Jul 13, 2012

[Movies] Back to the Future Part III (1990)

It's somewhat funny how the Back to the Future series of movies also fell into some of the familiar tropes of movie franchises, especially with respect to continuing sequels and the like. And while I praised the second movie for being at par or even somewhat better than the first, this third one fell more into the familiar "pattern" of on-going movies.

To be fair, it's not like this movie was all that horrible or anything like that. I just felt it wasn't quite as strong as the other two movies. In the end, it was still another fun adventure - as we'll explore a bit more in this review.

The first movie had us going to the time of Marty McFly's parents. The second movie had us traveling to the future. And now this last installment in the series has us going further back into the past to the time of the wild west - as had already been previewed at the end of the second movie.

So here we go!

Synopsis: Back to the Future Part III is the last installment in the trilogy of science fiction comedy movies directed by Robert Zemeckis. Given the movie was filmed at the same time as the second one, the screenplay was also handled by Bob Gale.

While still in 1955, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) discovered that his time-traveling friend Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) was trapped in the past in 1885 through a letter that had been left for him. Thus Marty seeks the help of the 1955 Doc Brown to figure out a solution - one that eventually leads to locating the DeLorean as they formulate a plan to get him back. But he also discovers that Doc died shortly after the date of the letter, thus giving Marty additional incentive to recover his friend.

Thus Marty takes the DeLorean back to 1885 but manages to damage the DeLorean's fuel line upon his arrival in the past. So that compounds his challenges with trying to figure out how to save Doc from Biff Tannen's great-grandfather Mad Dog Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson), determine a way to repair the DeLorean so he can eventually get back to 1985 and of course the usual challenge of avoiding altering the timeline so that he doesn't end up preventing his existence. All in a day's work for any other time-traveler.

I think my not enjoying this movie as much has more to do with my general dislike for movies set in the wild west. It's an illogical personal thing on the whole, I know, but overall I should learn to get past it. I think it has more to do with the general pacing of such movies feeling somewhat slower and such and thus my patience wears thing. Or something like that.

Back To the Future Part III DeLorean
Back To the Future Part III DeLorean (Photo credit: ewen and donabel)
Of course one of the best things about this movie involves the need to constantly improvise technological solutions despite the limited resources available. In the first movie it was challenging enough to generate the kind of power needed for the DeLorean outside of a lightning strike. Now being all the way in the past leaves Doc and Mart y with even less stuff to work with. And thus we inevitably wander into the realm of steampunk related technologies, which is a lot more popular in recent years. Good job Gale and Zemeckis!

I'm not sure if this counts as a spoiler at this point, but I feel it's more than worth the joy of gushing over this one bit. Yes, I totally loved the time-traveling locomotive most of all.

This movie also reminds us that a story can only go so far. I doubt this movie could have survived even a fourth installment in the series. The narrative was pretty much tight enough to survive the three movies and all the interconnections that the writers created within the trilogy. That was part of what made the movies so much fun, but at the same time limited it's potential for additional expansion. I figured had they tried to keep up that little trick the movie would become a bit too complicated for the average movie-goer.

On the whole, Back to the Future Part III made for a lovely way to wrap up the franchise as a whole. Plus it still stands as one of the more memorable movies out there that helped make a concept as geeky as time travel remain a lot more accessible to more viewers. And that's a very good thing indeed. Thus the movie rates a good 3.5 running gags that transcend the generations out of a possible 5.

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