Back In Time
directed by Jason Aron
starring Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale
As a product of The ’80s, a love of Back to the Future is practically a requirement for me. And it is there, to be sure. I appreciate all of the performances, from Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd all the way down to James Tolkan as the Principal. But I have always admired the stories I heard about the making of the film, and the first of its kind making of the back-to-back sequels. That is why I was excited to watch Back in Time.
This documentary is not just an exploration of the films themselves, but also a look at the cult and culture that has grown up around them. Approximately the first third of the documentary focuses on the making of the original film. The two main hurdles were finding the right studio to produce a time travel movie, and finding the right lead actor. Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale had written a script that everyone in Hollywood loved, but no one would take a chance on producing. The tale of eventual production is fascinating, as is the often-told tale of replacing Eric Stoltz with Michael J. Fox. Talking heads are present for both of the tales, with the primaries – Gale and Zemeckis, Spielberg, Fox, along with other actors and studio folks. But the best talking heads are the people who were inspired by the script and performances, especially Dan Harmon (creator of Community and Rick and Morty) who outlines how flawed the “perfect script” is from a technical perspective, while still extolling how well it works.
The rest of the documentary splits its time between a cursory review of the sequel filming, an in-depth look at the DeLorean Time Machine, and the fandom that has grown from the initial film into conventions, cosplay, music, charity fundraising, and technological innovation. Again, talking heads guide the story, with super fans explaining how much the movie and characters have meant to them. Fans worked and restored the original Time Machine at Universal Studios from a decrepit state into a display “better than the original.” Fans travel around the country raising money for Parkinson’s Disease. Fans used the visions of the future to develop real hoverboards, of a sort.
On the whole, Back in Time is a good love letter to not only Back to the Future but to the entire culture. Some things are missing, of course. While we hear about Eric Stoltz, we don’t get to hear from him. Nothing is mentioned of Crispin Glover and the controversy surrounding the replacement of him as George McFly. The sequels get short shrift, especially the third film, as Part 2 got some time as they talked about how accurate the portrayal of the future turned out. If Marty McFly and Doc Brown were a large part of your youth, take a return visit to Hill Valley with this documentary and catch up with some old friends.