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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast
Michael J Fox
Christopher Lloyd
Lea Thompson
Crispin Glover.
Directors
Robert Zemeckis.
Screenwriters
Bob Gale.
Running Time
116 minutes

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Back To The Future
Time travel antics with Michael J. Fox


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Plot
Marty McFly helps out his friend Doc Brown, and ends up being taken back in time by Doc's time-machine. Marty, a boy of the 80's, has to come to grips with being in the 50's and get his parents to fall in love to set straight the damage his presence has done to the events of the past.


Review
It could all have been so different. In fact, it could all have been a disaster. At the end of 1984 director Robert Zemekis, who had been shooting his second movie, Back To The Future, for over a month was not a happy man. He was saddled with a lead actor who just didn't cut it as a happy-go-lucky, wisecracking teen. He was more like an angst-ridden 40-year-old struggling to make sense of existence in a godless universe.

To make matters worse he'd seen a young actor perfect for the role. Michael J. Fox, then the star of TV sitcom Family Ties radiated youthful joie de vivre and frankly, for a movie with a solid teen base, was just gosh-darned cuter. Something had to be done. Eric Stoltz was out. Fox was in. And they started all over again. But if Back To The Future was the product of a fractured shoot, what emerged was well worth the agony. An almost perfectly wrought slice of old fashioned escapist fantasy, it not only announced the celluloid arrival of the finest light-comedy actor of his generation, but was one of the very few films made in the avaricious, style-challenged 80s that transcended and survived the ugly extremes of its era (skintight stonewashed jeans which, one unkind critic remarked, "look like they've been masturbated over by a troupe of boy scouts" excepted) and which remains an utterly beguiling little gem.

Among the plethora of innocent charms on offer, there's the near perfect script by Zemekis and Bob Gale which not only negotiates its
time travel paradoxes with deft, exuberant wit but invests the light-hearted plot machinations with a seasoning note of honest drama (Doc's death within the first 10 minutes throws the comedy into pleasing relief and provides welcome dramatic release when we find, at the end, that the worst isn't true).

There's Alan Silvestri's Williamsesque score; a plethora of memorable set-pieces — Marty's premature invention of the skateboard as he rips the top of a young kid's box-cart; his introduction of rock 'n' roll which develops into an anachronistic, Hendrix-style guitar solo ("Maybe you're not ready for that," McFly admits, "but trust me, your kids are going to love it.") as well as nods to other sci-fi movies — an innovation in the mid-80s when Tarantino was still re-racking the late-returns. When Marty has to convince his not-yet-dad to ask his not-yet-mom out he poses as Darth Vader (a variation on the joke appears in Part III when he calls himself Clint Eastwood) and claims to have come from the planet Vulcan.

And then there's the tastefully-handled Oedipal riff which, in less talented hands, might have been uncomfortable, if not downright nauseating. But at the heart of Back To The Future is the towering talent of the diminutive (his least favourite word, "Why can't they just call me short?") Michael J. Fox. Thrust into the spotlight in recent times due to illness, Fox established himself here as quite simply the most charming screen presence of the 80s.

Weirdly, shortly after the massive success of the BTTF trilogy, it became de rigeur to bash the actor. Obviously his enormous talent for light comedy didn't sit well with the hip-cynicism of the 90s. Applying anything approaching rigorous criticism to Back To The Future would be like taking a jack-hammer to a perfectly risen souffle, but there are a number of intriguing readings to Zemekis' movie, particularly since hostile critics of the directors' subsequent work, Forrest Gump and Contact, have detected in him a Capra-esque conservatism. You could make the case that BTTF is a manipulative critique of the 80s through the prism of an airbrushed version of the 50s that owes more to George Lucas' American Graffiti than the turmoil of the decade itself (the burning crosses and blacks dangling from trees are presumably "just out of shot").

Zemekis seems to be accusing the 80s of betraying the American Post War dream; Marty's frumpy, nervous, bullied family are not the way things were meant to turn out (next to them at the dinner table you wonder if Marty ever inquired whether he was adopted) in the same way that the grasping 80s are not the legitimate offspring of the "innocent" 50s. Of course this is all a bit speculative. But if Back To The Future doesn't hold big ideas well, it remains like its star — small, but perfectly formed.


Verdict
To put it bluntly: if you don't like Back To The Future, it's difficult to believe that you like films at all.


Reviewed by Adam Smith

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Back To The Future
Empire Star Rating

Now this is how films should be made!!! I'm not usually someone who'll give something 5 stars but this well deserves it. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by PureAinmhi at 10:48, 29 April 2009 | Report This Post


WOW ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Smileychild at 19:34, 22 January 2009 | Report This Post


WOW ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Smileychild at 19:34, 22 January 2009 | Report This Post


I only watched this because I'm a fan of Micahel J. Fox, and after watching I became a lover of movies. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by imo at 11:38, 09 November 2008 | Report This Post


Timeless

The first film I watched, as a child, in 1985, aged 6, at the cinema. Having a film like this in your youth pretty much spoils you rotten. I shudder to think how many times I have watched this film over the years and have never once tired of seeing it. Quite simply perfect and with no discernable equal. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Deacon Frost at 21:27, 02 July 2008 | Report This Post


WOW!!!!

Simply one of the best movies to emerge from the fashion catastrophe that was the 80's! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by tallaght24 at 17:23, 05 July 2007 | Report This Post


WOW!!!!

Simply one of the best movies to emerge from the fashion catastrophe that was the 80's! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by tallaght24 at 17:22, 05 July 2007 | Report This Post


BTTF

Just perfect. One of those films you can watch over and over again (in fact , all three of them are). An easy 5 stars and one of my favourite films of all time. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by The Tom at 21:45, 29 January 2007 | Report This Post


future

awesome another classic trilogy..... ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by alexisreaver2132 at 13:48, 28 August 2006 | Report This Post


brilliant ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by casino at 14:58, 08 August 2006 | Report This Post


I've just watched it again for the first time in years; I'd forgotten how perfect it is. A genuine classic. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by badsanta at 16:52, 22 July 2006 | Report This Post


The most watchable ever to be made. I can watch it over and over again and still not get tired of it. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by huny_monster at 18:38, 15 June 2006 | Report This Post


The best film of the 80s. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by i007_Bond_007i at 14:01, 17 April 2006 | Report This Post


A superb, feel goodfamily film that shall never fail to please, just a superb piece of original scriptwriting and humour, Fox and Lloyd are an inspirational double act that make the sequels watchable. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by mufcgeorge7 at 00:49, 04 February 2006 | Report This Post


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