Back to the Future II – 100 Best Sci Fi & Fantasy Movies

cubs-win

The next movie I tackled on my list of 100 Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Movies is the Back To The Future TrilogyThis post covers the second movie.

Back to the Future II Plot Summary (Spoilers):

truckBack to the Future II begins with Marty admiring the fancy truck he returned to the present to find was now his in the first film. Jennifer joins him and the pair share a kiss which is interrupted by the arrival of the DeLorean.

mr-fusionThe Doc hops out of the DeLorean and tells Marty that he and Jennifer have to head back to the future with him, because something has gone wrong with their kids. The Doc tosses some garbage into the DeLorean’s new Mr. Fusion and the three of them hop in. Marty warns the Doc that they don’t have enough road to get up to 88 m.p.h. and the Doc replies, “Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads.” Biff exits the house just in time to see the DeLorean fly away.

sleepThe DeLorean emerges from time travel in a lane full of flying cars. The Doc explains to Marty that they are now in Hill Valley on October 21, 2015. Jennifer becomes very excited about the prospect of being in the future and starts rattling off questions. The Doc whips out some kind of gadget that puts her to sleep, because he doesn’t want her learning too much about her own future.

future-dudsThe Doc lands the DeLorean and orders Marty to change into some futuristic clothing, which includes a pair of self lacing sneakers and a jacket that adjusts in size to custom fit the wearer. Once Marty has his future duds on, the Doc declares he looks like the spitting image of his future son.

jenniferThe Doc and Marty stash the still sleeping Jennifer in a pile of garbage and the Doc commands Marty to enter the cafe around the corner in exactly 2 minutes, meet up with a guy named Griff and when Griff asks him if he’s in or if he’s out, to tell Griff that he is out and then return to the alley and meet up with the Doc. The Doc warns Marty to interact with the future world as little as possible and then explains to him that the reason they are doing this is because his son is going to be arrested and sentenced to 15 years in prison and his daughter will end up with a 20 year sentence after she tries to break him out. The Doc rushes off to intercept the real Marty Jr. and assures Marty that Jennifer will be safe in the alley for the few minutes until they get back.

biff-martyMarty heads to the cafe ’80s, where he encounters an elderly version of Biff. Biff tells Marty that his “old man” is a total loser. Griff arrives and immediately jumps on his grandpa Biff for not satisfactorily waxing his car and then hauls Biff out of the cafe, before ordering Marty to wait for him to return.

marty-jrWhile Marty is playing a vintage 80’s arcade game, the real Marty Jr. shows up and Marty quickly ducks out of sight. Griff confronts Marty Jr. about the “opportunity” and Marty Jr. tries to back out, saying it sounds dangerous. Griff is not pleased and hurls Marty Jr. over the counter Marty is hiding behind.

marty-marty-jrMarty tells Jr. to stay down and shut up and when Jr. appears to black out, Marty decides to impersonate him. Marty hops over the counter and tells Griff no. Griff asks Marty if he is “chicken.” Marty responds that “nobody calls me chicken.”

hoverboardGriff whips out a baseball bat and takes a swing at Marty, but misses. Marty kicks Griff in the nuts and then runs for it. Marty spots some little girls on scooters and decides to pull the same stunt he pulled in the first movie. When he goes to pull the handlebars off, he realizes the board doesn’t have any wheels. He proceeds to rip the handlebars off and sets off on his newly fashioned hover board.

griffMarty takes off on the hoverboard, but has some trouble controlling it and unfortunately for him, Griff and his gang also have hoverboards. Marty manages to evade Griff’s gang, but runs into trouble when he gets stuck trying to cross over a fountain. His hoverboard won’t work on water, but Griff’s will. Griff closes in on Marty, with his bat at the ready, but Marty leaps into the water as Griff approaches, sending Griff and his gang flying into a plate-glass window. Marty tries to return the hoverboard to the girl he stole it from, but she tells him to keep it, since she has now confiscated Griff’s fancier board.

