(or, Live-Blogging BTTF3—although this is even less an example of live-blogging than this was)
[Special thanks to Emily from Gentleman Caller for her contributions and feedback on this one.]
Let me begin by saying that I used to think that Back to the Future Part III was good. Then let me add that I was 12 years old when I formed this opinion. For years I heard people refer to Part III as the worst of the series. At first I couldn't believe it; then, after hearing the arguments against it, I eventually came around to the opinion that it was, sure, a little corny and, sure, a little cheesy, although of course it was still highly entertaining. The biggest shock for me upon rewatching it the other day, almost exactly a month ago—maybe even more than the shock of realizing just how bad it is—was that Back to the Future Part III is not entertaining. I waited long enough to write this that I decided I'd better watch it yet again, this time taking extensive notes, and let me just say that the only way I'm ever going to suffer through this piece of crap again is if I can comment on it throughout: annihilate it with irony.
So here goes: a pretty much faithfully chronological, VICIOUS ASSAULT upon what is—insofar as it takes a brilliant series and drives it into a truck full of manure—effectively a crime against humanity.
1. Back to the Future Part III has a great beginning, but really it's just the end of Back to the Future Part II, so you can't give this one credit for that. The first thing the third one does on its own is a way-too-slow, cloying opening-credit sequence in which a sentimental score tells us how much to love these characters, as Marty hauls an unconscious Doc into his old mansion (before it burned down and Doc had to live in his old garage in back of a...what is it, a McDonald's?)—and then, even worse, as they sleep with—aww!—their shoes drying by the fireplace and Marty's feet on the hoverboard and the dog sleeping too, slow pan around the room...
2. Which leads us to Part III's first great sin: the mistake of thinking that these characters are real people. I don't mean that in the most obvious fact–fiction sense: I'm of the Bloom school and might say, for example, that Hamlet is a real person. What I mean is that Doc and Marty are cartoon characters. Since the first movie doesn't demand too much humanity from them (leaning on a brilliant premise and story*) and the second movie is essentially a cartoon itself (leaning on awesome time-travely twists and turns), this was never a problem in the 1980s, but come 1990, the third movie decides it would be a great idea to give these characters some depth—and has a moronic idea of what "depth" comprises. More on that later, but let me just note that some people seem to think that there are only two settings on the Character scale, "complex" and "simple," when in fact there are way more settings in between, many of them having to do with phony complexity: not sentiment, but sentimentality.
3. Part of what makes Part II so great are the clever ways in which it avoids or, say, sublimates the traditional crappiness of sequels. A sequel, of course, is on one level just corporate sleight-of-hand, giving you the same movie again in different clothes; Part II does of course repeat a few key moments, but (a) even if that Hill Valley chase scene had been shot-for-shot identical, the replacement of the skateboard with the hoverboard excuses all, and (b) the fact that the characters return to the original movie is effectively an amazing commentary on the concept of the sequel and, again, pretty much excuses all. This brings us to Part III's second great sin: as if correcting for Part II's creativity, it's chock-full of classically crappy formulaic sequel bullshit. For example: When Doc realizes that Marty really has come back from the future, he (a) cartoonishly screams and trips on a hoverboard—O.K., a little dumb, but tolerable—and (b) redoes the whole scene from the first one in which he doesn't believe Marty, right down to slamming the door and opening it and sticking out his head and asking sarcastic questions...which in this movie is, unfortunately, nonsense. "It's a very interesting story, Future Boy," says Doc, "but there's just one little thing that doesn't make sense..." Would Doc disbelieve that Marty could possibly have returned (when a fucking time machine is involved)? Probably not. Would he revert to calling Marty "Future Boy," which originally he did because he didn't believe Marty was actually a time-traveler? No. Nonsense. That is faithful not to the characters, not to the plot, not to the reality of the story, but to the formula established by the original film: more marketing than storytelling. Infuriating.
4. Back to Sin #1 with its phony complexity, false humanity, and ridiculous characterization: "1885! Amazing! I actually end up as a blacksmith in the Old West." As I mentioned a while back, the worst part of Part II is the stuff that exists only to set up a bunch of baloney in Part III, and one such wad of wet baloney is this idea that Doc just loves the Old West. Is it consistent with his character? (What character?—might be a reasonable reply.) Doesn't even make any difference: one way or another, all this business is forced, a crappy, half-assed jab at retroactive character development. "You know, when I was a kid, I always wanted to be a cowboy..." Fine, Doc.
