Starring Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Thomas F. Wilson, Elisabeth Shue
When they made the original Back to the Future in 1985, director Robert Zemeckis and screenwriter Bob Gale never intended to make a sequel. The first film’s famous ending was meant as nothing more than another gag. However, with the film’s success, both the studio and audiences demanded a continuation. If they were going to have to make another film, Zemeckis and Gale decided to just go all the way and make it a trilogy. They filmed both Part II and Part III simultaneously.
The second film takes off right where the first one left off. Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) has come back from the future and persuades Marty (Michael J. Fox) and Jennifer (Elisabeth Shue) to come back with him. It seems that in the future, Marty and Jennifer’s future son (also played by Fox) will get arrested, sending his family into turmoil. Marty must pretend to be his own son, in order to stop this mess from starting.
Their mission is successful, but something happens that they weren’t expecting. Old Biff (Thomas F. Wilson) steals the time machine and presents his younger self with an all-knowing sports almanac. Biff uses the almanac, becomes a millionaire and turns Marty’s 1985 Hill Valley home into hell on earth. In order to stop this from happening, Marty and Doc must travel back to 1955 and take the book away from Biff.
Like most sequels, Back to the Future Part II doesn’t quite live up to the high standards set by the first film. The filmmakers create a future that is one big advertisement for one company after another. You can almost hear the subliminal messages saying: “wear Nike” and “buy Pepsi.”
I have read some critics who compared the original Back to the Future film with the Frank Capra classic It’s a Wonderful Life. For me, the comparison really rings true in the sequel. The alternative 1985 is to Marty McFly what Pottersville was to George Bailey. Instead of seeing what life would have been like if he had never been born, Marty gets to see first hand what could happen when you mess around with the Space Time Continuum.
The movie really gets moving when the characters go back to 1955. Not only is this because most of the film’s best action and jokes take place in this sequence; but also because it gives viewers a chance to revisit the previous film from a different perspective. This was an interesting plot twist that remains (to my recollection) the only sequel to journey back into its original.
Like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Back to the Future Part II gives audiences a chance to enjoy the humor and adventure that made its predecessor so successful, but never quite lives up to the expectations set by it. Fortunately, like Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Part III would put the franchise back on top. I give Part II a B.