Rewind Reviews – Back to the Future: Part II – The adventure continues

Posted on 21 October 2020
By Andrew Siddall
  • Share:

On the 21st October 2015, the future became the past, as the date Dr Emmett Brown and Marty McFly travelled to finally caught up with us. In this Rewind Review we take a look at the movie that continued the story in Back to the Future: Part II.

The second addition in the sci-fi trilogy sees Doc take Marty and Jennifer 30 years into the future, 2015, in an attempt to change the future of their kids, but with knowledge of the future comes danger, as Doc and Marty find their time drastically altered after an old enemy changes the course of history.

Michael J. Fox (Teen Wolf) returns as teenager Marty McFly, but this time around, he gets to stretch his acting skills by getting to play not only the older Marty, but his son Marty Jr. and daughter Marlene. Michael is fantastic as each character. He gets more to do and he knocks it out of the park again.

Back alongside Marty is Christopher Lloyd (The Addam’s Family) as Dr Emmett ‘Doc’ Brown. Still eccentric as ever, the Doc is portrayed brilliantly with another fantastic performance by Lloyd. He isn’t in this film as much as the first, since the movie focuses more on Marty, but that’s more than made up for in Part III.

Taking over from Claudia Wells as Jennifer Parker is Elisabeth Shue (The Karate Kid). Elisabeth does a fine job with what she is given and makes the role her own. She gets a few laughs and her reactions to the future world are pretty genuine, but it would have been nice to have seen a bit more from her as Jennifer spends most of her time unconscious.

According to writers Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, this was because they were never planning to do a sequel and wouldn’t have had Jennifer be taken to the future with Marty if they knew they were making one, since the movie would concentrate on Marty and there wouldn’t be much for her to do.

Like the first movie, Marty’s family is a focal point for the story, as we get to see a little more from original co-star Lea Thompson (Howard the Duck) as his mother Lorraine, and newcomer Jeffrey Weissman (Pale Rider) as his father George McFly, who takes over from Crispin Glover.

Jeffrey doesn’t get much to do, with George being written out of the movie, but luckily we get some great scenes with Lea Thompson, who gets to play Lorraine at three stages of her life. She’s great once again and gets to add some new material from the altered timeline.

Returning again to antagonise Marty is Thomas F. Wilson (Action Jackson as Biff Tannen, who gets more involved in the story this time around. Through him, the second half of the movie takes place when he steals the DeLorean and alters the timeline. Thomas is brilliant as the different versions of Biff and we really get to see his more threatening side.

Not only that, but Thomas also plays Griff Tannen, Biff’s grandson. He has a minor role in the film, but he gets a few iconic lines, taking over as the violent bully for 2015, backed up by his own gang in a great scene that throws back to the café sequence of Part I. It even features an early appearance from future Hobbit Elijah Wood!

The story for Part II is split into two halves, with the first focusing on the future, while the second half deals with Biff’s meddling of the timeline. The story flows really well with perfect pacing. The story itself has been dealt with multiple times over the years, showing a drastic and dark “what if…?” scenario, but this is certainly one of the better ones.

It does deal with some complicated time travel concepts, but the movie does a fantastic job of explaining everything in an easy way without becoming boring via Doc and his blackboard. Yes, there are plot holes that will leave you scratching your head, but they are easily overlooked or explained away.

One aspect that really set Back to the Future apart from other sci-fi films was the comedy, and Part II is no exception. The comedy is still funny, with the humour being ramped up a bit more, possibly to balance out the darker moments. It can have its sillier moments, but its part of the charm and the movie wouldn’t be as much fun without it.

Said to be one of the most advanced movies for its time, utilising every trick in the book, according to director Robert Zemeckis, the effects are still pretty good. There are a few CGI moments that don’t quite hold up, but the use of practical effects and a few other tricks is flawless.

One of those other tricks is the editing, which manages to seamlessly blend the same actor into the same shots, as well as having them appear in the first film. This is one of the better instances of that technique and it works really well.

The make-up is also brilliant again, with some very believably aged or de-aged characters, particularly Biff. You can still tell its make-up, but it doesn’t distract from the story or the characters themselves.

Alan Silvestri (Avengers: Endgame) returns to score the film. The music is incredibly iconic and the second film really gets to show that off more, including a great title sequence above the clouds. The playfulness is retained and the emotional sequences are handled with care. It’s still a great soundtrack.

With the film partly taking place in the future, and with that date now past. It’s interesting to think about how accurate or inaccurate the predictions are. According to Zemeckis, he didn’t want the film to take place in the future because movies set in the future tend to mis-predict events.

It is surprising how much was right with things like voice activated homes (similar to Alexa) and Zoom meetings. But with flying cars, real hover boards and a 19th instalment of Jaws, it did get some things wrong, but that doesn’t take away from the imagination and advancements that could potentially happen within the next few years.

Overall, this is a solid follow-up to the first film. It may not be quite as good as the first, but it still contains a great story, interesting ideas, funny comedy and incredibly likable characters. Even though the first left its mark on the sci-fi landscape, this is the one that most time travel movies will draw influence from, and for many fans, this is their favourite.

Rewind rating: 4/5. Now, let’s make like a tree… and get out of here!