Back to the Future: Ch-ch-changes



Back to the Future is a perfect film. It’s everything you ask from a science-fiction and then everything you don’t ask for: drama, romance, comedy and all that good stuff. I like to think what makes a film good is not its genre but how unconventional it is in that genre, how it strives and goes beyond conventions and borders to deliver something fresh. I’m not talking about innovation, that’s a stupid word and an even stupider critique, but Back to the Future is a film that feels refreshing. It’s like with the heavily underrated Nicolas Cage film The Weatherman, it’s as much as a comedy as it is a drama, the balancing act it succeeds in accomplishing is well worth the price of admission.

So, Back to the Future is a perfect film. I’m choosing to write about it not just because of the recent Nike MAGs… thing… but also because a certain other series is being revived, or rather, re-animated. Literally in some senses. Star Wars hits Blu-ray next week with all of those action packed special features (which can only be found in the full set, the Original Trilogy set only has the films and not the juicy deleted scenes) and those action packed… edits. I don’t want to kick the dead horse to double death nor do I want to beat around the bush nor do I cliché cliché cliché but there comes a time when I do have to speak my mind.

Back to the Future ends with Marty altering the future in a positive light; turning his father into a novelist and his mother into a hottie. He changes things, for the better, and everything’s all fine and dandy. Then Doc comes out of nowhere and tells them “Roads are shit.” and then the film ends. It’s perfect at what it does, accomplishes everything it sets out to do and ends on a cliffhanger that still feels sweet. Now, imagine instead that Marty went back in time and instead of fixing things and making them awesome he instead became his own father.


See, it’s not that the little things have been changed, it’s that they’ve now been blown out into big things. The little touches like the orchestration pacing of the Death Star trench run in A New Hope, or Han Solo’s “I know.” in Empire Strikes Back and especially Vader’s silent sacrifice in Jedi all impact us more than special effects or set-pieces ever will. To me, the most powerful moment of Jedi isn’t the bitter last-ditch attempt of the Rebel Fleet and Lando in destroying the Death Star, nor is it Han Solo being all Han Solo on Endor, it’s Vader’s expression. He wears a mask to hide behind, but suddenly, you can somehow feel the emotion in that long stare at his face.

What was once expressionless becomes expressive, there’s no fancy trickery or movement of music or even hint that Vader will turn out to be the good guy. What happens is a simple zoom in showing Vader looking at his Son and his Emperor, realizing he has been brainwashed and indoctrinated to slaughter his friends and family. In that one silent moment of reflection, suddenly everything is settled. George McFly punches Biff in his fat whaleface, Rick Deckard accepts his flaws and becomes human and Anakin Skywalker becomes a hero again.

The beauty of it is in the lack of panache, of the hopelessness of it all, there’s no orchestral swoon or fancy cinematography or fancy execution. This is a strict character moment, this was the moment that ended Jedi, but more importantly ended the character of Darth Vader. He got his redemption, he got his catharsis and became the true hero of the Star Wars trilogy. Luke, Han, Leia were all along for this ride and it wasn’t a very superficial movement of character, rather a character arc that finally completed in a beautiful silent moment.

With the addition of some useless dialogue comes some fan outcries and screams. Some of it is rather immature, some of it is true but all of it is deserved. I grew up with Star Wars, I even had the misfortune of growing up with the prequels and liking them before becoming a non-idiot. Star Wars will live on in our collective imaginations and memories until the day we die and that’s something we have to hold on to, because it might sound melodramatic, but this is what makes us human. It’s our ability to pool our memories together, to feel and emote within different contexts; to empathize.

George Lucas and Marty McFly had the opportunity to do something brilliant: to change things but keep them pure. Lucas could have high-definitioned up all the trilogy, he could have removed all of this ‘annoying’ wires and stuff that makes the models and homebrew special effects look horrible. He could have touched up the Special Edition’s mistakes, but instead, he did not redeem himself. Marty McFly went back in time, almost got in some hottie’s knickers that happened to be his Mum but instead did an awesome thing and did this thing where his Dad turned into the biggest badass of all time.

Back to the Future is only a loose basis for this critique corner, because I couldn’t bring myself to call it the Star Wars Critique Corner now that the films exist amongst multiple versions and blah blah blah. I just wanted you all to know that I’m not offended or disgraced by Lucas’ actions, just disappointed, perhaps slightly angry but nevertheless disappointed. It’s kind of funny he changed the most important scene of the trilogy, the one where Darth Vader redeems himself, it’s as if Lucas himself chooses not to save his own creation. Rather he acts the extremity of selfishness and chooses to soak up more power and money.

What a bastard.

You know what I would be fine with? I know it’d probably get on my tits a little and go against the whole ‘no fancy tricks’ of the silent redemption, but something like this. Something like this would be okay.

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