cubs-winWhen Marty sees an announcement that the Cubs have swept Miami in the World Series, a man trying to collect money to save the clock tower muses that he wishes he’d known ahead of time, so he could have put money on the Cubs. This gives Marty an idea. Marty returns to the antique store, where he saw a sports almanac on display, and purchases the book, with the intention of using it to make money by betting on sporting events in the past.

old-biffThe Doc brings the DeLorean around to the front of the cafe and old Biff remarks that he hasn’t seen one of those in 30 years. When the real Marty Jr. bumps into old Biff on the way out of the cafe, Biff begins to realize something fishy is going on and decides to spy on Marty and Doc.

gang-jailedDoc asks Marty what the heck happened and Marty tells him his kid showed up and all hell broke loose. The Doc surmises that because he used the sleep gadget on Jennifer, it didn’t have enough juice to knock out Marty Jr. for the full hour. Marty picks up the newspaper Doc showed him and notices the front page story has changed from his son being arrested, to Griff and his gang being arrested. The Doc decides that even though their plans got all fouled up, the end result was what they wanted and it’s time to go home.

policeMarty tosses the hoverboard into the DeLorean, but when he picks up the sports almanac, it falls out of the bag and the Doc spots it. The Doc lectures Marty about how he didn’t invent the time machine for personal gain. When he goes to throw the almanac in the trash, he spots the police picking up the unconscious Jennifer, thinking she’s a passed out addict. The police run her thumbprint and since she doesn’t have any record, decide to just take her home, thinking she is the Jennifer from 2015. The Doc worries that if Jennifer sees her 2015 self, it might create some sort of paradox that could destroy the universe, but then again, it might just cause her to pass out. The Doc throws the almanac in the trash, before leaving with Marty to go retrieve Jennifer. Old Biff, who has been eavesdropping the whole time, fishes the book out of the trash.

marlene-mcflyThe police drop Jennifer at her future home. She tries to get out of the house, but ends up having to hide in the closet when her future daughter and in-laws appear. Jennifer overhears Marty’s mom talking about how Marty loses his cool every time someone calls him chicken and how 30 years ago he ended up in a car accident with a Rolls Royce, because someone called him chicken.

time-theifMarty and the Doc arrive in Hilldale and old Biff follows. The Doc tells Marty to wait in the DeLorean, while he goes to get Jennifer. Back at the house, Marty’s mom is explaining to Marty’s daughter, how that car accident causes a chain reaction that sent Marty’s life “straight down the tubes.” Marty leaves the DeLorean to look at a dog walking robot and Old Biff hops in and takes off.

needlesBack at the house, Old Marty gets a phone call from Needles. Needles goads Old Marty into participating in some sort of illegal business activity by calling him chicken. Shortly after Needles gets off the call, Old Marty’s boss appears on-screen and tells Old Marty that he has been terminated.

jennifersThe Doc shows up and tells Jennifer to meet him at the front door. Jennifer sneaks through the house, as Old Marty sadly noodles on his guitar. Jennifer makes it to the front door without being seen, but when she encounters the older version of herself coming in the door, they both pass out. The Doc collects young Jennifer and drags her out of the house. He summons Marty to the house, as Old Biff returns in the DeLorean, snapping off a piece of his cane as he exits the vehicle.

marty-doc

Marty and the Doc carry Jennifer back to the DeLorean. The Doc tells Marty he has decided to destroy the time machine, because the risks of something catastrophic happening as the result of using it are too high. His only regret is that he’ll never get to visit the Old West.

