“Don’t talk to anyone, don’t touch anything, don’t do anything, don’t interact with anyone, and try not to look at anything” – Doc. Brown, Back to the Future II (1989).
It’s quite a miracle when a sequel to a film surpasses that of the original. The best example I can think of can be present here, in Back to the Future II. Yes, I maintain that this film is without a doubt better than the first film, and better than the third by a major margin. Still, there must be something in this film that makes me think it’s the best of the trilogy. Well, that’s what this review is for. Read on to find out why.
As far as I’m aware it’s common knowledge what the plot to Back to the Future II actually is. It’s quite simple really. Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd) are back from saving the future, but set off once more for 2015. Through some time travel catastrophes, they end up in an alternate 1985, ran by Biff Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson). From there, they must travel back to 1955 and stop Biff from giving himself the Sports Almanac that makes him the millionaire of 1985.
Honestly, I absolutely love this plot line simply because it’s so confusing and convoluted. I’ve written a few theories about this film before but never really published them anywhere. After rewatching the film I may just have to release one or two of them, simply because it’s that damn good of a film. But like I usually do when I watch a film over and over, I do notice a few problems and even weird ideas.
For example, the more I think about it, the more the 2015 presented in this film is presented, the more dystopian it becomes. Lawyers have been abolished in turn creating a swift justice system? Without much explanation, that becomes dark rather quickly, still, it’s quite a good idea I suppose. Of course, 2015 is a year built on pop culture references apparently. Because of this we see a lot of references to movies, popular products and more. Hell, the plot even revolves around the results of historic matches in sport, given the Sports Almanac.
What’s worse is that there are still faxes in the future. I mean, God, can anyone remember faxes? I don’t even think faxing was used when I was born, and that was the late nineties. Anyways, that’s not the point. Some of the predictions of 2015 haven’t fully came into fruition. We still don’t have hoverboards and the Cubs will never win the cup. But some the film was off the mark completely, we’ve advanced our tech past faxing and tiny pizzas. We have email and Dominos for that.
You know, now that I think about it, the whole Biff to Griff doesn’t make sense. Biff is Griff’s grandfather, right? So where is Griff’s father? Who is Biff’s son? It opens up an entire dilemma full of questions that I genuinely need answering. Actually, playing the games did explain a couple of things, but that was set in the Roaring 20s. So if anything the game confuses me even more than I already was, and I don’t even know if that thing is canon. Anyways, back to the subject at hand, who is Biff’s son? It’s sad that I’ve spent the last ten minutes Googling this, isn’t it?
As usual, Christopher Lloyd plays the character of Doctor Emmet Brown with a genuine elegance. Let’s be fair though, what else was I expecting? It’s Christopher Lloyd, I can’t really expect a bad performance now can I? Actually, as a whole pretty much everyone in this film is as good as they were in the first. For those who are newly appearing, they’re brilliant as well. See, what I like so much about Back to the Future II is that Doc. Brown is much more of an integral character. By this I mean he isn’t killed off in the first ten minutes of the film.
His role actually matters, and because of this we see an improved chemistry between him and Marty McFly. Of course, we did see them work together in the first Back to the Future, but he was more a damsel in distress than anything in that film. It was all about Marty saving his friend from dying. The second film is about Marty and Doc trying to save the entire existence of their reality. A bit of a step up, but I assure you it’s just as well written.
That is something this entire trilogy of films can pride itself on. Every movie in the series is greatly written. There are a few weak moments in this film that really bug me after watching it this many times. The chicken insult is used three times and all three of those times it is used to advance the plot. For me, that’s three times too many. Still, the best part about this film is that it knows it was getting a sequel. Therefore it doesn’t come to a conclusion. We can easily transition into the finale of the trilogy, so there’s a lot more leeway in regards to what Back to the Future II can do.
By that I mean it doesn’t need to come to a conclusion. But of course, that’s probably the main reason it’s the lowest rated in the series. It doesn’t come to a conclusion. It’s that awkward middle ground that most sequels have. It continues on the adventure, but doesn’t have an ending of its own. This of course can be a problem for those expecting a full adventure. However, I’d say the payoff is more than worth the wait with this one. Well, sort of.
Special credit goes to Thomas F. Wilson for his performance as old Biff, Biff and Griff. Although, saying that, Griff is some of the most overacted work I’ve seen in a long while. His performance now looks cringey at times and I really just can’t get over how poorly acted it is. Ironically Biff is acted exceptionally well, there’s little conflict between his portrayal in the first film and the second film.
Still, we can blame the character of Griff for one of, if not the stupidest moment in film history. You may not have guessed what I mean by this, but I’m talking about the Chicken insult. Come on, it’s stupid and you know it is. There was literally no mention of this chicken insult in the first film, why am I supposed to believe it’s a big deal all of a sudden? There’s no build up to it. Honestly it would have made more sense if it had been something that Biff said frequently. Like butthead? Hell, it would have been better if he’d just cracked him round the head. Anything is better than chicken.
I may have mocked the CGI of the first film, but my God does it still impress me how bad it was. Still, five years can make a world of difference, Back to the Future II features some greatly impressive CGI. I am of course talking about the hoverboard chase scene. Unlike the improvements in CGI, the soundtrack has in fact stayed the same. That’s not a bad thing though, the soundtrack for the first film is insanely good. Much like the first film, everything is either better or just the same, and that’s not a bad thing whatsoever.
I can see why people don’t like this film as much as the first, I really can. But for me, it’s just much more fun. They go to more places, there are simply more things to see and plots to follow than in the first. While I do enjoy the first Back to the Future film, Back to the Future II is my favourite. Despite its flaws, it is a better film than the first. Doc. Brown becomes a starring character rather than a supporting like he is in the first. Alongside that, Thomas F. Wilson gets a bigger role as he shifts into the central villain.
What I love about this series so much is that, well, all of the films in the series are great. But this one most definitely stands above the rest for me. There’s nothing that can honestly convince me that this film is not the best in the series. It’s definitely not Back to the Future III, I can tell you that for free.