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Back to the Future Part III

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
"Your future hasn't been written yet. No one's has. Your future is whatever you make it, so make it a good one, both of you."

The Feature:
What is it with the third installment of trilogies? The first two Godfather films were incredible, and then we were treated to the movie-studio payday that was Godfather Part III. Well, the same goes for "Back to the Future Part III". Ironically, Part II and III were released less than six months apart in the theaters (there was a four year gap between Part I and II).

The year is 1955. Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) meets up with Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd). It turns out the Doc Brown from 1985 traveled back in time to the wild west of 1855, and sent a letter to Marty asking him to return to 1985 and destroy the DeLorean time machine. Marty cooperates until he stumbles upon the grave of Doc Brown, who died only a week after writing Marty that letter. So far, so good, right?

Unfortunately this movie transforms into a clichéd western, complete with bar fights, a gunslinger showdown, and a damsel in distress. You'd figure that the creative forces behind the first two movies would have given us something better than this, but ultimately we're let down. Instead, this movie relies heavily on running gags from the previous films (you'll know them when you see them). Also, the "wild west" setting of the movie looks as if it was ripped from Universal Studios or something. It doesn't look realistic at all.

Back in 1885, Marty seeks out and eventually finds Doc Brown. Together, they try to fix the recently damaged DeLorean, and in doing so, Doc saves the life of a woman Clara (Mary Steenburgen). Doc and Clara develop an instant attraction, which ultimately causes Doc Brown to rethink whether he really wants to go back to the future or stay in 1885. Like in the first two movies, actor Thomas L. Wilson plays the bad guy, this time Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen.

I really didn't like this movie. Maybe if it was a standalone movie, I'd have a better opinion; but in all honesty, it did nothing to push the time travel story forward, as the majority takes place in 1885. Also, the ending felt pretty cheesy, although it did wrap up a few issues.

Universal presents "Back to the Future Part III" in 1.85:1 Anamorphic widescreen. The picture is great, just like the first and second installments. Flesh tones and western scenery looks sharp. There is little to no artifacting present, no edge enhancement, and a virtually perfect print. Just like my review of the second disc, I saw no real framing problems with this movie, but 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. Trains, gunshots, the DeLorean… everything sounds as good as I expected after watching the first two DVDs. There are no audio dropouts whatsoever; and the audio is essentially flawless. Universal has also given us a French Dolby 5.1 audio track, but sadly no DTS.

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

The special features include "The Making of Back to the Future Part III", "Making the Trilogy: Chapter Three", "Q&A with Director Robert Zemeckis and Producer Bob Gale", "Feature Commentary with Producers Bob Gale and Neil Canton", "Deleted Scene", "Outtakes", "Did You Know That?", "Designing the Town of Hill Valley", "Designing the Campaign", "Production Archives", "ZZ Top Doubleback Music Video", "The Secrets of the Back to the Future Trilogy", "FAQ's about the Trilogy", "Trailers", "Cast & Filmmakers", "Production Notes", and more.

"The Making of Back to the Future Part III" is shown in full screen, integrating clips from the movie and interviews with Zemeckis, Fox, and many others discuss the third movie. The featurette runs approximately 8 minutes. "Making the Trilogy: Chapter Three" was produced specifically for the DVD, and looks fantastic. Here Zemeckis and Gale discuss working on both Part II and III at the same time, the wild west motif, Christopher Lloyd's first onscreen kiss, and other things. This was nowhere as good as the first two "Making Ofs." This runs for 16 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 why they chose to set the movie in 1885, editing, and postproduction. The commentary ends only 30 minutes into the movie.

The commentary with Bob Gale and Neil Canton starts out with them guaranteeing us that there won't be a "Back to the Future Part IV". At this point, you can tell that they are a little burned out from recording so many commentaries. They discuss the Lea Thompson/McFly attraction, riding horses, among other things. I found this to be the driest of the commentaries, as I actually fell asleep during it.

There is one deleted scene with optional commentary. Shown in rough-cut widescreen, its under two minutes in length. This runs for 7 minutes. Next are the outtakes… that only last less than two minutes, once again, a massive letdown. Like the second DVD, the remaining features are short in length, and could easily have been compiled into one neat featurette. The ZZ Top video is passable, but I did like the Back to the Future FAQ. It attempts to answer the impossible questions on time travel, and is generally a fun read.

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 II

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