Back to the Future Part II (1989)
November 13, 2020 1:35 PM - Subscribe

Marty and Doc are at it again in this wacky sequel to the 1985 blockbuster as the time-traveling duo head to 2015 to nip some McFly family woes in the bud. But things go awry thanks to bully Biff Tannen and a pesky sports almanac. In a last-ditch attempt to set things straight, Marty finds himself bound for 1955 and face to face with his teenage parents -- again.

Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times:
"Part II," for all of its craziness, lacks the genuine power of the original. The story of the '85 film has real heart to it: If McFly didn't travel from 1985 to 1955 and arrange for his parents to have their first date, he might not even exist. The time travel in that film involved his own emotional confrontation with his parents as teenagers. "Part II," on the other hand, is mostly just zaniness and screwball jokes. But on that level, it's fun.
Janet Maslin, NYT:
''Back to the Future'' deserved a chance to come back, especially under the cheerful, enterprising, mathematically minded stewardship of Mr. Zemeckis and Mr. Gale. Their new film isn't an ordinary sequel. It's as if the earlier film had been squared.
Variety magazine:
The energy and heart which Robert Zemeckis and story-writing partner Bob Gale (who takes solo screenplay credit this time) poured into the ingenious story of part one is diverted into narrative mechanics and camera wizardry in Future II.
posted by hanov3r (13 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This one hits WAY differently in 2020 than it did in 1989 or even 2015 - the 1985 that Doc and Marty return to feels a little bit like current events.

Not a critical success, especially compared to the first, and not as well-loved among audience members, either, but there's still a lot here to like. The SFX used to create time duplicates was, for 1989, really well executed (much better than Marty's disappearing hand in the original). I love the subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) callbacks to the first, the best of which may be when Griff gets up from being tripped in the diner and we get the same over-the-shoulder view we got in the first, of Marty realizing just how big his opponent is.

Some nice cameos, too. We get Charles "Roger Rabbit" Fleischer trying to raise money to save the clock tower (again). Red is still a bum in the new 1985, this time complaining about "crazy drunk pedestrians" instead of "crazy drunk drivers". Biff's original gang is back, played by Billy Zane, Casey Siemaszko, and JJ Cohen. There's Jason Scott Lee, almost half a decade before he'd portray Bruce Lee in the biopic "Dragon". And, of course, we get Flea as Marty's "friend", Needles.

Watching 1 and 2 back to back, it's easy to see how much Michael J. Fox aged in the four years between filmings. There is a (likely apocryphal) story that he'd forgotten how to skateboard in the intervening years and had to learn all over again.

I would be remiss if I didn't point out the horrible accident that occurred during the filming of the hoverboard scene that severely injured stuntwoman Cheryl Wheeler.
posted by hanov3r at 1:57 PM on November 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

Grimly ironic how the alternate 1985 ended up being a better prediction of the future than their idea of 2015.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 6:57 PM on November 13, 2020 [4 favorites]

At least 2015 wasn’t 2016...
posted by Monochrome at 7:44 PM on November 13, 2020

Part II is my favorite of the trilogy. I love alternate timeline stories which this movie has all over it, plus there's the scenes of the DeLorean in flight (it moves so gracefully for being a flying brick), the optimistic future of 2015, and revisiting of key scenes from the first film. My god, it's wonderful. It's not as tight a film as Part I, but it's more fun.
posted by Servo5678 at 11:46 PM on November 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

My feelings on this one are really mixed. I share Servo's overall sentiments—in particular, I don't think any major motion picture has ever made as much sense of time-travel as this one—but some of the BttF1-nostalgia really crosses the line into pandering, in my view. Also, in comparison with the more realistic character beats of "Part I," future-Marty's sensitivity about being called a chicken felt like something from a Saturday morning cartoon.

Not to mention the fact that I realized, sometime in November 2016, that I could never bring myself to watch it again—at least, not until I get my hands on a time machine of my own and make some revisions. (To history, I mean, not to this film franchise. (Although, as long as we're talking timelines, we wouldn't have the Abrams-verse of nuTrek if this movie hadn't prepped the audience for parallel universes. YMMV on that one.))

Basically, I do think it's a must-see movie for anybody who likes this type of thing, but I think I now appreciate it more on a worldbuilding level than anything else.

plus there's the scenes of the DeLorean in flight (it moves so gracefully for being a flying brick)

Easily my favorite thing about GTAV Online is that you can buy a flying "DeLorean" and they absolutely nailed that movement.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 4:19 AM on November 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

I think they missed their moment with the sequels. Maybe it's just that I was 13 in 1985 and 17 in 1989, but the world changed a lot in those years, too. From Reagan-era Cold War to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Revisiting Marty McFly seemed a little inessential. The sequels are not bad movies (even though I hate Westerns), and they don't retroactively harm the first one. They just seem like an afterthought.
posted by rikschell at 6:39 AM on November 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

This is the one where the heroes knock out Marty's girlfriend and leave her lying in the open. Twice.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 9:15 AM on November 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

Yeah, it's wild that they couldn't come up with a good use for her, but the ending of BTTF1 required her to be there, so they just fucking dump her. Doc is like "Yeah, bring her along it involves her too!" then five minutes later uses some kind of future date-rape machine on her to make her go away. Really, writers? You couldn't think of some little sub-plot for her? Or like, let her be involved in the hoverboard chase? Or be part of Doc's plan to fix their kids' future in any way? She could have been the one that borrows the hoverboard from the little girl, then tosses it to Marty. Shit, she could have been the one that buys the sports almanac! She could have, I dunno, been an ACTUAL CHARACTER that DOES THINGS.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 11:28 AM on November 14, 2020 [10 favorites]

Now I'm imagining the entire rest of the series with Marty AND Jennifer working together and it's so much better. There's so many scenes of Marty alone acting against nothing, or saying lines to nobody, that would have been better if it was the two of them. It fucking sucks that the writers decided all the adventuring had to be done by Marty and Doc.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 11:39 AM on November 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

I concur with everyone else re: Jennifer.

It's not a bad movie, per se, it just goes all over the place multiple times. BTTF3 is less complicated, so it works better. But I did enjoy The Future, and I still kinda want a hoverboard.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:49 AM on November 14, 2020

Check it out on Youtube!
Back to the Future - Parts I & II Side-by-Side Comparison

I enjoy BTTF II for what it is, but I have always felt like the pretext for going into the future is rather weak and as I've pondered it over the years, I've come to the conclusion that it undermines the rest of the series, including events in the rest of BTTF II. A person should never know too much about the future, so why is Doc sharing info about Marty's kids to Marty? And yet knowing what happens about the crash that wrecks Marty's music ambitions is bad news? Kinda iffy to me!
posted by Fukiyama at 9:21 AM on November 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

BTTF2 is pretty much the perfect definition of the "sexy lamp" trope, even moreso than Buckaroo Banzai. And I agree with the creator of that trope: the writer and director were hacks.
posted by happyroach at 5:40 PM on November 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

it just goes all over the place multiple times.

They had to stop in the middle of the film, and DRAW A DIAGRAM for the audience.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 1:23 PM on November 16, 2020 [1 favorite]

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