‘Back to the Future Part II’: Welcome to the Present
“I never think of the future — it comes soon enough.” – Albert Einstein
Welcome to October 21st, 2015, or as it used to be known: “the future.”
Forever memorialized in Robert Zemeckis’ Back to the Future Part II, today is the date on which Doc Brown, Marty McFly, and his girlfriend Jennifer Parker step out of the DeLorean and into the Hill Valley of the future (or as it’s currently known: “the present”).
You may have heard about this. People are pretty excited about. At the risk of being hyperbolic, you could even say that the Internet hasn’t been so excited about something movie-related since at least yesterday. You can refuse to partake in the nostalgia that’s bubbled up around this movie, and you can roll your eyes at the particular nugget of trivia by which it’s apparently been welded to the collective unconscious, but the heaving orgy of attention it’s inspired for today’s date is undeniable.
The question is: why? It’s not as though the movie is some kind of consecrated masterpiece. The enjoyably superfluous middle chapter of a popcorn trilogy from a decade filled with better examples, Back to the Future Part II occupies an awkward limbo between ironic appreciation and sincere devotion — it isn’t Troll 2, but it’s also not The Empire Strikes Back. What’s more, the parts of it that take place in 2015 account for significantly less than half of the film’s running time.
Is some of the commotion an inevitable byproduct of Zemeckis’ decision to follow in the footsteps of the first Back to the Future by sending his characters to a specific date? Probably. Is the movie a lucky beneficiary of — and a huge contributor to — our enduring nostalgia for the cinematic Cheez Wiz of the 1980s? Almost certainly. The vast majority of movies about the future are actually transparent cautionary tales about the present, and today is just the latest and most diverting reminder that most of them will eventually become about the past. What makes Back to the Future Part II so uniquely resilient is that when you wake up tomorrow, it will still be about…the future.