In the end, the ultimate vehicle for time travel was a DeLorean. Going from one era to another, from the past to the future and vice versa, had been a constant theme in science fiction since HG Wells published The Time Machine in 1895. But the cinema was slow to find a definitive version, a title that became synonymous with temporary displacements. Wells’s novel had been brought to the screen in 1960 by George Pal – released in Spain as El tiempo en sus manos -, and turned its protagonist into Wells himself, but the outdated approach and special effects left it to medium cook appreciable effort. Nicholas Meyer did much better in 1979 with his highly entertaining Time Passengers , in which HG Wells – played by Malcolm McDowell – returned to travel in his machine, but this time to the twentieth century, in pursuit of Jack the Ripper.
These productions, like the original novel, had one thing in common: they only traveled into the future, thus ignoring an element as important as the possible effects of changing the past and the temporal paradoxes that this would cause – Ray Bradbury had it recounted in 1952, in his story The Sound of Thunder, which would be made into a movie in 2005 – something that began to change the following year: in Don Taylor’s The End of the Countdown (1980), an inexplicable phenomenon transports the very modern nuclear aircraft carrier Nimitz to the year 1941, just before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which poses serious existential problems for the military transported: do they have the right to intervene in the past and perhaps change the course of history? And what would be the consequences of that decision?
It took five more years for Stev at Spielberg, as executive producer, and Robert Zemeckis, as director, to get headlong into that conflict, albeit in a more domestic setting, with unbridled pace and enormous doses of humor and suspense that makes the film continue to maintain an enviable freshness. Making an easy joke, the years do not pass for her. The effects of changing the past are, in fact, its plot engine, and they are even more so in its two continuations, to the point of causing heated debates among fans about how many different pasts and futures were visited and how many different versions of Marty, Doc and the DeLorean are circulating from one era to another.
Marty McFly is a seventeen-year-old teenager who lives in the town of Hill Valley, with his two brothers, a strict and bitter mother, and a cowardly and unsuccessful father. One of his few friends is the eccentric inventor Doc Brown, who introduces him to his latest invention: a nuclear-powered time machine, installed in a brand-new DeLorean car. An unforeseen event forces Marty to get on the machine and travel until 1955… But, once there, he has no way of returning. His only hope is to convince the younger version of Doc to help him, but he is presented with an additional problem: his presence in the past can cause his parents to never fall in love, which means that neither he nor his siblings will ever fall in love. never to be born.
Everything is simple, it is brilliant, and it is precisely the key to the enormous success of the film; here it is not a question of changing the destiny of civilization, but of correcting a more or less normal and ordinary life. The contrasts between daily life and the present of both eras give rise to numerous anecdotes and not a few strokes of humor, and the script by Zemeckis and Bob Gale works at full speed, driven by the score of Alan Silvestri, the world hit The power of love , played by Huey Lewis and The News, and the work of Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd, the perfect performers for Marty and Doc.
Back to the future II
The continuation was sung; in fact, the second and third parts were shot at the same time, although they were released a year apart. Back to the Future II (1989) builds on the momentum of its predecessor and goes even deeper into new timelines – from 1985 to 2015, and then back to 1955 – and alternative realities. The third, developed for the most part in 1885, is a worthy culmination, but also a wake-up call that it was time to close the cycle.
The fame that Back to the Future has as one of the best films about temporary displacement is confirmed by its influence on much of what came after: it is a comedy, but, thanks to it, the implications of these trips began to be taken a lot more seriously. Even when they changed them in Avengers: Endgame (2019) they couldn’t help but refer to Back to the Future … and all those who came after. In 2002 a new adaptation of The Time Machine (2002) was filmed, directed by Simon Wells, the writer’s great-great-grandson, but was unable to overshadow the DeLorean. And it is that, when walking from one era to another, nothing like a good flow condenser.