break-inThe Doc and Marty arrive back in 1985 and dump the unconscious Jennifer in the swing in front of her house. The Doc thinks Marty can convince her that it was all just a dream when she wakes up. The Doc drops Marty at his house and then leaves to tear down the time machine. Marty’s house is locked up, so he crawls in through his bedroom window, only to discover a screaming girl in his room. The girl’s father confronts Marty with a baseball bat and tells him to tell the realty company that they won’t be terrorized into selling. Marty flees through the very rundown looking neighborhood. Convinced that he must be in the wrong year, he picks up a newspaper off someone’s porch and verifies that he is in 1985. The house turns out to belong to principle Strickland, who orders Marty off his porch at gunpoint. Strickland claims to have never seen Marty before in his life. Strickland threatens to blow Marty’s nuts off, but is interrupted by a drive-by shooting before he can carry out his threat.

biffs-pleasure-palaceMarty flees from his neighborhood, discovering that a very changed Hill Valley is now dominated by Biff’s Pleasure Palace. Thanks to a bit of automated exposition at the Biff Tannen museum, Marty learns that Biff is now one of the richest men in America, after winning millions of dollars at the racetrack on his 21st birthday and parlaying a winning streak that earned him the nickname “the luckiest man alive” into a business empire. Biff also married Marty’s mom in 1973. Marty freaks out upon learning the news about his mom and casino security knocks him out.

cut-offMarty wakes up to his mother’s comforting voice and thinks he just had a bad dream. However, Marty quickly realizes it was no dream. Biff shows up complaining about how much money he has blown on Marty, who he thinks has gotten himself kicked out of another boarding school. Biff insults Marty’s father and then shoves his mother to the floor before punching Marty in the gut. Marty’s mom threatens to leave Biff, but ends up backing down after Biff says he’ll cut her and her kids off and get them all thrown in jail if she does. Marty is stunned that his mother left his father for Biff, but his mother tells him that his father died 12 years ago.

graveMarty rushes to the cemetery and confirms that his father is dead. The Doc shows up and takes Marty back to his lab, which is a shambles. He shows him a newspaper article which indicates his father was murdered. The Doc explains to Marty that something must have happened in the past to alter the timeline. He then shows Marty the bag and receipt from the sports almanac Marty purchased and the piece of Old Biff’s cane, which the Doc found in the DeLorean. The Doc deduces that Old Biff must have stolen the book and the time machine and then traveled back in time and given the book to his younger self, resulting in Biff’s spectacular winning streak and the changes to the timeline. The Doc tells Marty that this is yet another example of how time travel can be mis-used and that he must destroy the time machine after they straighten the mess they have created out.

Marty suggests they travel back to the future and stop Biff from stealing the time machine, but the Doc vetoes that plan, saying they would be traveling into the future of the alternate timeline, where Biff is corrupt and powerful and the Doc has been committed to a mental institute. Instead, they need to travel to the exact date in the past when young Biff was given the sports almanac. Marty tells the Doc he’ll go ask present day Biff when that day was.

hot-tubMarty interrupts Biff in the hot tub with a couple of young ladies and tells him they need to discuss the sports almanac. Marty demands to know how, where and when Biff got the book. Biff tells Marty an old man, claiming to be a distant relative, showed up on Nov. 12th, 1955, the same day Marty went back in time in the first film, and gave young Biff the book and the instructions to make his fortune. Biff then cocks a pistol and tells Marty that he was also warned that some day a crazy, wild-eyed scientist or a kid may show up asking about that book. Biff attempts to shoot Marty several times, but he flees the room. When Biff’s thugs pursue Marty through the hotel, he flees to the roof. Biff follows and tells Marty to either jump or be shot. He also confesses to having murdered Marty’s father. Marty jumps off the building and lands on top of the DeLorean. The Doc knocks Biff out with the car door.