5. But now we come to Part III's third and arguably greatest sin: as so often happens in big-budget sci-fi films, making sense comes second or ceases to matter at all. This will come up a few times, but the first big example is this: In the letter he sent from the 19th century, Doc urges Marty (and his past–future† self) not to travel back in time to rescue him because "unnecessary time travel only risks further disruption of the space–time continuum." This isn't an enormous deal, but why would Doc, if he's worried about the space–time continuum, think it was O.K. for him to hang around in the Old West? He sets himself up as a blacksmith, providing services that otherwise would not have been provided or (maybe more of a problem) would have been provided by someone else; he involves himself as a citizen, offering to pick up schoolteachers and such; he occupies a house that surely would have been occupied by someone else... This is a small town in 1885: it's not like he's one of hundreds of anonymous citizens. How can he think that this is safe? Shouldn't he be saying, "Come back and get me, and be sure you come back as close to the moment of my actual arrival as possible so that I'll make as little impact as possible upon this incredibly malleable community"? "I'll be hiding in a cave"?
6. Copernicus (the dog) wearing a miner's helmet with a light on it: not funny.
7. Sin #1 again: The discussion of Jules Verne is hackneyed, phony back story that's really just an effort to establish some kind of connection that Doc can have with Clara later on. "My initials! Just like in Journey to the Center of the Earth!" We never saw this kind of shit from Doc in the first movie—and thank God for that: it would have been unbearable. The equivalent for Marty is all the "chicken" stuff—also forced, also totally subservient to a (not especially rewarding) "character arc," exclusively devoted to supporting a lame plot element that will happen later.
8. Marty can't read the word schematic?
9. The pacing is all wrong. Too much time is spent with them hanging out and talking: I have no problem with talky movies—I love me some pre-DreamWorks Allen K.—but this is all exposition and awkward "character development." During the scene in which they're hooking the DeLorean up to the back of Doc's truck, we zoom in for way too long, and it feels less like reality than like watching a play—Red, White & Blaine comes to mind.
10. And—honestly?—Copernicus is whimpering over Doc's grave? That's how they find out Doc's going to get (or I guess did get) shot by Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen: they go after the dog, who has found and will not leave Doc's gravestone. I guess maybe the dog smells something...but a 70-year-old grave? Would there really be anything there to smell? The implication is that the dog just sort of picked up on it, somehow, but is that consistent with the logic of this series? We're meant to accept that dogs have some kind of E.S.P.?
11. Meanwhile, they're hanging out in 1955, with no discussion or sense at all that they're still in the same world they were in in Part I and in Act III of Part II. Where are Biff, George, Lorraine? They're in the same town, for Christ's sake. It's the next day. This is Sin #3: the fact that they're still in the same Hill Valley they had to creep around so dramatically is forgotten because it isn't convenient to the plot. And that's that.
12. Doc doesn't get Marty's Clint Eastwood reference; Marty says, "That's right. You haven't heard of him yet." Look, Michael J. Fox is excellent in Back to the Future, but that is in competition with "We're big shots now, baby" (from Monkey Business, 1931), for Worst-Delivered Line Ever. To be fair, I'm not sure how you could deliver that line well.
13. Back to Sin #3 (not making sense):
[At a drive-in theater in 1955, Marty is about to drive the DeLorean to 1885 on a rescue mission; under the screen is a painting of charging Native Americans on horseback.]
MARTY: Wait a minute, Doc, if I drive straight towards the screen, I'm going to crash into those Indians!
DOC: Marty, you're not thinking fourth-dimensionally! You'll instantly be transported to 1885 and those Indians won't even be there!
MARTY (uneasily): Right...
O.K., so Marty has forgotten what a time machine does. The above dialogue is only there to set up the joke of the Native Americans who actually are there charging when he arrives in 1885...and/or to tell imbeciles or first-timers what in the world is going on. This happens again with the train-track bridge. But—seriously? Do we really have to sit back and suspend disbelief while Marty is like, "Wait a minute! Doc! Drive that car at 88 m.p.h. toward a wall? I don't want to hit a wall at 88 m.p.h.! Why would you even ask me to... Ohhh, right, right, it's a time machine. Sorry, I forgot what we were doing here, for a second."
