Tuesday, June 28, 2011

BSFME Contestant #2: Back to the Future II

This week at Fantasy Matters, we are writing about our favorite science fiction movies of all time.  Yesterday, Matt Rasmusson wrote about The Fifth Element, and today, Nathan Ilten nominates his favorite--Back to the Future II.

When recently asked to write something about my favorite science fiction movie, I realized to my slight chagrin that I wasn't completely sure which movie that may be. So I started thinking, and realized even more embarrassingly that I couldn't even think of that many good science fiction movies. To prod my memory, I headed over to Wikipedia, only to come to the realization that (a) there a very many science fiction movies; and (b) most of them are pretty bad — but this probably holds for any genre you choose. In any case, I had decided to go with my gut instinct: Back to the Future II (BTTF2) is my favorite scifi movie.

Firstly, BTTF2 is a great film, independent of genre. It has a compelling plot, great acting, memorable dialogue, action, humor, and catchy music, just to get started. That's a lot more than can be said for many scifi films, even some which are considered classics. However, I would not have chosen  BTTF2 as my favorite scifi movie if these were its only merits. No, BTTF2 earned its special place in my heart by profoundly influencing how I think about time travel and the future.

The entire Back to the Future trilogy paints a coherent picture of the inner workings of time travel which has become a sort of gold standard in time travel literature. Although the situations arising from the use of time travel in the trilogy have their comic moments, a lot of serious thought was put into creating a time travel story which is more or less free from contradictions. The first film in the trilogy addresses the classic grandfather paradox. The second film, however, ventures forth into new territory: in a world where time travel is possible, a trip to the future can affect the present, and even the past! I am not alone in my adoration of BTTF2 as the time travel film par excellence. Andrew Looney, time travel expert extraordinare, cites BTTF2 as being “the best time travel movie ever made.”

Instead of taking place in well-known settings as do the first and third movies of the trilogy, BTTF2 challenges our imaginations by presenting two new and provocative temporal settings: a futuristic 2015, and a dark and sinister version of 1985. While 2015 is quickly approaching and many of the exciting elements portrayed in the film (flying cars, hoverboards) are keeping us waiting, BTTF2 successfully predicts a number of developments like flatscreen televisions, increasingly intrusive advertising, and a baseball team in Florida (albeit with the wrong name). But whether or not BTTF2 was able to predict the future is not the important point. Important is that these alternate realities ring true for me – I am fairly certain that we will not have flying cars (and certainly not flying DeLoreans) by 2015, but thanks to BTTF2, I can imagine a world which does.

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