BACK TO THE FUTURE PART II
Back to the Future Part II has a dazzlingly intelligent and sophisticated script. (The only point of contention surely being that the changing of the future by Biff giving himself the almanac in 1955 would mean that the 2015 that he came from would no longer be there for him to return to with the car). Robert Zemeckis directs with the same freshness of energy that the first film had. There is a remarkable cleverness to the 1955 scenes, which essentially replay the events of the first film while telling another story inside the margins. This involves a meticulously choreographed game of split-screen opticals and reshooting of scenes from the original film to show Michael J. Fox ducking around and trying to avoid himself.
The film has a helter-skelter pace and makes several dazzling flips of scenario that leave the less able of mind behind. It also leaves little room for the light humour of the original. Indeed, during the middle sections which depict a much darker version of the present-day and the ending that appears to kill off a main character, it becomes a very dark variation on the original. If you run the two films along side-by-side, Back to the Future has an enormous energy and innocence but there is little of that in Back to the Future Part II, where the tone is sombre. As such, Back to the Future Part II was not the huge hit with audiences that the first film was or even that the filmmakers were expecting it to be. Critics leapt in with kneejerk reactions slamming the film for its darker tone and hanging ending. Whereas one tends to think that the dexterity of scripting makes Back to the Future Part II the best film of the entire trilogy.
The future scenes make some nicely satirical jabs with a holographic Jaws 17 (directed by Max Spielberg executive producer Steven Spielbergs real-life son) and a café that features Max Headroom (1985, 1987-8)-styled simulations of Michael Jackson, Ronald Reagan and the Ayatollah. The Back to the Future series of films resonate with pop culture references and riffs they represent a vision of the past and future having been innocently colonised and constantly rewritten by the baby boomer generation.
Back to the Future Part II was followed by Back to the Future Part III (1990), a companion piece that was shot back-to-back with this and took the series back to the Old West. There was also a short-lived animated series Back to the Future (1991), featuring live-action science lecture inserts from Christopher Lloyd. Back in Time (2015) is a documentary about the making of the Back to the Future series and its cultural influence.