Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Written by: Bob Gale
Starring: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Thomas F. Wilson, Mary Steenburgen
With one final film to go, the biggest lesson of them all appears before our protagonist. Through the other films, he may learn how not to meddle in timelines but still fell for the same traps. Learning from his biggest deficiency makes Back to the Future Part III a worthy sequel to the first film in the series.
After Doc’s (Christopher Lloyd) disappearance, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) travels back to 1885 with the help of a letter. His mission involves saving Doc, who happened to find himself trapped way back in the past. Marty lands and realizes just how different the time period is and must adjust to ensure both he and Doc make it back to their timeline.
Following the still good but slightly disappointing Back to the Future Part II, this film could have fallen the way of many trilogies, where diminishing returns get far steeper. Fortunately, it seems that writer, Bob Gale, and director, Robert Zemeckis waited for the third version to finally have Marty learn from his biggest weakness of not being goaded into things that will cause him and others harm.
It became a trend of the first two films to have Marty learn not to mess with timelines but in each story, he got himself into trouble because he would not want to do something but then would because someone called him a chicken. Incredibly childish, I know, but it lost its humor by the second film and simply just became a sad character fault. Finally, Marty gets that new perspective and shows the biggest moment of character growth for this beloved figure. It’s because of this lesson that this film feels like an improvement, but also because it dives into a genre instead of jumping around.
As Marty makes his way to the Wild West, most of the story stays within this period and remains contained in the world. It allows the audience to stay immersed with the new surrounding that Marty has found himself in, just like the first one. It gives the characters in that timeline the opportunity to breathe and leave their marks in their story. Taking these characters back in time also shows just how small the world can be. In 1885, Marty runs into his ancestors who happen to live in the same town as the 1885 version of Biff (Thomas F. Wilson). It seems like these two bloodlines have been intertwined from the beginning of time. Marty has to battle some version of Biff whether it be in 1985, 1955, 2015, and now 1885. It’s funny in its own way with how ridiculous it may be. I’m sure if they go back to the colonial times, there would be another version of Biff waiting to be a nuisance to Marty and his ancestors.
Biff’s character may be a simple villain, but the work by Thomas F. Wilson still works every time. Seeing him jump into different makeup and costumes makes me appreciate his presence throughout the entire trilogy. While Marty grew in his own way, Back to the Future Part III gave Doc something more emotionally involved to take on. As compared to the preceding films, Marty had his lessons while Doc was present to help him out and be a fun side character. In the third installment, he finally received the opportunity to have a love interest and someone worth fighting for not named McFly. It allowed for more pure moments for the character, which Christopher Lloyd nailed as always.
The western aspect had its fun as Marty learns how to adapt to this time. As someone who has ridden hoverboards in 2015 and jammed out in 1955, he learns that being a sharpshooter was far more important. Adapting to the language differences and what’s expected of someone in that time showed that perhaps people belong in their respective timelines no matter how much they may believe they are of a different era.
Back to the Future Part III provides plenty of fun and a story that allows both protagonists to grow in their own ways. It drops them in a completely different period of time where they must be creative if they hope to get the DeLorean running again. It provides a different challenge, but also one that pushes them to be better.