Eighties kids and film fans have inevitably been getting excited about the arrival of a special, rather iconic date: 21st October 2015.
Why? Because of course it is the date in which Marty McFly and Doc Brown arrive in the ‘future’, as per the unforgettable events of Back to the Future II.
While I’m probably not quite as nostalgic about the Back to the Future franchise as I am about some other films from my childhood, it’s hard to not get that twinge of nostalgia, given how prominent that film franchise is whenever any of us remember being kids in the eighties. From the DeLorean to the hoverboard, from Christopher Lloydd’s barmy Doc Brown hanging from the clock-tower to every time I hear ‘Mr Sandman’ by The Chordettes, the Back to the Future movies have a hold on us (notwithstanding Back to the Future III, of course, which is a bad dream best forgotten – though my guest-collaborator today may disagree with that).
I’d have to say too that the second film was always my favorite. It was inevitable that the date of 21st October 2015 was going to be watched as it approached, as film fans enjoy the nostalgia overload and score-keepers tick off their ‘what came true’, Back to the Future II ‘Predictions’ check-list.
Just to demonstrate the extent of Back to the Future’s generational impact, I am joined in this post by fellow blogger and fellow eighties child, Robert Horvat, who writes the terrific ‘If It Happened Yesterday, It’s History‘ blog. In fact, Rob’s presence here is all the more fitting, as I harbor longstanding suspicions that he may himself be a time-traveler from the Byzantine Empire; quite what he’s up to in our time period, I’m not yet sure – we’ll have to keep an eye on him…
Robert Says: Can you believe that today is actually the anniversary Marty McFly traveled to October 21st 2015! I looked outside my window in the vain hope of seeing Marty and Doc and or actually anything that resembled the B2TF world. Sorry to report there were no flying cars or hoverboards. Understandably the focus of many critics is to survey what the film got right and wrong in Part II with its ‘future predictions’; the hits and misses…
Yep, and on that note, Back to the Future II, which never had any pretensions about being particularly intelligent or ‘serious’ science-fiction, doesn’t score too badly. It certainly scores a lot better than Star Trek did when 1996 came and went without any ‘Eugenics War’ or emergence of Khan Noonien Singh; I waited and waited for that Eugenics War and the rise of the supermen, but it just never came. But it’s significant to note that the writers in the case of Back to the Future rather famously didn’t employ any scientific or tech consultants or experts as a lot of other, more serious, sci-fi writers/producers do. So their ‘visions’ of the future were really just a case of the laymen’s stab in the dark.
That being so, they haven’t fared badly at all. Along with seemingly predicting the existence of Skype video calls and i-Pad style tablets, Marty McFly’s future kids wear head-sets at the dinner table on which they make and receive calls and even watch TV. Something of the sort came to pass with the arrival of Google Glass in 2013. A gamer head-set like Oculus Rift is something not so dissimilar too, neither is Microsoft’s announcement of something called Hololens (confirmed for release next year).
The film’s lighthearted vision of 2015 didn’t hit the mark on all fronts; for example, the shot of the copy of USA Today Marty McFly is reading in one scene famously has a headline ‘Washington Prepares for Queen Diana’s Visit’. And no, in 2015 we are not inundated with fax machines as B2tFII seemed to think we would be. But some of the other, more famous visions of the then far-off year of 2015 (and hey, just remember how far away the year ‘2015’ really did feel back in 1989) are almost materialising as reality, if not quite so definitively as imagined.
Nike is apparently looking to corner the market in those self-lacing trainers. In April 2009, they filed a patent for the self-lacing shoes, similar to those worn by Michael J. Fox’s character in the movie. As someone who as a kid struggled (for some reason) with tying shoelaces, Marty McFly’s self-tying laces were something to covet. Seriously, I was wearing Velcro trainers until I was, like, 12 years old – I just couldn’t deal with laces and was the only kid in my school who had that problem. Readers will be pleased to know I’ve mastered the shoelace now, however, and will therefore not be needing Marty’s self-tying shoes. I’d rather figure out the David Blaine magicky foot flick thingy that seems to perfectly tie and knot laces.
Undoubtedly, the most remembered and coveted ‘future item’ in the movie is the famous hoverboard.
Universal has put out a parody commercial for the real-deal hoverboard. OK, I was personally already preoccupied with the possible existence some day of a hoverboard even prior to seeing Back to the Future II, this being due to a childhood love of both the Silver Surfer and many childhood half-hours spent watching Wilykit and Wilykat hovering about the forests of Third Earth on their boards (if you don’t know what I’m talking about and have never heard of ‘Thundercats’, hang your heads in shame). But it’s fair to say that, aside from the Star Wars lightsaber, there hasn’t been a film item so universally desired as Marty McFly’s fictional 2015 board.
