a song the characters would hear on the radio), where's the bloody orchestra, hmm?

Is this film worth paying £10+ to see?
Well I think so, your mileage will vary ;)

Well, I don't like the cinema. Buy it, rent it, or wait for it to be on telly?
You can't buy the first one without buying the trilogy (and rightly so) so you should already have it, hmm?

Does this film represent the best work of the leading performer(s)?
Not particularly, sadly.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
It does; whether you like that or not.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Not as long as you can justify your insane beliefs.

Oh, and is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There ain't.

…but what's the Star Wars connection?
BttF2's visual effects supervisor was Mr Ken Ralston, who also provided visual and optical effects for the original Star Wars trilogy.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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