Video/Editing by grahamstonejohnson.com
June 21, 2015
by Zack Beseda
Back to the Future has essentially always existed in my frame of cinematic reference. I was around 4 years old when it first came out, and I know I didn't see it in the theater, but I must have seen it soon after. I actually don't remember seeing it for the first time. Instead, I simply can't remember a time when I wasn't aware of Marty McFly, Doc Brown, and the DeLoreon. Back to the Future was rented repeatedly from the pre-Blockbuster, mom-&-pop VHS rental store my mom would take me to, and I finally talked her into buying me my own copy somewhere around 3rd grade. When it was finally mine to own (after throwing a temper tantrum when my mom faked me out by telling me she hadn't bought it for me), I watched Back to the Future every single night for a week. I attempted to memorize every line of dialogue and say it along with the characters. And, I even tape recorded different parts onto a cassette that I could listen to when I wasn't watching the movie. Yet, if you asked me what my favorite movie is, the answer isn't Back to the Future. It's Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, if you're wondering. And, it's also not what I think of when asked what the "best" movie ever made from an artistic standpoint would be. For that, I like to say Amadeus. But, Back to the Future isn't the answer to those questions, because I find it so hard to think of it as just a movie. Back to the Future is a damn experience.
There are a lot of reasons why Back to the Future works so well, but if there was an award for casting, it would have won for Best Casting in 1985. Every single one of the five main characters is simply irreplaceable. It seems cliche and frankly ridiculous to start a sentence with "No one else could have played . . . " but, in these instances, it's hard not to feel that way. I'm eternally intrigued by the fact that Eric Stoltz played Marty for two weeks before they recast the role with Michael J. Fox. What a different movie that would have been. I have no idea what Stoltz's performance would have ultimately been like, but the decision to make the change is a credit to director Rob Zemeckis' eye for acting. Every actor in this movie is ideal for their roles.
Speaking of serendipitous casting, I can't imagine two better decades with which to tell this story than the '50s and the '80s. The '50s were the birth of teen culture, where teenagers for the first time became a powerful marketing demographic during a postwar American boom period. In the 1980s, teen culture combined with technology and suddenly computers and science were cool. But, for a generation of Baby Boomers, there was a nostalgia for the idyllic innocence of the '50s similar to the '80s nostalgia that many Generation Y'ers feel today. Here, 30 years later, it's interesting to see the symmetry, and it goes to show just how timeless and relevant the Back to the Future story and movie are.
Of course, I didn't realize all those things back when I first fell in love with this movie. Back then, I noticed things like how cool Marty was. He played guitar, had a girlfriend, and dammit he swore. He rode skateboards and had cool sneakers. Marty McFly was exactly who I wanted to be in high school. I also noticed things like Loraine in that prom dress, but that's another article altogether. And, of course, time travel. Holy s--t, that was cool. Possibly my first nerd experience. Back to the Future introduced me to the words "b-----d," "s--t," and "b---h," pretty girls, and the concept of traveling through time. Growing up, this movie was like the older brother I never had who didn't care if I said bad words and let me watch R-rated movies when mom and dad weren't home. Back to the Future was "adult" in a cool way, which is exactly what makes it such a great kid's movie. No matter how silly or cheesy the premise may be, it is treated with utmost sincerety and honesty. There is never a wink to the camera, the characters are just over the top enough to still be completely believable, and the music . . . well, the music speaks for itself. While Back to the Future does hold up under close logical scrutinization (for the most part), it also perfectly leads the viewer through the story without any thinkng required at all.
Which is why it's only a kid's movie if you're a kid. It's also a great movie for adults, teenagers, and anyone else who loves a good story. In fact, if movies are meant to be inspiring, Back to the Future may be what I would consider the most inspiring movie of all time. That's possibly the best classification for it. Since I didn't see it in its initial theatrical run and only on VHS, the words "To be continued . . . " at the end were always a part of that experience. And, because of that tease of Marty, Doc, and Jennifer flying into the future (and since it was before the internet age when film productions are seemingly followed and chronicled in detail), I spent the next four years wondering what 2015 would look like when Back to the Future Part II finally came out in 1990. It literally made me think about the future. What it would be like, what it would look and sound like. Back to the Future introduced me to a lot of things, but, most importantly, it delivered a message that I received even as a kid without realizing it. It tells you that the future can be whatever you want it to be, you just have to go out there and make it. There's something to creating your own destiny and there's something to fate, it's just trusting and believing in yourself that forces change. That's easier said than done, of course, but those are the kinds of messages I like to get from movies. Now that 2015 is here in reality, as I watch these movies over again for the 50th time, it only makes me wonder what the next 30 years will bring . . .
About Zack Beseda
Zack is a writer, comic book collector, TV junkie, and pro-wrestling enthusiast. He moved to Los Angeles from Waco, Texas, to break into television. So far, he has a blog, which you can see with your own eyes at www.zackforreal.com.