Back to the Future Part II (1989)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: They go back again.

            Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox), Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd) and his girlfriend Jennifer Parker (Elisabeth Shue) use the DeLorean to travel 30 years into the future to help save their future son who is in trouble with the law. There Marty meets an older version of Biff (Thomas J. Wilson) who overhears about the time machine. He decides to take a discarded sports almanac listing all the scores for the past five decades and steals the machine and uses it to go back to the year 1955. The older Biff then meets up with his younger version and hands him the almanac telling him that he can bet on every winning team in every sport and make a fortune, which he does. This then changes the course of history drastically and it is up to Marty and the Dr. to go back to the 50’s and try and stop the transaction between the two Biffs from happening.

Like with the first film, I found the plot to be inventive and creative. Writer/director Robert Zemeckis has thought everything through and keeps the twists and turns coming at a fast pace making it virtually impossible to predict where it is going. Yet the story is complex and some may say convoluted. The idea of going back to the 50’s makes it seem almost like a retread of the first film. The characters even meet their counterparts going through the same scenes from the first, which ends up only tarnishing the original. Outside of the scenes from the future this film lacks the lightheartedness and fun of the first. The tone is much darker and the Biff character as well as his grandson Griff, which Marty meets in the future, are boring one-dimensional bad guys that are given too much screen time.

My favorite part is at the beginning. The flying cars and the space highway with similar road signs that you would see on a regularly highway is well done. I got a kick out of the Nike sneakers that can tie themselves and the coat that talks, can change shape to fit any size, and even dry itself off when wet. Marty’s trip to an 80’s café is fun and if you look closely you will see a young Elijah Wood in a brief part. The futuristic Texaco gas station and the movie marquee advertising ‘Jaws 19’ because this time ‘it’s really, REALLY personal’ is funny as is the holographic shark that jumps from the ad and scares Marty. Of course, as of this writing, we are now only three years away from the actual 2015 and it is safe to say that they got it all wrong, but it’s still interesting to see how they envisioned it. My only objection would be the clothing styles worn by the people that look like clown outfits, which may have been subtle satire, but I’m not sure.

I did feel the reason for them traveling to the future proved to be a loophole. In every other scene Emmett is always preaching about never trying to alter the regular course of events because this could cause unforeseen cataclysmic problems, so why then change his philosophy here? The reasoning given is sloppy and slapdash.

I did like that Marty turns out to be just a regular middle-aged suburbanite and not the famous rich rocker he dreamed of as the odds probably could have predicted. Fox is amusing as the older Marty and the make-up job is impressive for the way they get his perpetually boyish face to age.

Crispin Glover is certainly missed. He was unable to come to an agreement on the salary and thus turned down reprising the role of George McFly. A likeness of his image was used and he sued them for it and I say good for him.

Elisabeth Shue appears as Jennifer filling in for Claudia Wells who played the part in the first one, but then dropped out of acting to care for her sick mother. Shue has certainly grown into being a fine and respected actress, but here she is wasted. She does little except show facial expressions that are constantly perplexed and nervous, which eventually becomes laughable. The scene where Emmett and Marty decide to allow Elisabeth to lie sleeping amidst a pile of trash while they go off and do something else seemed questionable.

Had the film stayed in the future it would have been more enjoyable. I still found it to be entertaining, but it is easy to see why this entry is generally considered the weakest of the series. I was rather put off to see previews of Part III shown at the end, which made it seem like this whole thing was just an excuse to sell the audience on seeing the next one, which artistically isn’t a good precedent to set.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: November 22, 1989

Runtime: 1Hour 48Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Robert Zemeckis

Studio: Universal

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray (25th Anniversary Trilogy)

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