Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Written by: Bob Gale
Starring: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Thomas F. Wilson
When it comes to making sequels, they typically need to raise the stakes and make things more difficult for our protagonists seeing that they should have grown to not struggle with the quest from their first adventure. Raising these stakes add more urgency, but with Back to the Future Part II, I would argue that they went a bit too far.
After being notified that his future son will be in danger, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) travels 30 years into the future with Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) and Lorraine (Lea Thompson). Landing in 2015, Marty must substitute for his son to get out of trouble and not get seduced into using the knowledge gained from the future to negatively impact his timeline.
As much as the validity of the time travel logic of the first Back to the Future can be questioned, at the very least it followed a basic idea that actions changed in the past will impact the future. Some moments fall through, but all of these laws are based on hypothetical ideas that no one has ever tested. The first film at least became simple to follow, this installment decided that it will throw everything to the wall as it jumps between multiple timelines, which not only makes it confusing but also diminishes the fun.
Throughout the story, the time travel begins with going from 1985 to 2015 and from there it jumps around back and forth, including jumping to 1955 where the first film went. I understand the idea of having them jump around to continually undo their mistakes, but it lost any ground of what all this travel means. The time jumps in the first film became a miracle and them doing it twice became such an incredible achievement. It felt like landing on the moon for the first time, but Back to the Future Part II cheapens that in a way. It makes it feel more common but something only Doc Brown seemingly knows how to do considering Marty and Doc still continue to be the only ones capable of traveling through time.
It does make it rather fun to compare the future that these creators thought would exist in 2015 compared to reality. The writing of this review takes place in 2020, which would land 5 years after when Marty landed in the future. Some similarities exist, for sure, but I cannot fathom a future where hovering cars would exist and sadly we did not reach it in this millennium thus far. It’s fun to see the things they got right, including the nostalgic tastes of people living in the future. In the 1980s, folks were nostalgic for the 1950s, similar to how 2010s makes people want to go back to the 80s. It feels like the 30-year gap creates those generational divides that make us look back and miss simpler times. Bob Gale, the writer, nailed it and perhaps became far too generous with how much it would influence popular culture.
Just as Marty learns a lesson in the first film, he gets a new lesson of not trying to profit from the future. It would be tempting to take ideas that would be prevalent in the future and go back to be the first person to think of it. In this film, it looks at sports results and possibly betting on it. Imagine going back and conceiving the idea of Facebook before Zuckerburg, or other apps that have taken over such as Uber, Airbnb, and many others. It may be tempting, but it would be messing with reality and trying to mess with it causes the larger issue in the film that Marty needs to get escape from.
While being the lowest point in the franchise, Back to the Future Part II has some fun moments that come whenever Doc and Marty get on their adventures. Having Marty take on the different generations of Biff (Thomas F. Wilson) always makes for comedic moments. This film simply did not come together as well. It felt far too similar to the first film but just much messier in its execution and storytelling. Still a watchable film but you could just rewatch the first one and avoid the whiplash of the story.