Sibling Revivalry: 'Back to the Future'

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Universal Pictures

This installment of "Sibling Revivalry" comes care of reader M.R. Bowers, who suggested Lindsay and I tackle director Robert Zemeckis' beloved 1985 sci-fi adventure mega-hit 'Back to the Future.'

Lindsay, at first, asked that I officially relay that she was "very displeased" with the pick. But, as is becoming a happy trend, she was eventually endeared to the material. (Or perhaps it's the fact that Michael J. Fox is "really cute" – though don't even think about comparing him to Tom Cruise.)

Either way, she was willing to see beyond the "dated" special effects and wardrobe to appreciate the authenticity of the film's relationships and themes. Not that she'll be clamoring to watch the second or third films in the franchise. Here's what we talked about after my little sister's first viewing of 'Back to the Future'…27 years after its release.

I love that, when the credits rolled you told me, “I actually liked this!” Because for the first half, you were complaining that it was silly. What turned it around for you?

On a purely, "Could this happen in your day to day life?" It could never, obviously. On a relationship level though, if you contrasted this with 'Top Gun,' the relationships in this movie were more believable. That's why I liked it.

Maybe it's because the film was set in a world that made more sense to you? You can't exactly identify with fighter pilots on a military base, or people living on other planets, or folks on the Titanic. But someone in small town America - that, you can understand. You've experienced it.

I guess, but also, Marty's mom was chasing him in the 50's. That dynamic of a woman chasing a man who isn't interested in her is more believable to me than sitting in a bar and having some guy walk up and serenade you.

Well, Marty wasn't interested for a very specific reason in this movie. I mean, he's her son. That's just gross.

Right. But if you break it all down to the dynamic, it just rings truer.

Was there a specific moment where you realized you were into the movie?

I'd say I got most interested when the drama started. When he had to get back to 1985, when he had to make his parents fall in love. That's when it caught my attention. You wanted it to work out, and you knew that it would, but I was more invested in the process. Whereas all the stuff building up to it wasn't bad, it was just a little boring.

You said it was like an after school special, when Marty and Jennifer were talking after he bombed the Battle of the Bands audition.

Yeah, totally. [Mocking Jennifer in a sing-song voice] "You should send out your tape! You're the best! Have faith in yourself!" Oh my God, so lame. So “Movie of the Week.”

You asked me if this was considered high-tech when it was made. It was. But you obviously think the movie looks dated.

Yeah, definitely. Those funky clothes!

It's true, but oddly - the funky clothes look like what hipsters are wearing right now. Like Marty's outfit - the plaid shirt, the skinny jeans rolled at the bottom, the vintage Nike sneakers, the puffer vest. I see that in Brooklyn all the time.

Well, I don't live in Brooklyn. There's always a tweak on the old stuff. You don't see people now wearing blue eye shadow and tapered jeans, you see people wearing slightly less tapered jeans and no eye shadow, or whatever.

But the special effects in the movie? I get that they're dated. They're still effective though, right?

Yeah, for the most part. But the surroundings - the town looked like it was made of cardboard. I get that it was supposed to have that kind of kitschy feel, but it adds to the dated look regardless.

Well, we can agree on one thing: Michael J. Fox is completely adorable in this.

Yeah, definitely. He's really cute. Very charismatic.

You haven't seen 'Family Ties,' or 'Teen Wolf,' but this was concurrent with his success in those. This movie launched him into super-stardom. As did 'Top Gun' for Tom Cruise. Those two kind of have a similar not super tall or traditionally attractive, underdog guy quality. But Michael J. Fox takes on the sweet everyman role, whereas Tom Cruise went the kind of action hero cocky route. I think that's why both guys and girls really loved Michael J. Fox in this.

Yeah, definitely. He's got an accessibility. He was a very interesting kind of silent hero, behind the scenes in some ways. But you know what I'm about to say - Tom Cruise to me is SOOO much cuter. Because of his attitude. I'm not as down with the all-American good guy, which is what Michael J. Fox is.

There are film intellectuals who've stated that - when you say the name of a film during the movie - it breaks the spell the movie has cast on a viewer. Do you think - when Doc finally said the words "back to the future" - that became true for you?

That's interesting, because there were parts of it when I was not engaged. And when Doc said that he wanted to send Marty back to the future, I was like, "Oh, I GET IT! Back. To. The. Future!" Because it didn't make sense to me before. I mean, wouldn't you normally call it forward to the future? And I actually think that's when I really started to connect with the movie.

Do you feel proud that you got the Darth Vader reference?

I always knew who Darth Vader was! I may have gotten it more strongly now that I've seen 'Star Wars.' But other than that – do I feel like less of a person who has, "lived under a rock" as one of your Facebook commenters said? Yes. I feel like less of that now.

Wow. Directly calling out naysayers. Watch it, people!

Haters gonna hate!

How'd you feel about the Marty/young-Lorraine love plot line?

That was a little Freudian! Going back to the fact that all of the other movies we've watched have had the most preposterous movie fantasy relationships in them, this one didn't. And I can appreciate that.

But if he'd been some guy who traveled to the past and some girl who wasn't his mother fell for him and he rejected her the same way, don't you think you'd have a different reaction?

No. It doesn't specifically in a cookie cutter fashion have to be a woman pursuing a man and a man who's not interested in her, I would just prefer to watch anything but what we've seen before this - a guy randomly spotting a girl across the room and falling in love. UGH.

It's funny that 'Back to the Future' was the highest-grossing movie of 1985, and 'Top Gun' was the highest-grossing movie of 1986. And we watched them back-to-back, without even intending to make that connection.

Wow, that's so weird. Because it feels to me that 'Top Gun's effects and camerawork and its presence in general was so much further along. 'Back to the Future' looks kind of amateur in comparison.

Maybe you feel that way because 'Top Gun's action was grounded in camerawork inside and shot from the vantage point of actual planes, whereas 'Back to the Future' relied more on special effects.

That could be it. But even the styles of what people were wearing. Actually, maybe not. Because they were in flight uniforms in 'Top Gun.' And Kelly McGillis' outfits, oh Lord. But aside from all that stuff, seriously, I can't believe they only came out a year apart.

I love that 'Back to the Future' is so wholesome, it presumes relationships in high school last long enough to turn into marriages. I guess that could be truer for the 50s, but the 80s? At the end, Doc's like, "Hey, Marty and Jennifer - your kids are in trouble in the future - hop on into the DeLorean and let's figure this out!"

Yeah, it would've been so much more accurate - and funnier - if Doc had been like, "So yeah, Jennifer, you aren't in the picture after this year - sorry. You can just stay here in 1985, living your after-school special."

The ending is obviously set up for a sequel. Did it make you want to watch another 'Back to the Future' movie?

No.

Obviously they're going 30 years into the future - where do you think they go?

Mars!

Well, spoiler: they stay in America. What do you think the movie imagines it's like here in 2015?

I bet it's totally unbelievable. Flying cars, like 'The Jetsons.'

One word: hoverboards.

Like, flying skateboards? Ugh! As it was in this movie, Marty was the laziest skateboarder ever. All he did was latch onto cars and let them drag him around!

Would you travel back in time if you could?

I don't know. I don't think so. I think it'd be scary. What if you got trapped somewhere? That's why this movie makes sense.

Can you imagine being trapped with mom and dad back in the 60's or early 70's?

Seriously, we were trapped with them in the 80's. That's bad enough.

Do you have a suggestion for the next classic we should tackle here on Sibling Revivalry? Let us know in the comments section, on Facebook or via Twitter at @ScreenCrushNews!

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