14. And as for those Native Americans...how do we feel about the fact that they are in no way fazed by the sudden appearance (usually accompanied by a kind of explosion of light, no?) of a DeLorean? Marty's scared to see them, but they just keep riding forward, whooping, holding their hatchets over their heads—no surprise or concern or fear. The horses aren't spooked, either. Now, I don't want to cry racist—that's a serious charge to level—but isn't this just a little...awkward? Let's just say this is more what you'd expect from a 1955 western than a 1990 sci-fi/comedy.
15. The bear is neither funny nor scary...nor exciting...nor relevant to the plot.
16. Sin #2 (sequel bullshit): "Well, you're safe and sound here now at the McFly farm." In the first one, Marty wakes up in the dark with his mom taking care of him; he recognizes her voice but can't really see her, so when he says he had a terrible nightmare that he had gone back in time, she gets to say, "Well, you're safe and sound now, back in good old 1955," and—great scene. In the second one it's a bit more of a stretch—the line is, "Well, you're safe and sound now, back on the good old 27th floor"—but it still works because Marty is in an alternate 1985 and this is actually his mom, the age she's supposed to be, and she knows him, thinks he's her Marty. Put it this way: "good old 1955" makes sense because young Lorraine thinks of course Marty is from 1955, and "the good old 27th floor" makes sense because alternate Lorraine thinks of course Marty basically grew up in this apartment. But in the third one, the line makes no sense. They had to leave out "good old" because Maggie McFly doesn't know Marty, but (a) why would she even say "at the McFly farm," and (b) why even bother with the formula if it's not a good parallel? Oh, right: because the formula is worthwhile for its own sake, because storytelling is secondary to marketing. Ugh.
17. Oh, and here's a Sins #2 & 3 combo meal: why is Marty's great-great-grandmother on his father's side identical to his mother?
[SIDE NOTE: Subtle special effects—how does Seamus hand Marty a plate? They're both Michael J. Fox! The action is clearly there only to show off the effects. I don't get it! When he hands him the baby, Maggie crosses in front of them right at the moment of the hand-off: my guess is that the plate involved a wire and they couldn't do that with an infant?]
18. "So you're my great-grandfather, the first McFly born in America... And you peed on me." This is just such a throwaway scene, like, who cares if it's his great-grandfather? Getting to hold your ancestor as a tiny baby could be pretty amazing, but here it's really just a set-up for a pee joke. Compare this to the amazing situation in the first movie, that Marty may annihilate himself because his mom has a crush on him, or the great problem of the second one, that his family has gone all wrong (I'm referring to the alternate 1985 more than I am to the depressing 2015—but both, really). Here it's just like, "Hey, look, he has ancestors! Moving on..." The closest thing we get to any significance we can draw from it is the baloney about Seamus's (and the baby's) sense of connection to him—maybe the same extrasensory perception that Copernicus has? Really Back to the Future Part III is all about telepathy.
19. Ha ha! Marty stepped in horseshit! This is the caliber, folks.
[SIDE NOTE: It is cute that everyone calls him Clint Eastwood: that's a decent riff on the Calvin Klein joke in the first one (although not a step forward in any way, it's worth noting).]
20. The moonwalk bit is stupid because it doesn't make any sense...it's really nothing but a half-baked "guy from the future" bit. Just a bad joke, really—nothing too awful, just lame.
21. Marty is dragged behind Buford's horse and totally unharmed: he has one tear in the knee of his pants.
[SIDE NOTE: Doc's line about there being "no scientific rationale" for love is bullshit, exactly the sort of line scientist characters are always being given...but I can't really blame Part III for that one because it's not as bad as one line in the first one, probably the worst part of that whole movie: "Look! There's a rhythmic ceremonial ritual coming up." Doc Brown can't say dance?!]
[SIDE NOTE: This, too, I can't really blame Part III for because it's a larger time-travely problem that pervades the entire series. Old Doc doesn't know he's going to get shot by Buford until Marty tells him...but so then what about the young Doc in 1955 who does know because he's with Marty when they find the grave? Thirty years after sending Marty back to 1885 to rescue himself, he'll go to 2015, then back to the alternate 1985, then back to 1955...and won't he know, then, that he'll be struck by lightning and sent back to 1885? And won't he know that he'll be shot by Buford? Or will that whole thing go down differently, resulting in an infinite series of alternate time lines, alternate Docs, alternate Martys? As I said in a response to a comment on this post (maybe with this in mind), you could almost view the Back to the Future series as an educational video illustrating (through reductio ad absurdum) that time travel is a logical impossibility.]