The Doc & Marty head back to 1955. Doc orders Marty to head into town and track down Young Biff, but not to interfere with Old Biff giving him the book, otherwise Old Biff may not return to 2015 with the time machine. Once Old Biff is gone, Marty is to get the almanac away from Young Biff by any means necessary. He hands Marty some cash and orders him to get some 1955 clothes and to avoid encountering the other version of himself.

biffsMarty follows Young Biff to his car and while Biff is arguing with the guy from the body shop, Marty hides in the backseat. After taking some time to harass Marty’s mom, Young Biff returns to his car, to discover Old Biff sitting in the front seat. Old Biff drives them to Young Biff’s garage and then hands Young Biff the sports almanac. Young Biff doesn’t believe Old Biff is for real at first, but Old Biff convinces him, by turning on the radio and correctly predicting the improbable outcome of a football game. Old Biff then gives Young Biff the almanac a second time and warns him to keep it secret; keep it safe. He also warns him about the kid and the wild-eyed old man who might come looking for the book. Marty hops out of the car once they leave, only to discover he has been locked in the garage. He uses the walkie-talkie the Doc gave him to radio for help.

stricklandMarty is still stuck in the garage when Biff returns to head to the Enchantment Under the Sea dance. Marty hides in the backseat of Biff’s car again. The Doc arrives to discover Marty gone. Marty radios the Doc to let him know where he is and then pursues Biff into the dance. Marty follows Biff around the dance, trying to find an opportunity to snatch the almanac away from him, but Principal Strickland beats him to the punch. Marty triumphantly retrieves the almanac from the trash when Strickland leaves his office, but much to his dismay, he discovers it’s just a girly mag stuffed inside the dust jacket of the real almanac. Marty radios the Doc in a panic, saying he lost track of Biff, who still has the book. However, when he hears his mother pleading with Biff to turn George loose, he realizes Biff is in the parking lot, about to get layed out by his dad.

thiefMarty approaches the barely conscious Biff and tries to inconspicuously grab the almanac, but when Biff starts to come to, Marty punches him in the face, grabs the book and takes off running, prompting one of the onlookers to accuse him of stealing Biff’s wallet. Marty radios Doc and tells him he has the book and the Doc replies that he’ll meet Marty on the roof on the gym in the DeLorean.

Marty tries to make his way to the roof, but runs into Young Biff’s friends. They chase him into the gym, where he hides under a table. When they spot the other Marty playing Johnny B. Goode on stage, they decide to wait for him to get off stage and jump him. The Marty under the table, radios the Doc and tells him what happened. The Doc tells Marty he has to stop those guys from jumping the other version of Marty, or else he could miss the lightning bolt that sends him back to the future and create a time paradox that could destroy the universe.

sabotage

Marty climbs into the rigging and drops a bunch of sandbags on Biff’s friends, preventing them from jumping the other Marty. He radios the Doc and tells him everything is cool, but then runs into Young Biff before he can get to the roof. Biff goads Marty into a fight by calling him chicken, but they are interrupted by the other Marty opening the door and knocking the Marty who was about to fight Biff to the ground. Biff spots the almanac in the still dazed Marty’s jacket and grabs it, kicks Marty in the gut a couple of times and then takes off in his car.

struggleMarty meets Doc on the roof and tells him that Biff took off with the almanac. Doc and Marty pursue Biff in the DeLorean. The Doc moves in behind Biff’s car and Marty uses the hover board he kept from 2015 to latch on to the side of Biff’s car. Marty tries to steal the book from Biff’s car, but Biff spots him and a struggle ensues. Marty manages to get the book, but Biff is on the verge of running Marty over with his car, when the Doc shows up and lowers a rope from the DeLorean, allowing Marty to escape. Biff crashes into a truck full of manure, as the DeLorean flies away.

burn-baby-burnThe Doc drops Marty off at the Lyons estates sign. At the Doc’s command, Marty burns the almanac. As the book burns, Marty observes the matchbook he pocketed from Biff’s Pleasure Palace change to one that says Biff’s auto detailing and the newspaper article with the headline “George McFly Murdered” change to “George McFly Honored” and he surmises that they have successfully reverted to the 1985 from the end of the first film. The Doc also sees the article about his being committed change to one about him receiving an award and declares “mission accomplished.”

