Published on August 15th, 2020 | by Kim Kurtenbach0
Because You’ve Seen Back to the Future So Many Times
Wanna go back in time and back to the future for a whacky adventure all over again? Kim has an unconventional and surprisingly apt suggestion.
Thirty-five years ago this summer, a plutonium-powered blockbuster called Back to the Future (1985) hit theatres. Kids. Went. Wild. Jean jackets, skateboards, and 50’s style all came back. Suspenders were cool again. Fucking suspenders! What a time to be alive, let me tell you. Its jacked-up pop themes include “The Power of Love” and “Back in Time” by Huey Lewis and the News. Robert Zemeckis, straight after Romancing the Stone (1984), was behind the camera – with huge help from Steven Spielberg. What to watch instead of this, for the 3,894th time, is tricky because it depends what you want.
Do you want a movie about standing up to and defeating a bully? Are you looking for another film where a woman acts lascivious with her son? How about something with a relationship between a 17-year-old high-school boy and a reclusive, 60-year-old mad scientist who steals nuclear materials from terrorists? They hang out at the Twin Pines shopping mall together at 1:15am. It’s cool. Or maybe a fish-out-of-water type tale. Or a period piece. Or a teen romantic comedy. Or just a seemingly simple story about time travel. Back to the Future is all of those things, and that’s probably why it works so well, why it appeals so deeply to so many people – it just has a lot of bases covered. On top of all that? It’s funny as hell.
Truth be told, this movie also had a pretty big horse-shoe up its ass. It was rejected over forty times before it was finally green-lit. They hired the eccentric Crispen Glover in the key role of George McFly, and Glover kept his shit together the whole time. I don’t know if you remember him trying to kick David Letterman in the head with platform shoes while high on LSD on the Late Show, but let me assure you, Crispen was not a stable table. He could be difficult to work with and explosively detrimental to production. But you don’t see that when you watch the movie, you just see a perfect George McFly. Glover did not return for the sequels and, years later, successfully sued Spielberg for using his likeness in the next instalments.
When the movie began shooting, the entire cast was as you have always known them, but with one big exception: Eric Stoltz was Marty McFly. A good portion of filming with Stoltz was complete before producers realized that he appeared somber and serious and was not playing for laughs. Back to the Future was not starting out the right way to become the highest grossing movie of the year and an instant comedy classic. Then Steven Spielberg called the people at Family Ties (1982) and said he really needed Michael J. Fox for his movie, despite the producers of Family Ties having previously given a firm and unwavering “no”. This is what makes Spielberg an effective producer; he was the key to preventing Back to the Future from developing a much more serious tone.
It’s pretty tough picking a movie that will check enough boxes in the right categories, and I was considering that very thought when I began season two of the Umbrella Academy (2019). Our heroes from season one have made a hail-Mary attempt to escape the end of the world through time travel, and land themselves in the same alley in Dallas, Texas at different points between February 1960 to November 1963. The goal of the second season is for Vanya, Luther, Diego, Allison, Klaus and Five to get back to the future! (I’ll bet you just said those last few words with Doc Brown’s voice in your head). The setting of early 1960’s Dallas is similar to Hill Valley in 1955, to the extreme where Vanya is hit by a car and taken in by the driver, the same way Lorraine’s dad hits Marty.
For those of you who don’t know The Umbrella Academy, it’s principle contribution to the vast television landscape is that it is deliciously fun. UA is huge in scope, from sets to FX. Back to the Future had a healthy budget for its day ($19M) but it looks like that would only buy you a couple of episodes of UA. After all, like most productions today that are about the fate of the ENTIRE UNIVERSE, this show is about saving THE WORLD. Part of the enjoyment of our time-travelling Delorian and its teenage driver is the simplicity of things before they get complicated. And yes, I think traveling through time and having a young version of your mother kiss you in a parked car qualifies as complicated. But it holds nothing on the intricate headaches of UA, some of which lost me in confusion, but I enjoyed the ridiculous soundtrack, the Terminator 2 (1991) and X-Files (1993) references, the dialogue, jokes and acting, so I let a lot of things slide on by.
We’ve all seen Back to the Future so many times because it’s fun! It’s as simple as that. The Umbrella Academy gets some things very right, some things a little wrong and, while I am bored of the saving the entire world theme, it’s done with an enthusiasm to entertain that cannot be denied. It’s a good time. Plus, I have to say, saving the world and never being thanked for it is more noble than altering time in the hopes your parents will buy you a shiny black Toyota 4×4 as a reward.
Back to the Future and The Umbrella Academy, Season 2, are both available on Netflix.