22. This I have mixed feelings about: I kind of like that the challenge in this movie is to get the car to go fast enough, whereas in the last one speed wasn't a problem but they needed to generate 1.21 gigawatts of electricity to power the flux capacitor. On the other hand [Sin #2?], this is such a straight retread that you can't help but feel, again, that Part III is the "real" sequel in the traditional, less good sense of the word, and that Part II was a fluke or blip in the formula. (You might also make this argument about Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade...but that's a whole other can of cobras.)
23. But, um...did they really think horses would get the car up to 88 mph? "It's no use, Marty! Even the fastest horse in the world won't ride more than 35, 40 mph!" O.K., but they didn't think of that before giving it a try? Oh, maybe six horses will do it. What, no? Huh. I would have thought that if one horse can run 40 mph, then six must be able to get the car up to like 240 mph...? No? Almost makes you think that scene's just in there because it's cute and will look good in the trailer and the press materials, and not because it makes any sense... Hmmm....
24. There is a fourth great sin, another overarching problem: this movie is BORING. It relies on Western cliché and Back to the Future–recognition to simulate narrative, but really the plot comes down to: (a) uh-oh, Doc is supposed to get shot, (b) we have to get the car to go fast, and (c) Doc is in love! Even ignoring the fact that the love story is worse than nothing, just set these three plot elements against the conflicts and concerns of the other movies and see how they wither in comparison. In the first movie, (a) Marty may cease to exist, (b) there's some suggestion (isn't there?) that Marty's erasure would result in a time paradox that could destroy the universe, (c) Biff is out to get Marty, (d) Marty needs to get his mom to fall in love with his dad, (e) Marty's mom wants to sleep with him, which is heavy all on its own, even without a & e...and we haven't even gotten yet to the title problem, that Marty is stranded in the past and needs to get back to 1985. In short, the plot of Back to the Future Part III is painfully slight, and the movie does a poor job making up for it.
25. The scene where they rescue Clara is extremely exciting. (Catch that sarcasm and see Sin #4, above.)
26. Sin #5 is the love story, which may be a subset of Sins #1 & 4 but is just so awful that I figure it deserves its own category. I'm sorry: I can't handle Christopher Lloyd as a romantic lead. He is just TOO MUCH of a cartoon character, and when he's romantic it's just creepy and gross. The music alone is nauseating, not to mention intelligence-insulting...overcompensating for the lack of genuine romantic appeal. Just so fake, so forced. That smile! There's not much I'd less rather watch than a love story featuring Doc Brown.
That lamebrained love-story idea could only be cooked up by a Toon.
27. Sin #2 (sequel BS): "Quick! Cover the DeLorean!" Déja vù. Again, the repeats in Back to the Future Part II are at least done cleverly, adding something. Here it's just so boring that the only level on which it could possibly be appreciated is recognition. It just feels obligatory. Boring, boring, boring.
28. Sin #5 (love story):
[Clara is showing Doc what's wrong with her telescope.]
CLARA: But if you turn it...the other way...
DOC [slowwwwly turning to face her]: Everything becomes...clear.
[Short Round vomits explosively.]
29. ZZ Top? Really?
30. Sin #5: the Doc and Clara love story...WHO CARES?? Look, I love Doc Brown, but, again, he's a cartoon character and doesn't bear too-careful scrutiny. You don't want to sit there staring at him for too long, watching him live his life. Cartoon characters when taken too seriously or looked at too closely become grotesque.
[SIDE NOTE: I like Marshall Strickland—not to be confused with Marshall Brickman—pretty well. (He's great in general in this series...and was Napoleon in Love & Death!) I know from somewhere—possibly the novelization?—that the reason the other guy is the one who comes to arrest Buford at the end is that Buford killed Strickland. Too dark?]
31. Sin #5: the horrible mask of a fake smile on Doc's face as he dances with Clara before Buford jabs the gun in his back. Shoot him, Buford, shoot him!
MARTY: Hey, lighten up, jerk!
BUFORD (after looking around, confused): Mighty strong words, runt!
I like that.]
MAGGIE: Sure'n I hope you're considerin' the future, Mr. Aestwood.
MARTY (looking after her): I think about it all the time.
