Back to the Future
Universal // PG // $56.98 // December 17, 2002
Review by Ron J. Epstein | posted December 14, 2002
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Graphical Version
"Why don't you make like a tree and get out of here."

The Feature:
It's finally here. After years of anticipating it's release, "Back to the Future" has finally made its way to DVD. If you're not familiar with this movie, then shame on you… But I'm willing to forgive you, and provide you a synopsis of the first movie of the blockbuster "Back to the Future" Trilogy.

The year is 1985. Meet Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox). He rides his skateboard all over town, has a dysfunctional family, dreams of becoming a rock star, and has an eccentric scientist friend; Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd). The only thing Marty looks forward to is his upcoming secret rendezvous with his girlfriend; but there's only one problem… the family car has been wrecked by his father's boss, Biff. That night, Doc Brown asks Marty to videotape a demonstration of his newest invention… A Time Machine.

Through a series of unforeseen events, terrorists murder Doc Brown, and Marty escapes by going back in time to the 50s. Trapped in the 50s, Marty McFly has a difficult time adjusting to his new surroundings. His style of dress and slang leave the residents of Hill Valley dumbstruck. Marty eventually runs into his father, and attempts to save his life by pushing him out of the way of a moving car. Unfortunately for Marty, he has caused a disturbance in the future events of time (getting hit by a car was how his father was to meet his mother). The next thing you know, Marty's mom has a crush on him.

As a kid growing up, this was my favorite movie. I remember begging my parents to buy me a DeLorean, and wearing out my VHS tape by watching it all day (thank god for DVD). Now as an adult, I can appreciate this movie on a whole other level. The story is topnotch, and all the actors in this movie have excellent chemistry. Sure, there are few inconsistencies within the concept of "Space-time continuum", but I have so much fun watching it, that I don't even notice them.

In order to get back home, Marty seeks out Doc Brown in the 50s. After convincing him that they friends in the 80s, Doc Brown vows to help Marty return to where he came from. But before Marty can go back, he has to figure a way to get his parents together, and outwit the witless Biff. This movie spawned two sequels (one almost superior to this one, and one that's the Godfather III of the bunch).

Universal presents "Back to the Future" in 1.85:1 Anamorphic widescreen. The picture is gorgeous. Flesh tones and background colors are sharp. There is little to no artifacting present, no edge enhancement, and a virtually perfect print. Kudos to Universal… Now if they could only make a better version of Scarface.

The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. Everything sounds awesome. Huey Lewis' soundtrack sounds terrific, and you can feel the DeLorean race across your room. There are no audio dropouts whatsoever; the audio is essentially flawless. Universal has also given us a French Dolby 5.1 audio track. I do have one complaint, though. Where is the DTS?!?

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."

There's a TON of stuff to talk about here. This disc set is loaded with everything a fan of the "Back to the Future" could want. The special features include "The Making of Back to the Future", "Making the Trilogy: Chapter One", "Q&A with Director Robert Zemeckis and Producer Bob Gale", "Enhanced Conversation with Michael J. Fox", "Feature Commentary with Producers Bob Gale and Neil Canton", "Deleted Scenes", "Outtakes", "Did You Know That?", "Original Makeup Tests", "Production Archives", "Excerpts from the Original Screenplay", and the "Theatrical Teaser Trailer".

"The Making of Back to the Future" looks like it was a television special from the 80s. Shown in full screen integrating clips from the movie and interviews with Zemeckis, Fox, among many others. The featurette runs approximately 15 minutes. "Making the Trilogy" was produced specifically for the DVD, and looks great. Here Zemeckis and Gale discuss the characters, the 50s, the DeLorean, casting Marty McFly, avoiding incest, 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. My favorite quote from this Q&A track is that Doc Brown's dog was originally supposed to be a monkey, and the movie executives told them that no movie with a monkey has ever made a profit (the issue of two profitable Clint Eastwood movies was brought up, but the executives pointed out that it was actually an orangutan). On a side note, thank god this movie wasn't called "Spaceman from Pluto".

Next up is the "Enhanced Conversation with Michael J. Fox". This is done in the style of a clock icon appearing on the screen, you press the enter button on your remote, and a little popup window with a present-day Michael J. Fox appears. He shares some interesting tidbits about specific scenes, but nothing really groundbreaking. In addition, this feature is not seamless, as once Fox's window closes, the screen pauses, goes black, and the picture goes back to normal until you choose the next clock icon.

The commentary with Bob Gale and Neil Canton start by asking you to listen/watch to the other featurettes first, because they're assuming you've done so already. They discuss product tie-ins, NBC editing out terrorism, casting, why the movie was shot in 1.85:1, and other great "Back to the Future" stuff. Occasionally, there are some moments of silence, but it's a really good commentary overall.

We are also treated to deleted scenes with optional commentary. Shown in rough- cut widescreen, they're pretty entertaining; especially "Pinch Me." This runs for 11 minutes. Next are the outtakes. "She's Cheating" and "Alcohol in the Prop Bottle" are hilarious. Unfortunately, it only lasts for under three minutes. The remaining features are all neat to have, especially the Theatrical Teaser Trailer.

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 II
Back to the Future Part III

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