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Wild Wild West
Back to the Future Part III (DVD)
Member Name: Jake Speed
Back to the Future Part III (DVD)
Advantages: Likeable and decent fun
Disadvantages: Bit dull in places
I suppose in a sense the two sequels went from one extreme to the other. The second film was undeniably bold but rather charmless and hollow. Too dark. Back to the Future Part III is more accessible and likeable with more of a heart but maybe plays it a bit too safe. There are some great moments and images but it does seem a trifle bland without the paradoxical time shifts. I don't think Back to the Future Part II really worked in the end but the theme of Hill Valley verged on the edge of the abyss and at the mercy of Doc and Marty's success or failure was more daring and arresting. You don't get anything like that here. The vast majority of Back to the Future Part III is set in 1885 and western cliches abound. Director Robert Zemeckis is clearly having fun making a light hearted western but one ultimately wishes that perhaps the whole film hadn't been one. By the way, the film was inspired by Michael J Fox being asked during production of the first one which period of history he would like to visit given a choice. He replied that he'd always quite fancied being a cowboy. 1885 Hill Valley here looks more like a film set than a real place - Young Guns meets Little House on the Prairie - but Doc Brown's gadget encrusted blacksmith workshop is certainly a lot of fun. Pee Wee Herman steampunk. Some good humour is gleaned from Marty's ridiculous camp tassled fancy dress cowboy outfit (rigged for him in 1955) when he arrives in the Old West and of course it's a nice joke that he calls himself Clint Eastwood when asked for his name. "What kind of a stupid name is that?" says Mad Dog.
It is amusing I must admit when characters address Marty as "Mr Eastwood" throughout. The Doc/Clara romance is rather soppy but sweet and Christopher Lloyd is much more the heart of the film here than he was in the two others. He gives a more understated performance and is much better than he was in the second film. They bond over their love of Jules Verne - the author who inspired the Doc to devote his life to science. I'm not a great fan though of the way they have Fox constantly playing his ancestors and children in these sequels. Does everyone in his family past and present look EXACTLY like him?! It's all a bit Dick Emery. Although the migraine inducing time travel computations of the first two films are mostly absent there are still a number of threads here that don't make any sense. The Delorean driven by Marty has been hit by an arrow and leaked its fuel. What about the Delorean that Doc was zapped back in? Are there two Deloreans? I suppose you aren't really supposed to think about these things too much. In the time travel genre a jargon of apology passes for plausibility. Fox and Thomas F Wilson are fine again although Lea Thompson is given a rather bland part here. She was great in the first film but they never really worked out what to do with her in the two sequels. Once again you do miss Crispin Glover, the bonkers actor who was so brilliant as George McFly in the first film but declined to return for the sequels after being offered what he considered to be an insulting fee. It would have been a hoot seeing him in the Old West playing a McFly ancestor.
The film definitely lacks energy at times and is often too sedate and Sunday afternoon for its own good. The image near the start of the Delorean on a dusty plain being chased by Indians is wonderful but there isn't nearly enough of this. The impending duel between Marty and Mad Dog never really generates a great deal of tension although it does allow Zemeckis to riff on Spaghetti Westerns. Only in the last third does the film really spring to life with steam train Delorean pushing capers. There is real cinema magic at work here at times, better than anything in the second film and very enjoyable. Alan Silvestri's score is on hand again to provide some extra Back to the Future residue. Ultimately, Back to the Future Part III is an amusing and likeable diversion rather than a great Back to the Future film. Does it wrap up the series though in a satisfying way at the end? I think it probably does and the message we are left with after all of these films is an uplifting and positive one. The future is exactly what you make of it rather than destiny. One can't help feeling though that the sequels were not completely essential in the end and may have detracted from what was surely one of the greatest mainstream blockbusters ever made. Back to the Future Part III is a nice film and very likeable and offers a decent amount of fun as far as it goes but - like the second film - it still falls a long way short of the wonderful 1985 Back to the Future original. Still, they all have their moments and all the films are best viewed in a short time span to make the most of the recurring jokes, references and super circuitous time shifting shenanigans.
Summary: Reasonably enjoyable sequel