O.K., that's cute, but...in the first movie that sort of scene or dialogue made sense; in this one the future is hardly the issue: it's an escape movie, not a get-me-the-fuck-home movie. The whole back-to-the-future tension has been pretty much lost, and when we're reminded of it we're basically like, "Huh...? Oh... Oh, right!"
33. Marty playing with his gun in the mirror: "You talkin' to me?" Why? This scene never bothered me before because I hadn't actually seen the movies it was referencing (Taxi Driver, Dirty Harry). Now, knowing the reference, I also know that the reference is pretty cheesy.
34. An out-of-nowhere attempt to synthesize all that has been said so far: Basically the jump from Back to the Future to Part III is a jump into kids'-movie land. Part II is weird, weird, weird...and awesome. Part III is just Hollywood trash.
35. When Doc gets laid, he basically turns into a big douche.
36. Sin #2 (sequels)...and basically Sin #1 (humanity), too, because you can be sure they see this as some kind of "character development":
MARTY: Great Scott!
DOC: I know, this is heavy.
Cute? No. Stupid.
37. A preview of the unbearableness to come: Doc says, "The future isn't written. It can be changed. You know that. Anyone can make their future whatever they want it to be..." This schlock is bad in Terminator 2, and it's bad here. Forced, hackneyed, phony. Blecch.
38. O.K., now we get to something in the Sin #3 (nonsense) category that I recognized was stupid even back when I thought the movie was pretty good overall. Doc is in love with Clara but has to abandon her because he and Marty have to go back to the future.
MARTY: Doc, listen... Maybe we... I don't know, maybe we could just take Clara with us.
DOC: To the future? As you reminded me, Marty, I'm a scientist, so I must be scientific about this. I cautioned you against disrupting the continuum for your own personal benefit; therefore I must do no less.
Yes, Doc, be scientific. What exactly would be wrong about taking Clara into the future? The real source of potential universe-destroying paradoxes is if someone alters her own past—e.g., if she prevents her parents from conceiving her—not if she changes the future (which arguably we do all the time without the help of time machines). So, to begin with, it's not at all clear what Doc is afraid of. But that's just the tip of the iceberg. The bigger problem is: Clara was supposed to die! They already know that she was supposed to wind up at the bottom of Shonash Ravine, which was then supposed to be renamed Clayton Ravine (Clara's last name being Clayton). Rescuing her is not only the start of an insufferable love story, but also a major time-travel disaster, the equivalent of Marty's knocking George out of the path of the car in the first one. Clara is going to be a schoolteacher in a small town: she will be a major figure in the lives of presumably every child in Hill Valley, her presence will mean that some other teacher (probably a woman) who would have moved to Hill Valley will not, and who knows whose mother that teacher would have been, or what children Clara might produce? The most realistic, interesting, and (in a funny way) faithful time-travel storyline would be if Marty and Doc thought they had to kill Clara. The idea of bringing her to 1985 with them is not only not a problem—it's just about the only nonhomicidal solution to an otherwise enormous continuum-related catastrophe.
39. The dramatic music when Clara thinks Doc is lying to her and gets mad at him would be more appropriate for something like, "We have to get out of here before the bad guys blows up the world but...OH NO, our evil stepmother is locking us in the basement and...and...she's going to throw the magical talking teddy bear INTO THE FURNACE, NOOOO!!!!!!" You listen to the soundtrack and you think, "Oh, wait...shit, am I supposed to care about this? Wait, rewind, maybe I missed something."
40. Heartbroken, Doc Brown suddenly has no scientific objections to telling everyone in Hall Valley all about the future. (This would make more sense if he were drunk, hint, hint...) Lucky for him nobody believes it.
41. Sin #3 (nonsense): Doc Brown gets to the saloon late at night, and the next morning, a little before 8 a.m., Marty shows up to get him and...huh...he's still there at the bar, still talking, and everyone is still there listening. Hm. Maybe I just didn't do the extensive historical research the Back to the Future team did, but in 1885 did people generally stay at the saloon all night long and well into the morning, wide awake and chatting and playing cards? What an interesting thing we've learned—thanks, Back to the Future!
42. Sin #3:
BARFLY: How much has he had?
BARTENDER: None, that's the first one! He hasn't touched it yet. He just likes to hold it...
