Back to the Future

Back to the Future ★★★★

Went back for a rewatch after seeing the musical production on Broadway earlier in the day. Oof, what a disaster. It plays like a series of rehashes from the movie; scenes are recreated almost verbatim and seem to make little sense in sequence aside from the fact that that’s the order they happened in the movie. In fact the whole thing was just some kind of morbid reenactment of the superior source material, right down to the way the actors quite shamelessly ape the voices and delivery of Fox and Lloyd’s performances. I spent a lot of time bemoaning the utter absence of any kind of artistic contribution to the original narrative— until the first number after the intermission, an original sequence called “21st Century,” an even more creatively impoverished interlude with virtually no bearing on the main plot that had me wishing they’d just go back to mindlessly parroting the movie. The only redeeming bit of the play was a final sequence where the two leads climb into a life-sized Delorean which lifts into the air, above the stage, floats out over the orchestra pit and somehow seems to rotate 360° right there before us. Technically impressive, but not enough to redeem the frankly trashy nature of the entire adaptation. 

All of which sent me back to Zemeckis’s original text. Each time I’m just astonished at how crisply, perfectly engineered the screenplay is, with virtually every detail a part of an expertly crafted set up-and-payoff formula. It’s such a perfectly Hollywood movie that I almost can’t get mad at its cynical, Reagan-esque nostalgia. The whole thing is a retrograde fantasy that basically posits that restoring pre-Vietnam War era values is the path to bourgeois material happiness. It’s actually a pretty sordid daydream, and that’s not even accounting for the nearly vomit-inducing Oedipal themes. But of course not every great movie fits a political agenda; it’s best to think of this as a time capsule left for the new century, and to luxuriate in its pristine form. This is a marvelous movie.

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