In March 2014, a company named HUVr Tech claimed to have demonstrated a working hoverboard, though this later was revealed to have been a hoax. But a propeller-powered hoverboard was fabricated by Catalin Duru of Montreal this year.
Japanese automobile company Lexus recently also unveiled a prototype for what is claimed to be a real, usable hoverboard, while a company called Arx Pax in California is said to be working on its own version, via a Kickstarter campaign. Both, however, are apparently dependent on magnets and therefore not a perfect replication of Marty McFly’s hoverboard.
At a projected $10,000 for a ‘Hendo Hoverboard’ (as funded via Kickstarter), it isn’t something that’s going to be mass owned or even mass produced. Alas, there won’t be hover-boarders floating about our cities any time soon. And the prototype, critics point out, doesn’t work by true ‘levitation’ after all, but by utilising existing mag-lev technology on a “micro-scale”. The board can only work over a conducting surface, meaning that unless the average street is laid with copper or some other conductor any time soon, would-be ‘hover-boarders’ will have to live out their fantasies in limited, custom-made locations (which will presumably have the Back to the Future theme music playing on loud-speakers; Michael Jackson’s ‘Beat It’ will also suffice, as it features in B2tFII).
In lieu of the real deal, ‘official’ replica hoverboards are available from HalloweenCostumes.com (but aren’t cheap – and, needless to say, don’t hover).
While nostalgia for classic pop-culture of yesteryear is at an all-time high, largely due to social media and the Internet allowing us to share and partake of the bug so easily, there’s no doubt that creators and companies watch for the chances to feed into and off of these natural, collective impulses of ours. Among the various (and numerous) items of ‘Back to the Future Day’ nostalgia overload, CollegeHumor came up with this animated short imagining how Marty McFly and the Doc would react to the real 2015 were they to arrive now.
One concept in the Back to the Future franchise that hasn’t come to pass – and certainly never will – is the time-travelling DeLorean. Surely the most bad-ass of all fictional time-travel mechanisms. When I was in junior school, I once basically re-wrote the entire Back to the Future movie, called it ‘Time Car’ and handed it in as my homework (we’d been asked to write a short story). So stupidly naive was my seven-year-old self, that I didn’t consider that my teacher wasn’t so old that he wouldn’t have been aware of Back to the Future. Spotting the flagrant plagiarism, he handed it back to me, told me off and then told my parents about it, getting me into trouble. Damn you, Back to the Future, you wrecker of children’s lives! It of course wasn’t the only time I got in trouble; in fact I spent the next ten years getting into trouble – now that I think about it, perhaps it all started with ‘Time Car’…
Robert Says: Just for the record that 80’s DeLorean in my opinion (and probably Marty’s) is one of the worst conceived cars in the history of automobiles. Yet somehow it still manages to work as a super hot, super charged plutonium powered, time-traveling machine. The DeLorean is almost as good as that other iconic ‘hunk of junk’ that I love from Star Wars – the Millennium Falcon…
Robert Also Says: What about Marty McFly reaction in Part II to seeing the 3D holographic advert for Jaws 19…? “The shark still looks fake…”
Yeah, that was cool as hell when I was 9. Funniest of all, Universal has also created an actual trailer for ‘Jaws 19’ (see above video), the tongue-in-cheek, fictional movie that was playing in the cinema when Marty arrived in 2015. The ‘film’ isn’t real, of course – it’s just a fun way to mark the moment. And no, sadly there will be no holographic projections of scary sharks emerging out of cinemas to attack innocent passers-by; although, come to think of it, the Jaws hologram that attacks Marty McFly might be viewed as a predicting the return of 3D cinema – which is certainly an accurate forecast of big-budget cinema trends in the 21st century.
Robert says he’s never understood the ‘flux capacitor’. Well, he probably doesn’t need to, as we’re not going to see any flux capacitors any time soon. However, Ford has gotten onto the nostalgia bandwagon, releasing a spoof video, warning its customers of what might happen when they hit 88mph. ‘Interfering in major historical events is illegal and could have unintended consequences for all of humanity,’ the clip warns.
Nintendo has gotten in on the nostalgia-fest too. Remember the arcade game in which Marty shows off his shoot-em-up skills (to a very young Elijah Wood)? Nintendo Life is apparently releasing it on the Wii U Virtual Console to coincide with the Back to the Future thirtieth anniversary.
