Is it possible for someone to love a movie as much as I once loved Back To The Future Part II?
I'm sure it is, of course; film lovers are, by definition, film geeks, and geeks, by definition, feel a warmth and a passion for their possessive favorites that makes them believe that such works of art were created for they and they alone. Add to the equation the fact that one cannot love a movie more than one does at fourteen, and there you have it: My love for the flick is equal, if not surpassing, the energy required to ignite the universe itself.
This is the thing. When you're nine years old, almost ten, and the movie you choose to see on a warm and sunny Saturday afternoon in the heart of summer happens to be Back To The Future, the first one, your life cannot be the same afterwards. It simply can't. Sure, I didn't understand the ending, but that was part of the allure; here was this crazy story about a kid travelling back in time, only to have his mother, his mother, fall in love with him, and it ended with a science-fiction twist that is, in retrospect, rather simplistic, but is also, in retrospect, fucking genius, if only because everything is simplistic to a nine-year old. The movie ends on a cliff-hanger, Marty and Jennifer and Doc soaring into the future. How could they do that? I wondered. How could they leave me suspended like that?
The consolation prize as a child was the fact that there was never any doubt that there would be a sequel. Of course there would be. The first film didn't end, it stopped, which meant that it had to continue. The question was when. When, goddamnit.
Four years is a fuck of a long time for a kid, so by the time I finally saw the teaser poster at a small cinema in Brockville, Ontario, I couldn't believe it. I mean that literally: I could, not, believe it. It was coming. It was real. if this agnostic were to see Jesus himself riding on the Four Horseman Of the Apocalypse next Saturday night, it would not equal the awe and wonder I felt upon seeing that simple poster of the Delorean, and the twin tracks of fire, and the title: Back To the Future Part II.
It was back.
In my life, in the real world, four years had come and gone, four years of hockey and comics and movies and classes, always classes, but in Marty's world, time stood still. So much had happened had changed with me, but he was still there, in the Delorean, heading towards the future.
It's that continuity, I think, that drew me in. The realization that, within that cinematic world, time could stand still, be manipulated, be bent backwards and forwards like sticky taffy. While the rest of the world remained distinctly underwhelmed by the first sequel, I was floored, overjoyed, almost crying with glee.
Why do people like sequels, anyways? Because they love the first film so much. They love it so much that they say: Do it again, please. Give me those feelings I felt the first time. Make me love that film again and again, but in a new way.
Back To the Future II ingeniously has its characters actually return to the events of the first film; we get to see it all, again, in a new way. Not to mention the fact that we saw the future, and a parallel 1985 erected out of the misdeeds of the misguided villian, Biff. And flying skateboards, I mean, c'mon -- how cool is that? Back To The Future II showed me the first film, again; it continued a love affair that had begun four years before. It allowed me to believe, if only for an hour or two, that some things never change, that we can, if we want, and are able, go back to the sights of our strongest glories, our greatest loves. We can fuck-up and fix it. We can bring the dead back to life. We can resurrect others, and ourselves.
In retrospect, after watching the trilogy again for the first time in a long time about six, seven months ago, I can see that the first film is the best film. It created the world I fell in love with; it had a heart, and a theme, and a pulse. The second and third films are designed to continue the love we felt from the first one; in a sense, they feed off the goodwill of the first flick.
And yet, I always love the flicks others disparage. The more people diss Back To The Future II, the more I stick up for it, if only in my own head. And then there are those times when I think that the third one is the best one, the most silly and lightweight and heartfelt and mysterious. And then I think no, no, the first is the best. My thoughts change, again, to the essential freneticness of the second one. To jump backwards and forwards in time, to see oneself as the agent of one's own undoing, and the world's, to be able to go back and watch yourself, then redeem yourself, to realize, in the end, that the future is what we make of it, the theme of the whole trilogy and Doc's advice to Marty in the final scene of the final film -- to watch the second film is to reconnect with who I once was and what I once expected out of life. It was a film I knew was coming, someday, but was astonished to see arrive. It was the fulfillment of a childhood dream. It was my favorite story, continued and extended and embellished.
But maybe, just maybe, I love it so much because, after four years of waiting, it didn't let me down. I was expecting greatness, and it was better than I expected.
It didn't let me down.
Funny, how important that is to me now.