Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) has returned to 1985, relieved and happy to see the changes for the better that have occurred thanks to his meddling with the past. But as he greets his girlfriend Jennifer (Elisabeth Shue), they are interrupted by his friend Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd), the scientist who had landed him in 1955 in the first place, and he tells them that they have to come with him - it's important! They climb into his DeLorean, which doubles as the time machine, and suddenly take to the skies; there is a flash of light and they are in 2015 to sort out the problems Doc has discovered...
...but someone saw them leave, and therein lies a tale. This was the sequel to the megasuccessful Back to the Future, but was not greeted with quite as much warmth as the original had been. not making anywhere near as much money at the box office. That was because it was a far less warm film itself, a snappy, cynical and even heartless jaunt into what Michael J. Fox termed "Back to the Bank", and that feeling of a money-making exercise designed to fleece customers of their cash thanks to the amount of goodwill the first one generated is not something that entirely left it. That was not the only issue audiences had with it, either.
For a start, this was an expensive film to make, with the result that the product placement that paid for it went into overdrive as every bit of technology featured in the future sequences carried a prominent corporate logo. Many parents were irritated that they felt they were taking their kids to see what amounted to a long advertisement, and the filmmakers countered this with the usual, "It made the film appear more authentic" excuses, although now we're in the future, we can see how far away from accuracy director Robert Zemeckis and his team were. Nobody even had a mobile phone or went onto the internet, and the fashions were hopelessly out - honestly, with all that cash at their disposal you'd have thought they'd have done their research!
Yet the biggest problem that audiences complained about was something of a bogus one: that Back to the Future Part II was far too confusing to follow, what with its paradoxes and over-involved messing about with the timeline. But in actual fact, writer Bob Gale made this fairly easy to follow, if still complicated, which suggested that those already resistant to the concept of a movie they regarded as one long trailer for the third part in the series - much was made of both sequels being shot back to back - were not going to give this middle section any leeway. It was as if they were saying, you had your chance to impress me, and you failed, and I'm not going to go along with this nonsense any further. Which was a pity, because there was a lot of good stuff here.
In this instance, Gale picked up the Frank Capra stylings of It's a Wonderful Life and really ran with them, especially the nightmare sequence of that film where events are dramatically altered due to the kind of timeline fixing that goes on here. Except in this the whole story revolves around that, and barely pauses to catch its breath as Biff (Thomas F. Wilson) from the future takes an almanac of sports results and steals the DeLorean while Marty, Doc and Jennifer are otherwise engaged, taking the magazine back to 1955 to give to his younger self. The result? When the trio return to 1985, it's all change, and Biff has become the richest man in America thanks to his betting on game scores, leaving the town a hellhole. It could be that this was why people were less happy with Part II, as it comments that no matter how you try to set up your future to be a happy one, there will always be a spanner in the works to bring down your dreams. The series recovered its optimism for Part III, but for the pessimistic, Part II will fit your worldview. Music by Alan Silvestri.
But come the Oscar-winning Forrest Gump, he grew more earnest and consequently less entertaining, although just as successful: Contact, What Lies Beneath, Cast Away and the motion capture animated efforts The Polar Express, Beowulf and A Christmas Carol. Flight, The Walk and Allied were also big productions, but failed to have the same cultural impact, while true life fantasy tale Welcome to Marwen was a flop.
With frequent writing collaborator Bob Gale, Zemeckis also scripted 1941 and Trespass. Horror TV series Tales from the Crypt was produced by him, too.