Lost in Time: Back to the Future turns 35
A scene from the '80s film series Back to the Future
Lost in Time: Back to the Future turns 35
Lanz Aaron G. Tan (The Philippine Star) - July 14, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines – There are but a select few shots from films so quintessential in our childhood, so pivotal in compounding our experiences growing up, that we find them burned incontrovertibly in our memories. Is it the wonder of a bicycle beautifully silhouetted as it flies in front of the moon? Or the horror as a lion cub watches his father plunge to his death? For millions, that image is one of effervescent nostalgia as Doc Brown’s DeLorean reaches 88 miles per hour, vanishing behind nothing more than a wisp of smoke and a pair of blazing tire tracks.

Much like the swashbuckling time traveling protagonists themselves, Robert Zemeckis’ Back to the Future is lost in time — not because it has failed to adapt, but the contrary — that it remains as engaging and heartwarming today as it did 35 years ago.

From Alan Silvestri’s enchanting title theme, forever immortalized in theme parks and pop symphonies, to the DMC DeLorean (itself a long-retired antiquity), Back to the Future has solidified its place in pop culture iconography.

But what has kept the film as such a timeless classic is not merely the embellishments of music, as instantly recognizable as it has come to be, or the novelty of time travel, but rather Zemeckis’ commitment to heart and character. The film follows high schooler Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and his mad scientist friend Doc Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd) in their escapades through time. It is the development of their touching friendship, the humor of their zany antics, and the simple, innocent time paradoxes that they inevitably create (and try to amend) which make the film so enjoyable.

That story is continued in Parts II and III — which offer ridiculous fun in their own right, but take on more of the exposition, and more of the paradoxes, but far less of the emotion. They often feel like parodies of the original, with the same host of actors simultaneously playing older and younger versions of themselves (or even their own ancestors) and playing out the exact same events in different periods of time.

Zemeckis’ 1985 film captured the nuance in friendship, the bemusement of an uncomfortable moment, and the inconvenient entanglement of curiosity with destiny. As such, it serves as a masterclass in studio blockbuster filmmaking that directors today would do well to revisit.

The Back to the Future trilogy is streaming on Netflix in celebration of its 35th anniversary.

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