The media frenzy around Back to the Future Day was so rabid that even a TV-recluse such as myself could not escape it. Initially, I didn’t want to admit that I’d never seen these famous popcorn flicks and being known as a film admirer made this admission even more difficult. Sadly, I had never seen these classics in their entirety—only bits and pieces when they were on cable movie channels. Two weeks ago, I finally saw seen Robert Zemeckis’ magnum opus of timeless Americana and it’s safe to say that I regret not seeing it sooner.
A Timeless Classic of the 1980s
From the beginning of the first “Back to the Future,” it is clear that it is a product of its time yet transcendent. The artistic shot of ringing clocks is brought back to the 80s when Marty unleashes a guitar strum on Doc Brown’s conveniently-placed, overpowered amplifiers. In my opinion, it is the these dichotomies between philosophical science fiction and unabashed 80s American culture that make “Back to the Future” the beloved films that they are.
The themes of love, time, and family are central to “Back to the Future,” but so is the “coolness” of the eighties. When I watched “Back to the Future,” my initial reaction was to criticize the cliche nature of the content, but I held back. It took some time to realize that this film was the basis of time travel films as we know them. The impact of these films was so profound that they have been the subject of both sincere recreation and equal amounts of parody.
Sharp Writing and Product Placement(?)
With this new perspective, the strongest element I noticed in “Back to the Future” was the writing and delivery; snappy, fun and powerful words that are as impactful to a young child and an adult who had already felt the passage of time. Also, I was sincerely struck by the classy product placement; Pepsi, the California Raisins, and Texaco have never felt so relevant. Zemeckis has gone on record to state his distaste of product placement in films, but he seems to have done so with grace and reverence that is typically forsaken to make a quick buck. I will dive into Pepsi Perfect when I get to “Back to the Future Part II,” arguably my favorite of the trilogy.
When the credits rolled on the first “Back to the Future,” it was clear to me that it rightfully deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Star Wars and Indiana Jones. In fact, it might be the exemplar of American pop in film form. Because of this, “Back to the Future” feels like a warm blanket that delivers a deep level of comfort, passion, and heart.