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It is that time. Yes, the time in which a truly outstanding film trilogy comes to glorious high definition. There are very few film anthologies that are desired by fans on the Blu-ray. The Alien Anthology, also being released on October 26, is another one. The Godfather Trilogy, Batman Anthology, Superman Anthology and Indiana Jones Trilogy are others, the latter two still awaiting release.
Back To The Future defined a generation. It sparked creativity and has been quoted or referenced in more movies in the past 25 years than I can count. The film propelled actors and filmmakers careers.
Director Robert Zemeckis went on to direct such films as Contact, Cast Away and of course Forrest Gump. Elisabeth Shue already had success in The Karate Kid and Cocktail so it was odd that she wasnt even credited in the second and third films. This has to do with the unexplained disappearance of Claudia Wells from the trilogy as Jennifer Parker.
So what is it that makes Back To The Future a remarkable piece of filmmaking and anchored in cinematic culture? It has to do with the fact that the film came out at the perfect time in history. There is virtually no possibility that something like Back To The Future will ever be remade, unlike things like Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th, both remade this past year. Back To The Future worked because it was a bit cheesy but imaginative. The trilogy carried perfectly from one film to the next. The second and third films cant really be considered sequels. All three add up to one story and one film, much like Superman II was supposed to be to Superman had Richard Donner continued with the project.
I doubt I need to go through these, but here is a basic rundown of the three films. Back To The Future introduces us to Marty (Michael J. Fox), a young musician in high school that is dating the prettiest girl in school who is not a cheerleader (Claudia Wells/Elisabeth Shue). He is constantly doubting himself thanks to the lack of a good fatherly role model. Marty maintains a relationship with Doctor Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd). When Marty meets the Doc for an experiment in the early morning hours, events take a turn for the worse, leaving Marty stranded in Hill Valley 1955. Marty searches out the Doc from the past, hoping that he can help him get back to the year 1985. Unfortunately, they need 1.21 JigaWatts (yes that is correct Jiga, not Giga. Ah, one of the fun things about Back To The Future to make fun of). Meanwhile, Marty has disturbed history by interfering with his parents first meeting. While Doc and Marty prepare for the infamous 10:04 PM lightning storm, Marty must do everything he can to get his parents to meet and fall in love before even he is blinked out of existence.
The first part finishes with the fantastic flourishing of a flying DeLorean carry Doc, Marty and Jennifer back to the future. Unfortunately, audiences would have to wait four years for the next installment, followed shortly thereafter by the conclusion. Four years. That is longer than the wait between Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. The wait was due to the fact that both the second and third parts were shot and finished in tandem. Part II picks up seamlessly from where Part I ended, with the exception of Jennifer now played by Elisabeth Shue.
In the second part Marty and Doc return to the future, the year 2015, where Marty must change the course of the future by stopping his kids from breaking the law. In doing so, old Biff from the future takes the DeLorean for a joyride to alter the course of history. Doc and Marty must find out how history was changed and return to the past, which just so happens to be 1955 again, to set things right. Just when all seems to be finished, the flying DeLorean gets zapped and disappears, leaving Marty stranded once again in 1955.
If there is a down side to the trilogy, it is the third part. While it is still seamless with the first two films, it leaves many viewers shrugging their shoulders. Moving the conclusion to the old west was a big departure from the first two films. But when you really think about, that was the only place for the third installment to go. While most were not pleased with the romance between Doc and Clara (Mary Steenburgen), I felt that the film still worked as a solid conclusion to an outstanding trilogy. I love epic stories and Back To The Future is certainly one of the best.
Ok, so now for the part that you all have been waiting for, the high-definition transfer. Without hesitation, I am pleased to report that Universal has done one of the best jobs they could possibly do with the restoration of this trilogy, at least in terms of the video quality. Lets get one thing out in the open and tossed aside shall we. Back To The Future was never a tremendous looking film originally, so what we have here on Blu-ray is better than what was in theaters 25 years ago. Still, the optical visual effects are a bit jarring. When the DeLorean first vanishes, leaving a trailer of fire running under Doc and Martys feet, it looks like Doc and Marty are floating. It never looked solid to begin with, but now the mattes are really visible. However, that really doesnt track from the viewing experience. Lets face it, the trilogy had some of the worst script supervising in film history, so there is plenty of visual inconsistencies to notice.
Aside from the visual effects mattes, the image is pristine. Grain is still intact but never intrusive. It might have been scrubbed a little cleaner than I would have preferred but not to the point that average viewers can discern the difference. Black levels hold up surprisingly well. Throughout the three films there instances in which the blacks swallow shadow details, but most of this is part of the original production. Colors are the biggest improvement by far over any of the past SD DVD releases or even the original theatrical releases. Colors are truly vibrant from one era to the next. The 50s contain a gray wash, but the pastel colors are magnificently rendered. The old west may be a touch too orange saturated, but it isnt disturbing. Allow with improved colors, the sharpness of the film is overall improved. Oddly, the final film in the trilogy seems to have the least amount of sharpness to the point that is was a bit of a nuisance. Nevertheless, the video quality of the Back To The Future Trilogy is the best it is ever going to look in my opinion.
The audio quality falls just a bit short compared to the video transfer. This is simply for one reason, the dialogue. Dialogue throughout the three films is consistent, but there is a tremendous error. The dialogue is harsh. Within every sequence there are lines with quantization error during the analog to digital conversion. This has been present in the past SD DVD releases, but has been masked by the poor bitrate quality of Dolby Digital. The errors result in what sounds like digital distortion or soft clipping. After sitting through three films is becomes really annoying. If you just watch one film here or there, then the issue isnt going to be as compromising. That aside, the rest of the audio transfer is superb. The LFE channel is reserved throughout, but is at least consistent. Remember, these films were original Dolby Stereo. The surround channels never become discreet. However, ambience and effects do bleed nicely into the rear channels. However, if you sit there waiting for the moment in which the DeLorean is going to fly right over your head you are going to be disappointment. These 5.1 mixes are nice upgrades from the Dolby Stereo, but they dont go overboard.
There are hours and hours of bonus materials on these discs. So I will divide it out for you. The discs contain those special features that come from past SD DVD releases. But here are the new supplemental features.
The U-control section features storyboard comparisons, background information and a trivia track. The best feature on these discs is the six-part documentary Tales From The Future. This documentary runs over two hours in total and features information on the production process, the filming, the score and the release of the film. This is highly recommended for all viewers. The Physics of Back To The Future examines the principles of time travel with an actual physicist. Nuclear Test Site Ending Storyboard Sequence looks at the original ending intended for the film. Lastly, there is a half an hour featurette that original aired on television when the first film was brought to the small screen.
Past special features that are also on the Blu-ray release include deleted scenes, QA sessions, audio commentaries, previously aired television featurettes, The Making Of, Secrets Of, the Behind The Scenes compilation, music videos, photo galleries and trailers.
It goes without saying that the Back To The Future Trilogy is an absolutely must have for any collection. Without hesitation you should go out and get this collection. Highly highly recommended.
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