western-unionThey decide it’s time to go home, but the DeLorean is struck by lightning and disappears, with the Doc in it. Shortly after the DeLorean disappears, a man emerges from a car behind Marty. He hands Marty a letter and explains he is from Western Union and that they’ve had that letter in their possession for the past 70 years. Marty reads the letter and discovers that the Doc has been living in the year 1885 for 8 months.

back-from-the-futureEcstatic to learn the Doc is still alive, Marty rushes back to the 1955 Doc, who has just successfully sent the other Marty back to the future. Marty tells a shocked Doc that he is back from the future and the Doc passes out. The movie ends with a “to be concluded” message.

 

Back to the Future II Commentary (Spoilers):

I don’t think Back to the Future II was quite as good as the first film, but as far as sequels go, it was better than most. When I first saw the movie back in the ’80s, the best thing about it was the flying cars and all of the wonderment of what seemed like an impossibly far off future in 2015.

Now that 2015 is in the past, it’s fun to spot the technological advances that the movie got right, or at least almost right (video calls, 3D movies, Miami having a baseball team, the 80’s nostalgia fad, drones), the ones that are still a fantasy (flying cars, the Cubs winning the World Series, food hydrators, self-drying clothing) and even the ones that seem quaint, like the widespread use of fax machines.

The movie relies pretty heavily on inside jokes at times, with a lot of the humor coming from the wackiness of having the same sort of scenarios repeat in 1955 and 2015 and then 1955 again. There’s also quite a few gags like the reference to the shocking idea that the Cubs might finally win the World Series in 2015 and the shark still looking fake in Jaws 19.

Even more so than the first movie, the misogynistic attitudes of the ’80s are on full display, with Jennifer being little more than a prop to be unceremoniously dumped off while the men do all the work and Marty’s mother deciding to marry billionaire Biff after her husband dies in the alternate 1985 timeline, as if she had no other option, even though he’s quite obviously abusive and more or less tried to rape her back in 1955. The few women who appear in the first two Back to the Future films don’t have much agency and end up playing the damsel in distress quite a bit. In addition, it’s a bit disturbing the way they have Marty’s mom change so much, not based on changes to her own life, but changes to her husband’s life. In the first film, when George becomes successful as the result of his standing up to Biff in the first alternate 1985, Lorrain also changes from an overweight, heavy-drinker, to a slim, much more put-together version of herself. Similarly, when George is murdered in the second alternate timeline, Lorrain reverts to a heavy-drinking, gold-digger, apparently completely reliant on her abusive husband for financial support and unwilling to stand up to him, even when he physically abuses her and her son. Meanwhile, when Jennifer learn she’s in 2015, she’s instantly obsessed with seeing her wedding photos and such and doesn’t express much interest in learning anything about her future self that doesn’t revolve around her relationship with Marty.

The special effects are definitely showing their age. In addition to the old age makeups still not being very convincing, the flying cars look pretty fake.

In spite of all that, the film is still a fun and nostalgic romp. Griff was too much of a OTT comic book villain for me and the whole “nobody calls me chicken” bit seems silly, but the twists and turns of the plot make for a fun ride and the revelation that Doc was back in the Old West was a fun moment when I saw the movie for the first time as a kid.

 

Back to the Future – 100 Best Sci Fi & Fantasy Movies

Kiss

The next movie I tackled on my list of 100 Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Movies is the Back To The Future TrilogyThis post covers the first movie.

Back to the Future Plot Summary (Spoilers):

ClocksBack to the Future begins in a room full of ticking clocks. A young man with a skateboard, played by Michael J. Fox, arrives, and calls for a man named Doc, as various wacky machines perform household tasks with varying degrees of success. The young man, whose name is Marty, receives a phone call from Doc, played by Christopher Lloyd. Doc tells Marty he has made a major breakthrough and asks him to meet him at the Twin Pines Mall at 1:15 A.M. Marty agrees to the meeting and then realizing he is late for school, rushes off on his skate board.

