Back to the Future (1985) by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale

Back to the Future! Ah, this one is a classic. I have seen the film a few times and I enjoy it every time. There is something about this classic sci-fi with Doc and Marty that captures what we love about crazy sci-fi ideas coming to life. It also presented a refreshing take on the grandfather paradox. To top it all off, the rendition of Johnny B. Goode at the end is my favourite, I fell in love with that song after that.

So, the script. It’s pretty identical to the film, which is a relief because it shows something surviving the process of filmmaking. What’s great is that it follows the hero’s journey and even screenwriting structure perfectly. Thus giving the young professional, like me, a glimpse at what can be written and how it may turn out.

Interestingly enough, the script also has some terminology that has not dated well. Terms such as “reefer heads” and its casual use of the term “blacks” seems in poor taste now. Even the women lack agency and mostly are there as objects to chase or motivate the hero. They are not only lacking in actions, but they also are described in the conventional manner as just- beautiful. While the other characters definitely get more personality.

This is of course a result of the time the film was written in, with writers then had not gone through the same zeitgeist we have.

There has been a shift in how writers write characters in general as well. Nowadays, I try to give each character a deeper backstory that justifies their characteristics and motivations. But with a film like Back to the Future, characters are mostly an embodiment of a clique. The school bully, the mad scientist/wizard, the young roguish hero, etc. Even this film, which in many ways explores Marty’s family setting and why they are the way they are, does not do well in explaining or showing why Marty is the way he is.

This is not to take away from the film, if not for Back to the Future and other films of that time, a whole generation of sci-fi lovers would not have been inspired, and we would be less likely to move the genre forward.

So I say, enjoy the film. It’s an easy popcorn flick that has mostly aged well and its worst faults are not bad enough to detract from it, but allow viewers and readers to learn and grow instead.

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