Title: Back to the Future Part 2
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Originally Released: 1989
How could I have a blog dedicated to reviewing all things past and present, and not include a review of the movie that is responsible for shaping my vision of the future? This may also have been the movie that got me hooked on the idea of time travel, among other things. I wanted the hover car, the hover board, the thumb plate payment system, and the Cafe 80’s with the Max Headroom waiter.
The Internet is already alive with lists of plot holes, what the movie got wrong and right, what it predicted, and how it fell flat. And none of that makes me love this movie any less, because at the core of the superficial plot of the movie, is a story about a boy whose decisions have a very real impact on his life and the lives of those around him.
We learn in the course of the film that Marty McFly’s life does not go according to plan, and that a much bleaker future awaits him in the year 2015. If you’re paying attention to the film, we already get a hint of what will be revealed to us in Back to the Future Part 3 (This is a brilliant example of non-linear storytelling done right). To sum it up: Marty makes a terrible decision in response to some name calling, which costs him his ability to play the guitar. This knee jerk response to taunting and bullying doesn’t change, and not only does it continue to cause problems in the future, but it passes on to his kids.
You could argue that bullying is never that simple. God knows that I am the last person to criticize people for not thinking before they act. But if you get no other lesson from this movie, it is that no matter what our mentors and our peers think of us, it is that we are ultimately responsible for our futures and we have to live with the decisions we make.
An example of the time when I finally figured this out comes from my senior year of high school. A vendor truck for Pepsi was parked outside of the school, wide open. Drinks just there for the taking, right? And I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t tempted. One of my classmates, a mouthy girl who took no small joy in teasing and taunting me along with many of the others, said, “Grab one.”
What if I had taken one? Surely there would be no consequence, right? I mean if the “cool” kids told me to do it, then it must be okay, and they might have stopped giving me a hard time if I just grabbed a free Mountain Dew. Who was going to miss it?
At that moment, my future had one of two distinctive possibilities. In the first place, I was still a senior in high school who hadn’t graduated yet. But I was also legally an adult, and could very well face a criminal charge that would wind up on my permanent record. However my life proceeded from there on in, would forever be determined by the decision I made that day, when the truck full of soda sat in the parking lot, unsupervised.
Readers will be happy to know that I didn’t follow the goading of my classmate. However, to prove how cool she was to her own friends, she decided to grab a soda while I was walking away. Oh, she left some money there, but people had seen her and were quick to rat her out when the vendor came back to the truck. He was accompanied by the campus sheriff and the principal when they confronted her and escorted her up to the office.
The point is, every one of us in our lives, faces tough choices like the ones Marty McFly was forced to face in the Back to the Future trilogy. Sure, the movie got some things wrong. Sometimes the decision is never that black and white. Actually the situation is never that black and white period. Sometimes we don’t get a choice in the matter at all. But until we begin to take that responsibility, as Marty eventually does, we’re in no position to put the blame on anyone else when it comes to our future.