Marty’s girlfriend Jennifer intercepts him at the front door of the Hill Valley school and warns him that he needs to avoid Principal Strickland or he’ll receive his fourth tardy in a row. Their plan to avoid him fails and both Marty and Jennifer receive tardy slips. Strickland calls Marty a slacker like his old man, warns him against hanging around with Dr. Brown, who he calls “dangerous” and tells him that he doesn’t know why his band is bothering to audition to play at the dance, because no McFly in the history of Hill Valley has ever amounted to anything.

Marty’s band, The Pinheads, auditions for the dance, but is shut down quickly. The judge tells them they are too loud. Marty tells Jennifer that maybe he should just give up on music, but she insists that he’s really good and should send in his audition tape to a record label. Marty fears being rejected and laments that he’s starting to sound like his old man. He spots a fancy 4×4 pickup and fantasizes about what it would be like to take the truck to his planned weekend lake trip with Jennifer. Jennifer asks if Marty has told his mother he is going to the lake with her and Marty says he told her he’s going camping with the guys, because his mother is always telling him about how she never did that kind of stuff when she was his age. They are interrupted by a woman raising money to save the clock tower, which she explains was struck by lightning in 1955. He gives her a quarter and she hands him a flyer.

BiffMarty arrives at his home in Lyon Estates, to discover that his father’s boss Biff has wrecked the car Marty had planned to borrow for his lake trip.Biff blames Marty’s dad, George, for the accident, saying he didn’t tell him the car had a blind spot and then bullies him about some reports he hasn’t finished yet. Marty scolds his father for letting Biff drive the car and his father apologizes, saying he doesn’t like confrontations.

At the family dinner, Marty’s mother, Lorraine, tells the family that they will have to eat the cake she has made themselves, because their Uncle Joey didn’t make parole again. Marty’s brother heads off to his fast food job and his sister tells him that Jennifer called for him twice. Marty’s mother tells them she doesn’t like Jennifer and that when she was young she never chased boys or called boys or sat in parked cars with boys. When Marty’s sister asks how she’s ever supposed to meet anyone, their mother tells them the story of how she met their father when their grandfather hit him with his car while he was bird watching. She nursed him back to health and then they went to the Enchantment Under the Sea dance together, where they shared their first kiss and fell in love.

Marty meets Doc Brown at the mall at 1:15 A.M. The doc shows him a contraption he has made out of a DeLorean. He then belts his dog Einstein into the vehicle and shows Marty the watch he is sending with Einstein, is perfectly in sync with his own watch. Using a remote control, he drives the car across the parking lot, straight towards Marty and himself, while Marty films the whole thing. When the vehicle reaches 88 M.P.H., it vanishes, leaving a twin trail of flames behind, just before it reaches Doc and Marty. Marty accuses the Doc of disintegrating Einstein, but the Doc explains that he has sent Einstein 1 minute into the future. A minute later, the DeLorean reappears in the parking lot, crusted in ice. Einstein is alive and well inside the car and the Doc excitedly tells Marty that Einstein’s watch is exactly 1 minute behind his own watch.

LibyansThe Doc shows Marty how the time machine works. He enters a few different dates in the destination, finishing up on Nov. 5th, 1955, which was the date he says he invented time travel. He explains that he slipped off the toilet while hanging a clock, hit his head on the sink and had a vision of the flux capacitor, which is what makes time travel work. He reminisces about how much things have changed and tells Marty the parking lot where the Mall is, used to be farmland as far as the eye could see. He also explains to Marty that the 1.21 gigawatts of electricity he needs to power the flux capacitor is powered by plutonium, which he stole from some Libyan nationalists, who wanted him to build them a bomb. Marty and the Doc put on radiation suits and replace the time machine’s plutonium supply. The Doc tells Marty he plans to travel 25 years into the future. Before the Doc can leave, a van full of gun wielding Libyans arrive and begin shooting at him. Doc tells Marty to run. The Doc tries to surrender to the Libyans, but they shoot him multiple times and then turn their gun on Marty. When the shooter’s gun jams, Marty is able to escape into the DeLorean, and he speeds across the parking lot, with the Libyans in pursuit and still shooting at him. When the car reaches 88 M.P.H. it vanishes, leaving the bewildered Libyans behind.