Doc downs a shot of whisky, and the drink maybe—maybe—has enough time to make it down his throat and into his stomach before he loses consciousness like a switch being thrown, pitches forward, and falls flat on his face. Ludicrious. Not only that, but he requires the bartender's "wake-up juice," and even after that it takes him a while to recover, and he's left with a terrible headache... Is this even physiologically possible? No, it's a big cartoon. Why, though? Is it funny? Maybe if you're 10 years old.
Obviously Doc's being unconscious and then groggy adds suspense to the whole catching-the-train, evading-Buford storyline. My theory is that the real reason why the tiniest bit of alcohol knocks Doc out instantaneously is that in the original screenplay he went to the saloon and drank himself into a stupor after losing Clara—which is also why he was talking about the future—but then somebody at Universal was like, "Hey, this is a kid's movie:‡ you can't have Doc Brown drinking," so they decided to solve that screenwriting trainwreck with a "cute," "humorous" gag about how Doc "can't hold his liquor." Cowardice. Sloppiness. Idiocy.
43. When Doc is about to drink his drink, the bartender actually reaches out toward him and shouts, "Emmett, NO!!!" Huh? Why does he care so much? Why did he even pour that drink if he was that averse to the idea of Doc's drinking it? Preposterous, thoughtless, embarrassing.
44. Seamus McFly says, as he walks into the saloon before the big gunfight, "Something inside me told me I should be here. As if my future had something to do with it." Again with the dog-E.S.P.; it terrifies me to think that we're supposed to think this is profound. When Lorraine kisses Marty and says it's like kissing her brother, did the screenwriter think that some kind of eerie telepathy was required for that reaction? Please let's not let this idiocy travel back in time and ruin the first movie, too.
45. Why does Marty recover from his "chicken" psychosis? Because Seamus told him about his great-great-uncle? Quite a quick character overhaul...just goes to show that the whole conflict has no meaning beyond its being a narrative trick: half-assed, simplistic, and formulaic. It's like a checklist: conflict, character development...all in the silliest, most meaningless way.
46. I do like the line, "He's an asshole!"—but not only is the revelation a little fakey, but it actually ends up being irrelevant to the plot, too: he still ends up having to face Buford! So bravery is an issue. The character's supposed to learn it's not all about cowardice vs. bravery, and yet the story will still hinge on bravery: letting somebody shoot you, trusting he's going to hit you where you've hidden a metal plate...? This is a classic example of a movie trying to have its cake and eat it, too.§
47. "Excuse me, but was this man tall, with great big, brown, puppy-dog eyes and long, silvery, flowing hair?" Really? Really, Clara? Really, screenwriters? As Emily [see top of post] pointed out, it's as if the screenwriters were like, "O.K., she's supposed to love this guy, so what about him should stand out as lovable? Let's see... He has weird grey hair and crazy cartoonish eyes..."
48. Also, Marty hits Buford 3–4 times too many, including at least one big intense punch to the face while Buford is staggering around in a state of semiconsciousness. With triumphant music playing! What is it that Marty is supposed to have transcended here? It's certainly not a moral triumph: in the end it's like, YAY, the bad guy is getting the SHIT kicked out of him! (As opposed to the other times Biff winds up in manure, when inevitably he gets there on his own propulsion [driving into it while specificlally trying to run someone down], here Marty fucking THROWS him into it. A real hero...)
49. And this is the part that actually sort of shocked me, like I literally almost could not believe it. Sin #4: The train scene is boring! When I was watching last month I thought, well, at least the boring parts are over and now we can watch the exciting train scene. But WHO FUCKING CARES? Here are the things we need to worry about during this scene:
Will Clara make it in time?? WHO CARES? (And, again, in fact this would be a much higher-stakes thing if the plot made any sense and it were acknowledged that it's important that Clara not stay behind, teaching children and, in a smallish community, possibly making a huge difference a few generations down the line.) Will they successfully hijack the train?? Aw, WHO CARES? (That part goes on FOREVER, by the way, and includes a subset question: Will they fall off the train as they run along on top of its entire fucking length in order to get to the engine?)
Sample boring line: "Uncouple the cars from the tender!"
Now we have to wait while they slowly pull the train up behind the DeLorean and hook up a special thing so that it...oh, God, I can't even describe it, it's too boring. My point isn't that there has to be nonstop excitement, just that the one thing I thought was worthwhile about the train scene was that it was exciting, and instead it's all like, "Here are these special Narrative Suspense logs I've developed: they'll ignite in sequence, each time causing an explosion that will be exciting and make things more and more dangerous!" Except that the main thing they do is release this fucking colored smoke, so cartoonish, like are we watching a movie or are we on the Universal Studios ride?
