Monday, June 3, 2013

Movie Review: Back to the Future Part II

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: More time traveling fun with Marty and Doc
Cons: Not quite as funny, one potential paradox
The Bottom Line
When will they go next?
Find out in this great sequel
Creative and fun

I Enjoy This Sequel in the Future, Present, and Past

When it comes to sequels, conventional wisdom is they are pale shadows of the original.  And most of the time, that is true.  But Back to the Future Part II manages to be one of those films that revisits the original while still being lots of fun.

The movie picks up with the final scene of the first movie as Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) has returned to 1985 to take Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) to the future.  Along for the ride is Marty's girlfriend Jennifer Parker (now played by Elisabeth Shue).  They've gone to the future to stop Marty's kids from making huge mistakes that spiral the family out of control.

But the trip to the future also lets bully Biff Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson) do something that completely changes the time line.  Leaving Jennifer in an alternative 1985, the two must travel back in time to keep everything from unraveling.  Can they correct the damages to the timeline without causing any more?

This film sounds very confusing on paper, but it actually works quite well when you watch it.  You're able to follow everything that happens and everything makes sense.  Well, there's one exception, but even then I let it go because the film is so much fun.  As is always the case with time travel, if you think about it too hard, you wind up wrapping yourself up in contradictions and knots.  But if you just sit back and enjoy, you'll find it's plenty of fun.

During the future section (set in 2015), there are plenty of great jabs at the ‘80's.  They still hold up even now.  And I'm so ready for hover boards and flying cars.  If only, right?

What is brilliant about this film is the final act.  It takes place during the final act of the first film.  We get to see the action from a different point of view.  No, it doesn't track with the original completely since they hadn't planned on a sequel during filming, but they do a pretty impressive job of weaving the new action around the old, and combining the two just ups the suspense.

The acting is uniformly perfect.  Michael J. Fox not only plays Marty, but his two kids as well.  Thomas F. Wilson manages to play two characters, both rather villainous.  You just love to hate his characters.  In addition to Elisabeth Shue, they also had to change actors for George McFly, but you'd never know if you didn't watch the credits.  But it's Christopher Lloyd who once again steals every scene he is in as Doc.  That man makes this trilogy.  And watch for an early screen appearance of Elijah Wood during the scenes set in the future.

This movie needed lots of special effects between the actors playing themselves at various ages, playing opposite themselves, plus the flying cars, hover boards, and other fun stuff.  Yes, there are moments when something doesn't work, but they are only on screen for a second or two.  Yeah, the effects are pretty much perfect.

The film is more serious than the first in the series.  There are jokes and laughs, but the story has more at stake for the characters.  Along those lines, there's a pretty big cliffhanger as well, which will make you want to watch Part III right away.  Fortunately, the two movies were filmed back to back so original audiences didn't have to wait very long either.

Back to the Future Part II is one of those rare times when I feel confident saying if you love the original, you'll love the sequel.  It's more fun with characters we already know and love.

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