The October 21, 2015 that we see in “Back to the Future: Part II” is a very different from the October 21, 2015 that you’re reading this article in – or after that date, as the case may be. The world of “Back to the Future’s” 2015 has no financial crisis (that we know of), and no Internet; although their predictions about mass corporate surveillance aren’t too far off. The flying cars, hoverboards, and rad 1980s fashion predictions are either nowhere to be seen today, or too early in development to be feasible yet.
It’s a world that hasn’t happened, and likely never will. However, it still has charm, as does the entire “Back to the Future” trilogy. In fact, the goofy charm of the trilogy’s vision of the future is carried throughout its entire whole, not just the future bits.
The story of Marty McFly and Doc Brown as they venture through the space-time continuum is much more lighthearted than stories that you’d typically see about time travel. Even the earliest stories revolving around the concept, such as Wells’ “The Time Machine,” are cynical about it. While the films do warn the audience about the potential danger of time travel, they’re much wackier with their storytelling and writing, and they all conveniently wrap up with all plot points resolved.
The first film remains a comedic classic. It’s a simple setup: kid goes back in time and accidentally seduces his mother. It practically sets itself up for tons of awkward gags, but its much more than the gags that make the film. It nails every single character archetype that you’d see in science fiction or high-school comedy, and they all play off of each other in hilarious and clever ways. Plus, it’s a tight narrative: it knows just when to wrap up and how much to tease about future film possibilities.
The unfortunate reality of that teasing is that the two later films don’t quite live up to expectations, but they’re still worthwhile. They’re both filled with enough plot holes and inconsistencies to choke a Galifreyan, and it’s easy to see “Part III’s” venture into the Wild West as a bit of a jump-the-shark moment, but how can it possibly jump the shark when it’s such a crazy and fun series of movies to begin with? It’s hard not to smile at the sillier moments like seeing Biff Tannen and his descendents/ancestors look exactly the same through the ages.
Or indeed, the second film’s look at what 2015 might look like. It never aimed for an educated or accurate guess to begin with, and because of that, it’s still a very funny watch to this day. It’s easier to ignore the weird scientific inaccuracies throughout the series, or the large plot holes throughout the latter two films, because they’re such a joy to watch.
Have patience. The hoverboards and flying cars are still in development. We’ll have them before too long.