Marty sees a flash of light and then suddenly, he is in a farmer’s field and crashes into a barn. The farmer and his family come out to the barn to see what happened and the farmer’s son shows the family a comic he is reading, called “Tales From Space,” which features a vehicle that looks somewhat like the DeLorean and a space man who is wearing a suit that resembles the radiation suit Marty is wearing. When Marty steps out of the vehicle, the family screams in terror and runs away. Marty exits the barn and the farmer fires his shotgun at him a couple of times. Marty gets back in the DeLorean and speeds away from the farm, while the farmer continues to fire shots at him, calling him a “space bastard.”

Lyon EstatesMarty attempts to return home, but discovers that Lyon Estates is nothing but a sign in the middle of an empty field. He tries to stop a passing motorist for help, but they refuse to stop. When he tries to start the DeLorean, it won’t start and he sees a blinking light indicating that the plutonium chamber is empty. Marty pushes the DeLorean behind the Lyon Estates ground breaking sign and then walks the 2 miles to Hill Valley.

Marty arrives in Hill Valley and is shocked by the changes, including a fully functional clock tower. He grabs a discarded newspaper out of a trash can and discovers the date on it is Nov. 5th, 1955. Marty heads into a coffee shop and tries to call Doc Brown, but doesn’t get an answer, so Marty tears the page with the Doc’s address out of the phone book. He sits down at the counter, right next to the 1955 version of his father, and 1955 Biff walks in and immediately starts hassling George. After Biff leaves, George takes off on his bike and Marty follows him.

Marty spots his father up in a tree, using binoculars to peep at a girl undressing in a house across the street. George falls out of the tree, right in front of a car. Marty pushes his father out of the path of the car and gets hit by it himself and blacks out. George runs away. 9 hours later, Marty wakes up to the sound of his mother’s voice, thinking the whole time travel incident was a nightmare. However, when his mother says he’s safe and sound in 1955, he realizes it was no dream.

Thigh GrabMarty has dinner with his grandparents and his mother’s siblings. The tell him how to get to Doc Brown’s address, when he asks. Marty’s mother tells his grandmother that she thinks Marty ought to spend the night in her room, since his parents are out-of-town, but when his mom grabs his thigh under the table, Marty decides to head to Doc Brown’s place.

Marty arrives at the Doc’s house and the Doc answers the door, wearing some strange gizmo on his head. Marty tells Doc Brown that he is from the future and he arrived in 1955 in a time machine that the Doc invented. He explains that he needs the Doc’s help to get back to 1985. The Doc doesn’t believe Marty’s story, until Marty tells him the story of how the Doc invented the flux capacitor after falling off the toilet.

Marty takes the Doc to see the DeLorean and when the Doc sees the flux capacitor he is ecstatic to find that he has finally invented something that actually works. They take the DeLorean back to the Doc’s house and begin working on a way to get Marty back to 1985. Marty plays back part of the tape he made of the time experiment with the DeLorean. When the Doc learns he needs to generate 1.21 gigawatts of electricity to make the time machine work, he flips out and tells Marty that it looks like he’s stuck in 1955. Marty protests that he has a life back in 1985 and the Doc tells him the only source of energy that could generate that kind of power would be a bolt of lightning, but you never know when or where one is going to strike. Marty shows Doc the flyer for the save the clock tower fundraiser and tells him that they do now. The Doc decides that they can find a way to harness the power from the lightning strike and channel it into the flux capacitor. He warns Marty that he needs to stay in the house for the week remaining before the lightning will hit the clock tower, because he might accidentally change future events. He then asks Marty if he has interacted with anyone other than him that day and Marty admits that he ran into his parents. The Doc demands to see the photo of Marty and his siblings and discovers they are beginning to fade.

