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Back to the Future III

Back to the Future III

What he said:

He

Several months ago while looking for something to do on a day off I decided to check out the original Back to the Future (review here) for the first time in years. I popped in the sequel a month or so later on another day off (review here) finished out the series with the final chapter in the trilogy just a few weeks ago.

Both of the previous movies end on a cliffhanger, but part two had the bigger one. Marty (Michael J. Fox) sees the DeLorean vanish when it is hit by a bolt of lightning. He finds out – through a letter from the past – that the Doc (Christopher Lloyd) is alive and well in the old west. The problem is that Marty is stuck in 1955 without a time machine to bring him back to the year 1985. The letter instructs Marty to go see the 1955 version of the Doc. That Doc is in shock when he sees Marty appear; because he had literally just sent Marty back to 1985 (from his original visit to the past in the first movie). He is hesitant to help as a result of his nerves being shot, but can’t turn his back on his friend. The two of them follow the instructions from future Doc (who is now stuck in the old west). The letter informs them that the time machine is buried in the desert with instructions for replacement parts. The letter also instructs Marty to not attempt to go back to the old west to rescue the Doc. Initially, Marty plans to respect the Doc’s wishes, but changes his mind when he finds out the Doc is actually murdered by one of Biff’s (Thomas F. Wilson) ancestors. The relatives name is Buford “Mad Dog” Tanen and he has that legendary Tanen bully mentality.

The movie actually seemed just fine at this point. In the second movie we get to see new environments in the form of the future (2015) and the alternate 1985 timeline. That trend looks to continue as we are shown Marty is going to back to 1885 to rescue his friend. But once Marty actually gets back to the old west is when the movie starts to falter a little bit. There’s nothing wrong the environment, but the supporting characters simply didn’t have the same appeal.

I know it is the same actor and he’s playing the ancestor of the same character, but “Mad Dog” Tanen simply didn’t have the same appeal as other versions of Biff. In the original, Biff is a classic bully. In the sequel, not only do we get that, but we also get to see other versions of the character as the Doc and Marty jump from future, to an alternate present, and finally back to the past. All of the same characters are involved, but we get to see them at different points in their lives. “Mad Dog” was not Biff and I can respect the decision to want to branch out a little, but the character just didn’t have the same appeal to me as Biff did. I didn’t hate him or anything, but Biff is just simply more memorable.

The same can be said for other actors who are playing ancestors of their characters from the first two movies. I think of Principal Strickland (James Tolkan) for example. He was a thorn in Marty’s side in both of the previous movies, but not in this one. Not to mention, I didn’t enjoy Marshall Strickland anywhere near as much as Principal Strickland. The appeal just wasn’t there.

Stuff like that was where the movie lacked.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s not a bad movie. There’s still some funny jokes and classic action/adventure you’d expect from a Back to the Future movie, but it’s definitely the weak link. Especially when you consider how strong of an effort the second was after the first. The first is pretty much the perfect example of an adventure comedy. The sequel is also pretty damn good too. But this one lacked the same appeal.

The ending was also a little weak. That whole train thing? Earlier in the movie Marty and Doc are unsure of how they will rebuild the time machine. But the Doc – while still stuck in the past – somehow ends up building a flying train time machine? Please. Plus, you don’t replace the DeLorean like that. It’s a pop culture icon.

Diagnosis: Thumbs half up.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on June 16, 2012.

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