The “Back to the Future” series captures our hearts because it successfully blends science fiction, action, adventure, and comedy to show us teenager Marty McFly’s (Michael J. Fox) travels through time with his pal Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd). These films follow a logical progression of events that transitions smoothly from one to another, but what’s interesting is that thematically they also maintain a forward progression.
“Back to the Future” establishes the sense of awe at the concept of time travel. In this chapter Marty is catapulted into the past, where he nearly prevents his own existence by interrupting his parents’ first meeting. “Back to the Future Part II” carries on the wonder as Marty travels to the future, but it shows how dangerous time travel can be if it falls into the wrong hands. As the final film in the series, “Back to the Future Part III” wraps up loose ends in the tale, while forcing Doc and Marty to grow significantly as individuals through their experience together.
Today marks the twentieth anniversary of “Back to the Future Part III” and since it’s frequently marked as the least favorite in the series by fans, it seemed like a fair idea to revisit the final chapter in the franchise.
Resuming where “Back to the Future Part II” leaves off, Marty has just saved the day by preventing bully Biff Tannen from attaining an almanac containing statistics on the next 50 years of sporting events. Biff used this book in the previous film to create his own vile future where he ruled Hill Valley. Soon after Marty’s victory however, a lightning bolt struck the time machine, sending Doc Brown even further back in time.
Marty miraculously receives a letter in the moments following this event from his good friend. The letter tells the youngster that Doc is living happily in 1885, with no intention of leaving. Even though the DeLorean has sustained damage that is unable to be fixed in the Old West, Doc has stashed it and left repair instructions for his 1955 self to aid Marty in returning to his proper time.
Stubborn and unable to let his friend go, Marty mounts a rescue effort to bring Doc back from the dismal past. In the process though, he manages to anger the local outlaw Buford “Mad Dog” Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson), and Doc falls head over heels in love. Marty is faced with the challenge of defeating Tannen, and convincing Doc that he should return to the future.
Admittedly this film is not as exciting as its predecessors, but there is still some decent action involving gunfights, horseback riding, and a runaway train. Transporting Marty to Hill Valley at various points in its history starts becoming a bit tired, though.
To its credit, “Back to the Future Part III” adequately brings the story to a close gathering all of the characters together for a happy ending. The characters have become much wiser and more mature. Marty learns the value of keeping his cool and not letting others goad him into making poor decisions. Introduced to the joys of love, Doc finds a new direction for his life other than just science, which has dominated the majority of his life.
The ending in “Back to the Future Part III” feels satisfying for the viewer, something that’s often tough to achieve the final chapter of a series. As an audience member, the saga does not leave you with very many questions nor does it leave openings for sequels. The fact that the legacy of “Back to the Future” can be preserved by its original films is something not many other franchises can claim in modern cinema.
My Grade: B+
Photo Credits: Back to the Future Part III 1990 Universal Studios