And if all of this commemorative, cashing-in frenzy wasn’t enough, ‘Pepsi Perfect’ is also available for a limited time. You know, that brand from the 80s-themed diner in the future, where McFly says, “All I want is a Pepsi”… and receives a bottle of the fictional ‘Pepsi Perfect’? Limited quantities of 6,500 bottles in collectible cases are now being sold online; $20.15 for a 16.9-ounce bottle, apparently. No one said nostalgia was cheap. Pepsi is also setting up a store at the New York Comic-Con and has promised free bottles of Pepsi Perfect for the first 200 Marty McFly lookalikes to arrive each day (presumably with dramatic hoverboard entrances not required).
All of that aside, it is pretty cool that we’re not exactly a long way off from the future the movie envisioned; all things considered, Back to the Future II was pretty close to the mark on more than one count (and seriously, flying cars are coming – just not quite yet; though when they do, we should really be talking about Blade Runner or the Fifth Element and not giving the credit B2tF).
I also stand by Back to the Future II being the best of the three movies, and it would certainly be in my personal top 10 films of the eighties. In the end, I’m not too bothered about the ‘predictions’ check-list, etc; I’m more pleased to know that the film is still being talked about and celebrated 25 years later, which is no mean feat, given how many movies from the eighties have disappeared from popular consciousness without a trace. To attain that kind of longevity and cultural penetration is something most filmmakers will never accomplish.
Someone who I know agrees is fellow blogger, eighties spawn (and secret time-traveler, even if he denies it), Robert Horvat; I shall hand over to him to finish off this Back to the Future Day commemoration (before the Time Police catch up with him and ask him what he’s doing in our time period)…
Robert Says: Great Scott! What images conjure up in your mind when you recall the Back To The Future trilogy? For me it’s a combination of great moments and funny lines; nothing more so than “Doc” Emmett Brown with his nutty professor grey, wiry hair, and the wit to match. “When this baby hits eighty-eight miles per hour, you’re gonna see some serious shit!”
Like Star Wars, the Back to the Future trilogy is, for me, as a huge fan of sci-fi, one of the best hero adventure films of all time. The protagonist in the B2TF films, teenager Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox), like Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, sets out on a journey to correct the wrongs in their life. Both heroes go out on a limb to experience a whole new world and in the process they are changed by their experiences. That said, our focus here is not to talk up Star Wars, but to recall a little bit about why B2TF is so much fun.
The huge success of Back To The Future was a godsend to its creators Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale. The story of an ordinary teenager from an ordinary American town resonated with audiences around the world including former President Ronald Reagan, who apparently got a kick out of seeing the scene from the original that made reference to him. In the scene where Doc Brown meets Marty, who travels accidentally back in time to 1955, Doc demands that Marty proves he is from the future by asking him a question: “Then tell me, future boy! Who’s president of the United States in 1985?” Marty replies: “Ronald Reagan.” The scene gets funnier when Doc reacts, “Ronald Reagan! The actor?! And who’s the vice president? Jerry Lewis?”
(*Burning Blogger’s note: OK, Jerry Lewis as Vice-President, with Dean Martin as the Prez, sounds like an alt-reality America I really want to see explored).
Robert Continues: Last but not least, Part III doesn’t let us down and draws the trilogy to a predictable conclusion. The story follows Marty as he travels to the Old West in 1885 to rescue Doc Brown before they return to the present (1985). My favourite line by the way in Part III is, “Nobody calls me Mad Dog! Especially not some duded-up egg-sucking gutter trash.” There, I said it.
(*Burning Blogger’s note: Back to the Future III was terrible – Robert’s losing me here).
Robert Continues: I have to say, I could quote, scene after scene, and every funny line in the film including the one about another famous actor – Clint Eastwood, and include interesting notes about the making of the films, but maybe another day. Back To The Future has left an endearing mark in motion picture history, even being honoured and selected for preservation in the Library of Congress’ national Film Registry. Importantly, it has become part of our pop culture, even though I still don’t not quite understand what a flux capacitor is or how the hell it works. What am I talking about? Well, you’ll just have to watch the movie…
Thanks to Robert Horvat for his contribution to this article (but he’s still wrong about Back to the Future III – it’s a terrible finale). You can get more from him on his genuinely terrific history (and miscellany) blog here, and the History of the Byzantine Empire site here.
Finally, it’s genuinely nice to note that Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd (like Shatner and Nimoy were) are still friends all this time later. The pair were in fact brought together for this Toyota commercial in which they have their own little discussion on the things that did and didn’t come pass in 2015…