A Fellow MEETS His DAD Way BEFORE He HAD Kids
A look at The BACK TO THE FUTURE-Trilogy By Charles E.J. Moulton
Small town, America. 1955. A young boy saves his friend from a car accident, who thanks him by simply jumping on his bike and driving off into the sunset. Sounds like pure soap opera, fifties style. Yes, but with a twist: the hero is his son and they are both 17 years old. Huh? What was that? 17? Both? Rewind the tape. Marty McFly’s friend, the much older Doc Brown, has invented a time machine with the help of plutonium-smuggling Libyans. During a demonstration, Marty McFly is accidentally catapulted thirty years back to a time when his parents were in high school. Oops. The only problem is that he never expected to stand in their way. He interrupted with his parent’s first meeting and now Marty has to get his folks back together so he can be born. At first, it doesn’t work at all. His Dad is a complete wimp, mobbed by the local bully Biff, and his own mom is in love with… Marty. So it takes a whole lot of courage and pain and playing of love songs on proms to get them back together before he can by the help of a lightning bolt go back to the future, only to find out that he changed his parents: his formerly drunk loser parents are now prime yuppies out for tennis speaking like rich middle-class people. Who are better people? Losers or phoneys? Is the loser more honest because he lost? Wait a minute, there is more. In the second picture, old Doc Brown travels back from the future, 2015, to tell Marty and his girl that their kids are in trouble. They go there to save them, but Marty is tempted by the dark side of the force (sorry, Mr. Lucas). He is chased on a hovering skateboard by Biff’s grandchild when he buys an almanac that reveals all sport results of the later half of the 20th century. Doc prevents him from taking it back with him, but evil things lurk in the minds of men and the entire story becomes a very Shakespearian parody. Old Biff steals the book and takes the time vehicle back to the past and gives himself this desirable object. The result is a 1985 Hill Valley Gambling Hell with Biff as the rich devil replacing his murdered father. They accordingly go back to the past to fix this present in the past. They do succeed, run into themselves a couple of times, before burning the book and saving the future. You think this is over? Not yet. Doc’s car was struck by lightning and sent back to 1885. Marty has to travel back there, against the Doc’s wishes, because he finds out that the Doc was murdered by Biff’s great grandfather. He does so, in the process letting Indians rip the fuel line. The result is that he meets his ancestors, his grandpa even pees on him as a baby, in order to find a home in his own town a hundred years back in time. He gets into a fight with Biff’s grandpa Buford “Mad Dog” Tannen (“I hate that name!”), who challenges him to a duel. The Doc, however, has fallen in love and after the victorious duel he elopes with his Miss Clara Clayton, whilst Marty pushes up to high velocity by a steam train into the present. But there is hope yet. Doc returns with a new invention, prompted by the hover board from the future. He is now the owner of a time steam train. Sound like fun? Yes. It is. Fast, furious and funny. But let’s look a little behind the scenes, shall we now? Having read two of Michael J. Fox’s biographies, I am a little smarter. He tells us that his now very evident Parkinson’s disease comes from an accident in the hanging scene of the third movie. “Accidents are temporary, film is forever.” These were his exact words. However, we must admire a man who so bravely left Canada to become a star and decided to work day and night on two projects while doing the movie. What about the characters in the film? All Marty’s family are losers made winners in the movies, through Marty’s timely doing. Biff’s family are winners made losers in the movies, also through Marty’s doing. There is thus a reverse side to the movies, with Marty undoing ill and doing well. Is it too bad that Marty and Doc are not together at the end? Yes. But Doc was always lonely and now has a family in the only place he ever really truly loved: the old west. Looking at them as a whole, with all of their reversible fun of characters meeting themselves and changing lives, the most interesting part of it is still how the characters can change personality wise according to circumstance and situation. Marty’s mother is a drunken housewife who, completely and utterly resigned to a dull poor life, really has given up. But because of loving a man of heroics (Dad prompted by Marty) she turns into the fit, self secure and hip mother in 1985. The hip mother, however, turns into a rich, silicon pumped and frustrated wife in the alternate reality just because wealthy Biff murdered her husband and married her. Biff is a pure sleaze, who has been used to winning all his life and therefore does the same thing he did in the fifties and even gets away with it because no one tells him otherwise. But the fact that Marty’s father has the guts to retaliate in 1955 he turns Biff into a meek and shy car mechanic thirty years later. Receiving the book from himself in 1955, moreover, turns him into the evil man we all love to hate. Marty’s father is a shy loser in 1985 because no one ever told him he was a capable man. But by receiving the right courage he dares to take the risk he needs and becomes a successful author and eventually a happy, rich grandpa. Marty’s problem is that he never lets anyone call him coward. And so he gets into an accident in 1985 that ruins his life. But by the actual intervention of Doc he changes his mind and is able to not get into the accident and thereby make himself a future with his girl without being a loser. TIME magazine was once quoted as saying that these films are like a fugue improvising on the theme of the previous movies. Interesting point, this. A man might change his life if he makes the right decisions. What are the right decisions? Being strong and feeling strong. Having the guts to say: “Man, I am so talented. I can handle this, all right.” Marty travels close to hundred and fifty years in time to find out that it isn’t the main thing to defend yourself against people who judge you ignorantly. Defending yourself to save your soul from ignorance might be the main thing. The main thing is not holding on to your past mistakes and letting your intuition lead the way. Is that what Marty does? Time is illusive and strange and maybe that is what the movies want to teach us. That going on with your life and working from the moment is the most important thing. Don’t keep reminding yourself that you did a mistake. Make sure that you don’t make the mistake again. Don’t be a bully like Biff or as quick in the draw as Marty. Be as good as you possibly can be. Sail through time in your own speed and with your own elegance and eloquence. Don’t be intimidated by past mistakes. Don’t be so sure that you cannot learn anything from a movie just because pop corn and coke is labeled on the cover of a motion picture. Surprising truths can be found at the backsides of cereal cartons. This little extravaganza about time tells us that hotheads do well in not following grudges.
BACK TO THE FUTURE: Three Motion Pictures (© 1985, 1989, 1990) Director: Robert Zemeckis Music: Alan Silvestri Actors: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover, Thomas F.Wilson, James Tolkan; Producer: Steven Spielberg.
© Copyright 2016 Charles EJ Moulton. All rights reserved.
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