If the first film is nostalgic, and the second film is hyperactive, Back to the Future Part III is almost wistful. It's not as good as its predecessors; a few of the plot points feel like obligatory leftovers from the previous sequel, but it turns the focus back to Marty (Michael J. Fox) and Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) in a way that should warm the heart of any Back to the Future fan. As with the other two, this DVD reissue is nothing to write home about, but for now let's take a look at the feature presentation.
When we last left Marty (Michael J. Fox), he was stranded in 1955 after a lightning bolt zapped the flying DeLorean and sent Doc Brown of 1985 (Christopher Lloyd) back in time. With the help of the Doc Brown from 1955, Marty unearths the time machine in a mine and is prepared to go back to the future when he discovers his friend meets an untimely end at the hands of Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson). Unwilling to let that happen, Marty blasts back to 1885 in order to warn him. Meanwhile, Doc finds romance in the form of a local schoolteacher named Clara Clayton (Mary Steenburgen).
Hopefully readers aren't tired of hearing me praise editors Arthur Schmidt and Harry Keramidas and composer Alan Silvestri, because their work is still top-notch. The film's finale, set aboard a progressively exploding locomotive, has a few questionable twists and turns (what's the tensile strength of a 19th century dress?) but the pacing is as good as ever, complete with the inspired Western riff on the classic theme on top of it. The rest of the film is much slower than the first sequel, although it's never boring. Anyone who thought the frenetic pace of Back to the Future Part II was exhausting should find the leisurely narrative more appealing.
The friendship between Marty and Doc takes center stage in the film, and Doc even gets to take the lead; it's nice to see Lloyd get a few quiet moments in; most of the films he's amped up to eleven. Unfortunately, the relationship between the Doc and Clara Clayton doesn't fare as well, because while Steenburgen is effortlessly charming, the two just don't have that much chemistry together. Meanwhile, Thomas F. Wilson's Buford Tannen is neither here nor there. While Thomas is good, his menacing yet PG-friendly tone is all over the map, going from dangerous to dopey within a single scene. The best work in the whole movie, however, comes from the character actors in the local watering hole: Dub Taylor, Harry Carey, Jr., Pat Buttram and Matt Clark are like a comedic breath of fresh saloon air.
As far as I'm concerned, all three Back to the Future films are part of a whole, and while the third film is a little less inventive and a little less exciting, I still take it in stride. Fans of the genre will likely get a kick out of it and as a conclusion it should be fairly pleasing to everyone following the trilogy. It's hard not to feel sad at the end of the film, because these are great characters, and that's what elevates the entire trilogy above so many of the franchises produced today. The story may be all over the map, but Doc and Marty are the reason I'll find myself going Back to the Future for years to come.
As with the other Back to the Future reissues, this single-disc DVD comes in a standard case with Drew Struzan's poster artwork on the front, a black disc with a gray logo inside and a foil-embossed slipcover to go over the top. There's no insert and the clock tower facade menu should come as a surprise to no one.
Despite a color palette that mostly involves various shades of brown, Back to the Future Part II looks a little bit better than the previous sequel. Detail is strong and colors are vivid -- an all around solid transfer. If it looks familiar, that's because it's as recycled as the transfers on the first two films, although like the second this is the "corrected" transfer that fixes a few framing issues.
Once again, the Dolby Digital 5.1 track is solid, with gunshots, trains, horses, explosions, and Alan Silvestri's score reproduced in fine digital clarity without stepping on the dialogue. There's not much else to say -- except that it's also available in French, with English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing, and Spanish subtitles.
If you read my reviews of the previous two DVDs, you might have picked up on a pattern. Yes, this is the same disc already on the market, and the content quality is mostly the same story. Sadly, the top-notch Q+As from the first two aren't quite matched as the audio track on the third film only lasts about a half hour and doesn't have as much light to shed on the production. Luckily, Bob Gale and Neil Canton's feature-length audio commentary is up to snuff and should satisfy a thirst for information. This time, in addition to the same featurettes, production galleries and deleted scene (only one this time!), we also get a TV special hosted by the one and only Kirk Cameron to top things off. Talk about a trip back in time...
As with the other two DVDs, the bonus features are conveniently subtitled in English, French and Spanish for the deaf and hard of hearing.
Rent It. Once again, even if you're buying the new two-disc Back to the Future, it's cheaper to buy the trilogy set to get the same two sequel discs as you'd be getting picking these up individually. Add to that the fact that this is the softest of the Back to the Future films and you have little reason to plunk down your hard-earned cash.
Read my reviews of the other two films here and here.
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