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Back to the Future Part II

Universal // PG // December 17, 2002
List Price: $56.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Ron J. Epstein | posted December 15, 2002 | E-mail the Author
"You have exactly three seconds to get off my porch with your nuts intact."

The Feature:
It's finally here. After years of anticipating it's release, "Back to the Future Part II" has finally made its way to DVD. Lucky for you, I am here to provide a synopsis of the second film in the "Back to the Future" Trilogy.

The year is 1985. It's time, once again, to meet Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox). In the previous movie, he traveled back in time to 1950s and almost destroyed his future by accidentally interfering in his father's courting of his father. Marty was able to return back to the 80s, with a bright future ahead, until Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) tells Marty and Jennifer (his girlfriend, played by Elisabeth Shue) that they have to travel to 2015 and save their children from making a huge mistake. Confused yet?

So, Doc, Marty, and Jen travel to 2015. Marty poses as his child, and saves him from getting arrested. Mission accomplished, and Marty decides to ensure himself an even brighter future… by purchasing an almanac of sports scores from the last century. Eventually, Doc Brown convinces Marty to throw the almanac away; and it lands in the hands of Biff (Thomas F. Wilson), who steals the DeLorean while Marty and Doc are occupied with Jennifer. This leads to a hilarious sequence where we get to see what Marty's life is like in the future.

Thinking that everything is kosher in the future, all three of them return back to 1985 to find that everything is different. Hill Valley now looks like Hell Valley; and it's all ran by multi-billionaire kingpin, Biff. After an informative showdown with Biff, Marty learns that Biff got a hold of the sports almanac, and he needs to travel back to 1955 to fix everything again.

Though, not a better movie, I think I like the sequel as much as I like the first one. The story is more complex (although full of plot holes), and it's funny to see how Zemeckis viewed the future (Hoverboards, Michael Jackson restaurants, etc). Besides, I get a kick out of watching the two Marty McFly's run around in 1955.

Universal presents "Back to the Future Part II" in 1.85:1 Anamorphic widescreen. The picture is gorgeous, just like the first one. Flesh tones and background colors are sharp. There is little to no artifacting present (though some dust), no edge enhancement, and a virtually perfect print. Now, onto the much debated issue of "too much head room". If I hadn't read countless threads on the subject, I wouldn't have even looked for improperly framed shots. Since I don't have any other editions of this movie to compare it to, I don't see anything wrong with the picture. Nothing looks awkward to me, although your mileage may vary. For those that are disappointed with the letterboxing, Universal is offering replacement discs starting in February. Please call (888) 703-0010 for more information.

The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. Everything sounds awesome. Hoverboards, the soundtrack, gunshots, the DeLorean… everything sounds excellent. Your 5.1 setup will get a workout, especially during the motorcycle scene 44 minutes into the movie. There are no audio dropouts whatsoever; the audio is essentially flawless. Like the first movie, Universal has also given us a French Dolby 5.1 audio track. Once again, where is the DTS?!?

Same as the first one. An Interactive menu set on the Clocktower background showing clips from the movie while it's theme loops. Choices include "Play", "Scenes", "Bonus Materials", and "Languages."

This disc set is loaded with everything a fan of the "Back to the Future Part II" could want. In fact, there are more extras for this movie than the first, although I feel the quality of the first film's extras is better. The special features include "The Making of Back to the Future Part II", "Making the Trilogy: Chapter Two", "Q&A with Director Robert Zemeckis and Producer Bob Gale", "Feature Commentary with Producers Bob Gale and Neil Canton", "Deleted Scenes", "Outtakes", "Did You Know That?", "Production Design", "Storyboarding", "Designing the DeLorean", "Designing Time Travel", "Hoverboard Test", "Evolution of Visual Effects Shots", "Production Archives", "Huey Lewis Power of Love Music Video", "Trailers", "Cast & Filmmakers", "Production Notes", and more".

"The Making of Back to the Future Part II" looks better than the one featured on the first disc. Shown in full screen, integrating clips from the movie and interviews with Zemeckis, Fox, among many others discuss the sequel. The featurette runs approximately 7 minutes. "Making the Trilogy: Chapter Two" was produced specifically for the DVD, and looks great. Here Zemeckis and Gale discuss the original movie, bringing back the actors for the sequel, the technology of 2015, and other neat tidbits. This runs for 15 minutes.

"Live Q&A Session" is a commentary track, featuring Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, held at the University of Southern California in front of a live audience. They talk about how making the future funny helped them get around time continuity, why the 60s was considered but not executed, humor vs. practicality, among other issues. Lots of good information here, set in a nice environment.

The commentary with Bob Gale and Neil Canton starts out with them apologizing to me for having to listen to them so much on this disc. I really don't mind, as they have some pretty entertaining stories; including why you should mess with Lou Wasserman, those wacky hoverboards, how Lea Thompson got to cover the gambit of women's roles in movies, foreshadowing affecting third installment, and the issues in revisiting the 50s and reusing footage. Like the first movie's commentary, they get silent for a little while, but have enough entertaining stories that any rabid fan of "Back to the Future Part II" will enjoy.

We are also treated to deleted scenes with optional commentary. Shown in rough- cut widescreen, they're okay; nothing really special to write home about. This runs for 7 minutes. Next are the outtakes… that only last 40 seconds, a massive letdown. The remaining features are short in length, and could easily have been compiled into one neat featurette. The Huey Lewis "Power of Love" music video is pretty fun, although it should have been included on the first disc instead of this one.

Final Thoughts:
Get this DVD set right now, even if it's just for the original "Back to the Future". With a low MSRP, even if you hated the third installment in this series, it's still worth it to pick up the trilogy. Universal did a fantastic job on this set.

Back to the Future Part I
Back to the Future Part III

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