Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Top Films: Back To The Future

The things that make Back to the Future so much more than just another science fiction time travel romp are solid and tight plotting and character centered focus.

Most—strike that—every time travel story has to contend with paradox. There is just no way for a character to move about in time without causing major logical problems. The ways a story can deal with this range from embracing the problem as the whole point (a means to changing the present—The Terminator), or simply ignore the problem like Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

(Some rare examples of Time Travel fiction have tried to address the problem by avoiding the travel aspect. C.S. Lewis envisioned Time Viewing in his unfinished Ransom story. Frequency tried Time hearing.)

Back to the Future does neither but instead very carefully plots a story with no unexplained elements. The problems are addressed straight on (in fact, they deal with the classic Grandfather Paradox) and the story delivers in spite of the mind-bending impossibilities.

Best of all, however, is the way the story does not address huge historic elements, but instead deals with the results of time travel limited only to the traveler and his family. Classic character development and life lessons are the goal of this story. Marty learns virtues such as courage and working hard to achieve important goals.

An interesting role reversal occurs between Marty and his mother concerning their moral standards. She appears to be a prude in present day, but as a teen she was quite another person. In the past it is Marty who reprimands her for the very behavior he was earlier trying to exhibit himself.

The afterthought rest of the trilogy doesn’t quite achieve the classic status of this first film that is truly one of the greatest films of all time.

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