Back To The Future Part II: The Art of Making the Complex Simple

Another podcast and another article to take up some of your time. At first when I was about to write this article I had no idea what I wanted to talk about. The ideas behind Back to the Future 2 (BTTF2) are out in the world in so many forms. It is easier in the Movie nerd world to find an opinion piece on Back to the Future 2 than it is to find cocaine in Hollywood and that is supposedly pretty easy.

So instead of looking at the breakdown of tired old tropes about Marty, time travel breaks and of course incest. Let’s jump into some other territory. But before we do let’s have a little run down on Back to the Future 2.

Released in 1989, this follow up to the amazing Back to the future part 1(BTTF1), is a glorious thrill ride by Robert Zemeckis written with writing partner Bob Gale. Marty McFly and Doc Brown return and have to travel to the future to save Marty’s children and in doing so they inadvertently set off a time rift as future Biff steal the DeLorean to go back in time to give his younger self a sports almanac filled with sporting results to bet with that changes the past and the present so Biff rules supreme. This means that Marty and Doc after saving Marty’s children in the future (sexy MJF dressed as a daughter- You know you love it GEOFF) then travel to the broken timeline to see his Mum being abused by an all-powerful Biff who is also the murderer of Marty’s father George. Marty and Doc then need to go back to the time of the Original film and stop future Biff from giving younger Biff the Sports Almanac as well as not running into themselves and disrupting the adventure from from BTTF part 1.

Apart from my bad writing and phrasing, are you confused reading the above? Imagine how horrified the conservative 80’s Movie exec must have felt when Bob Gale and Bobby Z pitched this one? How did they sell something like this to the studios heads and more importantly to the audience?

In my responsible adult world, I am a trainer. Not the type with the rock hard abs who runs behind you yelling “give me five more Karen!!” Nope. I am a vocational trainer. I train people on systems and whatever else my bosses ask me to train. One of the hardest thing I have to do as a trainer is to try and make the complex ideas understandable. So there is always a part of me that is impressed whenever a director and writer are able to take complex plots and make then palatable.

BTTF1 takes a sci-fi concept of time travel and gives it to you in a hilarious and digestible fashion. You never leave BTTF1 questioning the physics, you leave thinking of the adventure. BTTF2 takes that time travel and completely goes to town. It doubles down on the twists and turns without losing you or making you think you are in “nerd” territory. At the time many studios viewed Sci-fi as “nerdy” and belonging to smaller audiences and therefore smaller profits. Ironically this is an idea that has been proven wrong time and again but that is an article for another day.

So what does Bobby Z and a Bob Gale do to make BTTF2 fun whilst pushing you down the rabbit hole? Misdirection. A trick magicians have used since the dawn of……umm magicians. When Doc and Marty first fly to the future, we are too distracted by the colours, flying cars, crazy fashion and of course the hoverboards to care about the logistics of a banana peel replacing plutonium. We see a familiar yet strange world that immerses us so deeply that we forget to question it. We leave our minds and enter successfully into “Suspension of Disbelief”

Apart from the visuals, the writing and storyline also distract you as it powers forward at a breakneck pace to keep you entertained and of course busy. This is a definite masterstroke by Bob Gale and Bobby Z. When you are able to see these brilliants misdirection’s, BTTF2 takes on another

level of brilliance. This is a film that very few blockbusters have been able to successfully emulate. Whenever I think of this topic, I can’t help but refer to another brilliant filmmaker. Christopher Nolan and Inception. Imagine how this film was pitched? How much salesmanship and confidence was required to get the budget and talent it required to make a film about a group of thieves who use dreams as a way to steal and manipulate business. Especially when they get to the level of three dreams down. Supposedly Inception started as an 80 page treatment that Nolan put aside at first to build his experience so he made Batman begins, the prestige and The Dark knight before returning and revising the story. Once Nolan did come around to making Inception, he made it in a fashion that people understood it and never felt flooded by it. Financially it was a hit and is now considered a classic.

I know there may be some of you who are thinking of other complex films that can be added but remember.....Were they successful and did a wider audience enjoy them? I love “the Fountain”. It is one of my favourite films but it is not part of our movie culture as BTTF2 and Inception are. Some of them missed what makes Inception and BTTF2 so popular. They used the story to explain the concept and then instead of throwing data and exposition at you, they make a conscious effort to humanise what is happening. They take the characters and make you feel deeper for them. Marty with his parents and DiCaprio’s Cobb and his wife. Nolan and Zemeckis write and direct the films with such an expertise that you somehow start to emote and relate to characters who are either travelling through time or through dreams!! That is an Achievement!!

I will finish this off now as I don’t like to go on and on in my articles, I am sorry as I believe I am better at talking than writing, hence the podcast. Albert Einstein quoted that “The definition of genius is taking the complex and making it simple.” So I feel confident in the genius of Bobby Z and Bob Gale in Back to the Future 2. This reason alone makes this film stand out of the BTTF trilogy as well as making it one of my most loved films.

I hope you enjoyed the article and I would love to hear your thoughts. Now go listen to some more of our podcast, please!!