Back to the Future: Part III (1990) – Robert Zemeckis

My last stop in the Sci-Fi Chronicles book is the final trip with Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) in Back to the Future: Part III. From the film’s opening credits you know this will be a different adventure, the triumphant theme by Alan Silvestri gives way to a stirring romantic theme that sets the tone.

In fact Silvestri’s score is fantastic for this film is one of my favourites, his western motiffs when Marty goes back to 1885 to rescue Doc from being shot and killed by Mad Dog Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson).are up there with some of my favourite western themes.

Once Marty travels back to the Old West, he takes the moniker Clint Eastwood, and has to realise once and for all that it doesn’t matter what other people say about him, he’s his own person. But the film shifts, this time around Marty is shuffled to the role of sidekick and Doc becomes the star as the crux of the plot and storyline focus on him and the developing romancr between him and Hill Valley’s new school teacher, Clara Clayton (Mary Steenburgen).

The revisiting of scenes, dialogue and time travel jokes make this a fun film, but, once it gets underway, it works as a western as well, not just a familmuy friendly science fiction story.

These films hold a special place in the heart of my generation and they remain as fun and enjoyable to me as they did the first time I saw them. The story, the dialogue, the characters, the moments, the music. I love it all.

I have to say considering all the timelines and versions of one another they encounter, or ancestors, the continuity for the film is surprisingly solid.

Not quite sure how we account for Maggie McFly (Lea Thompson) looks like Lorraine Baines, but it keeps the actress in the series, and of course makes for a nice moment when Marty wakes, riffing on the waking up with Mom scenes.

The stakes feel a little higher for our heroes back in 1885, you don’t feel they were in physical danger in 1955 from Biff (also Wilson) well not like in alternate 1985, or in 1885. Mad Dog is not afraid to kill, and both Marty and Doc are in his sights, which means, inevitably a showdown is going to take place.That for Marty is a character defining moment.

The film, while sticking to its time travel story, delights in playing with the tropes of the western genre, showdowns, train robberies, chases, derring-do on horses, a town dance… they are all there and seeing our characters deal with them and celebrate the birth of the town and clock tower that will be so associated with their town are all wonderful.

If you haven’t seen the previous films, a lot of the callbacks will be missed (and why would you not want to watch them?) but it does work on its own, simply from the charm of the leads, their enthusiasm carries the audience along and we buckle up as we race towards 88mph and the story’s conclusion.

I love this series, it’s one of those trilogies, like the original Star Wars films that serves so well on rainy days curled up under the blankets on the couch. Through all of them Marty was a bit of an alter-ego for me. I was the same age the character was, liked a lot of the same things (Huey Lewis along with The Beatles was my favourite musical artist), hunted down my first skateboard because of him (though never mastered it) and wanted to be as cool as I thought he was.

Somehow, that has brought me to the end of the Sci-Fi Chronicles book. It was a fun ride, and I wish there was more to it, because I loved that journey so much… I’ll have to start working my way through another movie book…

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