Will Doc Brown be able to hear Clara?? WHO CARES? It just takes too damned long. Oh, she blew the whistle! O.K., so now, will Clara be able to walk out along the train to meet Doc?? Will she overcome her fear?? WHO CARES???
"Doc! The red log's about to blooooowwwwww!!!!"
That Clara is hanging by her dress and NOT swinging into the wheels is nonsense, but whatever. That Marty is able to "slip" Doc the hoverboard by dropping it out of the car at 88 m.p.h. and it winds up on Doc's feet is preposterous—which even the filmmakers seem to recognize, acknowledging it with Doc's look of surprise (that is if we can really attribute human emotion to this cartoon character) and Marty's triumphant, "YES! YES!"
50. Sin #5: Doc hovering away with Clara in his arms is...what's the opposite of "worth the price of admission"?
51. Did trains in the 1980s just keep going after they plowed through cars?
[SIDE NOTE: I hate Marty's pick-up truck. That's not Part III–specific, but... Well, I said it.]
[SIDE NOTE: Flea is called Needles. Also, he is terrifying.]
52. When he chooses not to race Needles, why does Marty go backwards instead of, like...I don't know...not going at all?
[SIDE NOTE: "You think I'm stupid enough to race that asshole?" I do kind of like—and I'm not being sarcastic here—that the moral of the series ends up being, "Instead of taking the bait when taunted or challenged, just call people asshole!"]
53. O.K.: even when I liked this movie, I never liked the fucking time-traveling train. This final scene is one of the most awkward, idiotic, embarrassing things ever filmed. First of all, nothing could be LESS cool than that fucking train. Second of all, "Marty, it runs on steam!" wouldn't be the first thing Doc said: he's talking to skeptics in the audience, not Marty. Third of all, "These are our boys: Jules...and Verne"—not cute. Fourth of all, they're all dressed like...well, I guess it's supposed to be 1800s–futuristic, a.k.a. "timeless," somehow, but instead it just looks like something you'd find at some not-fun exhibit at Disney World. Too many smiles, too many schlocky, unearned claims.
54. Worst dialogue in this movie, slash, any movie:
JENNIFER (whining): Dr. Brown? I brought this note back from the future, and...now it's erased!
DOC (jubilant): Of course it's erased!!!
[Jennifer and Marty exchange a look of highly justified confusion]
SHUE: But what does that mean?
Answer: it means the future's been changed, just like in the other movies (and, Marty, are you experiencing that same amnesia that screwed you up with "those Indians" and the train track?). But that's not the answer Doc gives. Zooming in on his insane, infuriating smile, with the music swelling in an attempt to hammer us over the head with the "magic" that isn't actually there, Doc says, "It means 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!" And the soundtrack references "When You Wish Upon a Star."
O.K.? Are you with me? Have I convinced you, yet? Does this Tiny Tim bullshit do the trick for you? Back to the Future is not "magical." Back to the Future is not "inspirational." Back to the Future...
Ugh. I don't even want to talk about Back to the Future anymore. Doc, take your fucking brood and get the hell out of here.
55. So the train is going to...outer space? Another dimension? WHO...FUCKING...CARES. It's like a teaser for the lamest cartoon show ever made. Good riddance; thanks for ruining a great series.
...but wait! If we can somehow go back in time and prevent the DeLorean from being struck by lighting in its third trip to 1955, then Doc and Marty should be able to return safely to 1985 without the detour to the 19th century!
We've got to send you back, Marty: back...to Back to the Future Part II!
* How's this for a time-travel story idea: teenager goes back from the 1980s to the 1950s, runs into his parents, and endangers his very existence because he gets between his mom and dad, and his mom has the hots for him! Even just on a psychological level, that's brilliant; you kind of almost can't believe that this was a huge mainstream Hollywood hit.
† Both 30 years younger and 70 years in the future.
‡ Which had come, finally, sadly, to be true.
§ An expression I've never really understood. Why can't you have your cake and eat it, too? I mean, you can't eat it if you don't have it. I guess the idea is that you can't keep your cake around like a collector's item and also eat it. But who wants to keep a cake around? Isn't the point to eat it? It would make more sense as advice to, like, a big fish or insect: you can't keep your babies and eat them, too.