All in the details: BTTF

“The way I see it, if you’re gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?”–Emmett Brown, scientist and time traveler

That man has class. Welcome to 1:20am. I bow in homage to the 25th anniversary of the most complete movie I have ever seen: Back to the Future.  Good movies throw in details to illustrate setting and enhance the story. In BTTF, the details are the story.  Everything comes full-circle.

At the film’s beginning when Marty enters Doc’s house, there is a Toyota car commercial on the radio and a TV news report about stolen plutonium.  On the surface, this is just background noise.  Then Marty’s skateboard hits a case of plutonium under Doc’s bed.  After school that day, a muscular Toyota truck is delivered to town, and Marty tells Jennifer how great it would be to own that and drive it to the lake.  This fanciful wish is resolved at the end.

At the time of truckspotting, Mayor Goldie Wilson’s re-election campaign van passes, announcing the cliché slogan that “Progress is his middle name.”  This could have been the filmmaker’s attempt to demonstrate Marty’s life in Small Town USA.  However, when Marty arrives in 1955, Mayor Red Thomas’ re-election campy campaign slogan is that “Progress is his middle name.”  Just how much progress was accomplished is unknown, because Red is the homeless man on the bench when Marty returns to 1985.

Marty’s dysfunctional family is illustrated through his Uncle Joey not making parole.  In 1955, this destiny behind bars occurs as Marty is told by his to-be family that baby Joey cries when they try to take him out of his playpen.

The “Save The Clock Tower” campaign is the crux of the film in so many ways.  If Marty had not donated to the cause, he would not have received the flyer.  If Jennifer had not written her grandmother’s phone number on the back of the flyer, Marty would surely have thrown it out.  Since he kept it, he was able to show 1955 Doc what “his girl” wrote for him, proving his need to get back to the future.  If Doc had not known about the exact time of that lightning strike, he would never have been able to generate the necessary 1.21 gigawatts.

Let’s not forget the similarities between father and son.  Marty doubts his musical ability in 1985 and says, “I mean, what if they say I’m no good.  What if they say, ‘Get out of here, kid, you got no future.’ …I’m beginning to sound like my old man.”  Ironically, Marty almost has no future due to his travels.  Is he sounding like his father?  You bet’cha. George comments on his writing talents in 1955: “Well, what if they didn’t like them, what if they told me I was no good? “

Positive thinking makes it so.  After Marty’s failed band demo, Jennifer reminds him that Doc always says “If you put your mind to it, you could accomplish anything.”  Marty says to George before the Enchantment Under The Sea dance.  George says to his new-1985 family when his first novel, A Match Made In Space, arrives at the house.

Sigh…happy Hollywood ending.

Finally, let me point out an unexpected and unknown coincidence.  In 1985, Doc initially chooses to go 25 years into the future.  He’ll see mankind’s progress and the teams that win the next 25 World Series.  BTTF was released in July, 3 months before the movie officially takes place.  On October 26, the day of time travel, it just so happened that Game 6 of the World Series was played.  The first base umpire made an incorrect call that potentially affected the series outcome between Kansas City Royals and St. Louis Cardinals.

Did the filmmakers time travel?  Now that’s full circle.


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