tek's rating: ½

Back to the Future Part II (PG)
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Caution: spoilers!

This came out in 1989, four years after the first movie. (It was shot back-to-back with Part III, which came out in 1990.) I feel like there's actually a chance I saw this in the theater, but I'm not quite sure. Either way, I must have seen it on VHS. And I collected trading cards, though I don't have them anymore, alas. Anyway, I got the trilogy on DVD in 2015. I'd been meaning to get it for years, but I finally decided I had to get it this year, so that I could watch the second movie on October 21, 2015. Because that's the date Marty travels to, from 1985. I must say, in the last few years there have been internet memes that falsely reported the date and year they appeared on to be the date Marty traveled to in this movie, and I never understood how anyone fell for those scams. Sure, I didn't remember the exact date, but I always found it inconceivable that any fan of the movie would forget the year. Anyway, for a week or so leading up to the big date (and particularly on October 21 itself), there have been all kinds of memes and other things related to the movie, all over social media. Like a video on College Humor called Back to the Future in Actual 2015, which was fairly amusing. And a five minute Toyota ad called Fueled by the Future (which reunited Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd, which was pretty cool, but I thought it was extra cool because Jeff Lewis had a very brief, totally random appearance in it). And there was an episode of SciShow called The Future of Back to the Future. And Teens React did an episode about the date (but I didn't see it until 2021). And... I guess that's all I'll mention here.

Anyway... at the end of the first movie, Doc Brown showed up in the present (1985) and told Marty he had been to the future, and now they had to go back to 2015 to fix some problem with Marty and Jennifer's kids. Jennifer comes along, and the last shot of the movie was the DeLorean flying (an upgrade Doc had made to it in the future) and disappearing. The sequel replays that scene, with some extra details (including Jennifer being played by Elisabeth Shue instead of Claudia Wells, and a meaningful pause before Doc answers one of Marty's questions, and Biff seeing the DeLorean take off). Soon after they get to the future, Doc puts Jennifer to sleep with some future tech. It turns out he just wants Marty to pose as Marty Jr., to tell Biff's grandson, Griff, that he wouldn't participate in a crime Griff was planning. (Marty's son looks just like him, because they're both played by Michael J. Fox... who also plays Marty's daughter, Marlene.) Apparently, Marty Jr.'s complicity in the planned crime would have ruined the rest of both his Marlene's lives. But by refusing to take part, Marty changes their future for the better. But Marty's refusal leads to Griff and his gang chasing him, all of them on hoverboards (which are surely the most popular future tech from the movie, with most fans).

While in 2015, Marty buys a sports almanac with the results of every sporting event from 1950 to 2000 (though I really can't imagine that's possible, because that would have to be a ton of information for what looked like a fairly small magazine). Doc finds out about this, and throws out the almanac, and lectures Marty about his intentions. However, an elderly Biff eavesdrops on their conversation, and retrieves the almanac from the trash. Meanwhile, a couple of cops find Jennifer passed out in the alley where Doc had left her (I have no idea why he couldn't have just left her in the DeLorean), and they scan her DNA, from which they learn her name and address. So they take her home (thinking she's the Jennifer of 2015). Doc and Marty follow them, and Biff follows Doc and Marty. When the two of them are both away from the car, Biff steals it, and travels back in time. He later returns the car without them realizing it had been gone. Meanwhile, Jennifer wakes up, and has to hide from her future family until she can get out of the house. While doing so, she sees and hears things about future Marty, which will be of some importance in the next movie. Then, before she can leave... something causes her to faint. But just then, Marty and Doc find her, take her back to 1985, and leave her sleeping on (what is presumably) her porch swing, hoping she'll think the whole thing was a dream. Marty goes home, but it turns out there are other people living there now. He wanders around town, seeing how drastically Hill Valley has changed from what it should be like. Most notably, Biff is now rich... and married to Lorraine. Worst of all, Marty learns that his father, George, had been murdered in 1973. He goes to his father's grave, where Doc finds him. Then Doc takes him back to his lab (which had been abandoned, since the Doc Brown of this reality had been committed to an insane asylum), and explains some basic time travel concepts to him.

They realize that while they were in the future, Biff took the time machine into the past, but they need to find out exactly when in the past. I won't go into how they find that out (though one might think they could just check the last destination on the time machine's readout, but then again, that's been on the blink). Anyway, it turns out to have been the day of the dance from the first movie, so Doc and Marty have to go back to 1955, wait for old Biff to give young Biff the almanac, and then get it back from him. Naturally, this turns out to be very complicated, which means we get to see lots of scenes from the first movie, from a new perspective. So that was really fun. Eventually they do get the almanac, and Marty burns it, and we see a couple of newspaper headlines (and a matchbook) from the alternate future change back to what they wanted them to say. But before they could return to 1985, lightning strikes the DeLorean, and it disappears, with Doc Brown in it, but Marty left behind in 1955. (I have no idea how this works, since the DeLorean wasn't going 88 miles per hour at the time, but whatever.) The movie ends with Marty getting a message from Doc Brown, who is now living in 1885. So he finds the 1955 Doc to ask for his help. Thus ends Part II (though because the two movies were shot back to back, we get to see some scenes from Part III before the end credits roll, a fact that I didn't remember from the last time I watched this movie).

Anyway... throughout Part II, there are of course tons of references to Part I, so it seems like someone who hadn't seen the first movie couldn't possibly have as great an appreciation for Part II as someone who has. I'm sure it's still a really fun movie in its own right, but it's impossible for me to know how much I would have liked it if I hadn't been familiar with the first movie (not that I'd ever watch a sequel without first seeing the original). A great deal of the fun comes from rehashing old gags from the first movie, which in almost any other franchise could seem lazy, but the way it's done here, it's just... really fun. And there's something kind of meta about how nostalgic the scenes set in 1955 are, I mean they induce a certain nostalgia for the first movie, but it's even more meta watching part II now, because now I'm feeling nostalgia for the first movie and the second movie at the same time. There are also little details that are obviously (in retrospect) setting up Part III, which is something I suppose I couldn't have noticed before seeing the third movie. So that was neat. But also, there's this running theme of Marty being unable to back down when anyone calls him a chicken. It always seemed to me like that came out of nowhere, because I'm pretty sure that wasn't a thing at all in the first movie. Still, it's essential for various plot points in this movie as well as the third one. And I guess that's all I can think to say. But seriously... it's an awesome movie.

Concluded in Back to the Future Part III

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