DanceThey conclude that Marty getting hit by his grandfather’s car, instead of George, has changed the future and his parents no longer fall in love and Marty and his siblings will never be born, unless Marty can change events again. Marty finds his father at school and tries to introduce him to his mother, but she only has eyes for Marty. They determine that Marty needs to make sure his father takes his mother to the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance, in the hopes that some alone time with George will cause Lorraine to forget about Marty and fall in love with George.

Marty is surprised to learn that his father writes science fiction stories, though he won’t let anyone read them, because he fears rejection. Marty tells George that Lorraine really likes him and told Marty that she wants George to ask her to the dance, but George is too chicken to ask her and he thinks she’d rather go with Biff anyway. Marty turns around to see Biff harassing his mother. Lorraine slaps Biff and Biff grabs her arm. Marty confronts Biff and the two almost get into a fist fight, but Mr. Strickland arrives and Biff backs off.

Marty continues to try to badger his father into asking Lorraine out, but George refuses. Since George is a Sci fi nut, Marty dresses in his radiation suit and plays loud Van Halen music on his Walkman to convince his father that he is an alien named Darth Vader from the planet Vulcan and commands George to ask Lorraine out. The next day George begs Marty for assistance on asking Lorraine to go to the dance with him. Marty coaches George on what to say to Lorraine and it seems to be working, but Biff interrupts. Marty trips Biff and then when Biff confronts him, he hits him with a cheap shot and runs out of the cafe. Lorraine is once again smitten with Marty.

ManureMarty flees the cafe, stopping to grab a kid’s scooter, which he rips the top portion off, to fashion a makeshift skateboard that he uses to try to escape Biff. Biff and his friends pursue Marty in Biff’s car, but Marty outmaneuvers them, causing Biff to crash into a manure truck. Biff vows revenge and Lorraine vows to find out where Marty lives.

Marty returns to Doc’s house, to find him watching the end of the tape Marty made. Marty tries to tell Doc that the Libyans will shoot him, but Doc refuses, saying no man should know too much about his own future. The Doc demonstrates his plan for getting Marty back to 1985, which involves running electrical cable from the clock to some lamp posts. He has outfitted the DeLorean with a metal hook, that runs into the flux capacitor. Marty will need to get the DeLorean up to 88 miles per hour and then catch the wire with the hook at the precise moment that the lightning strikes the clock tower in order for the plan to work.

Marty’s mother arrives at Doc Brown’s house and tells Marty that she’d like for him to ask her to the dance. Marty suggests she go with George instead, but Lorraine tells him that she thinks a man should be strong, so he can stand up for himself and protect the woman he loves. This gives Marty the idea to tell George that Marty will take Lorraine to the dance and around 9:00, Lorraine will get angry with him, because he is going to make a move on her in the car. Marty wants George to confront him in the parking lot and save Lorraine from his advances, so that she’ll fall for George and go to the dance with him instead.

LetterThe Doc’s excitement about how he will get the chance to travel into the future makes Marty sad, knowing what the Doc’s fate will be, so he tries to tell the Doc about the shooting again, but the Doc refuses to listen. Marty decides to write him a letter, explaining what will happen and puts it in an envelope marked, “Do not open until 1985.” He slips the envelope into the Doc’s jacket pocket.

Marty’s plan goes awry when his mother is enthusiastic about the idea of the two of them parking before they go into the dance. When it comes time for Marty to make his pretend move on his mother, he can’t bring himself to do it and she ends up making the first move. However, Lorraine tells Marty that kissing him is like kissing her brother. Biff shows up and pulls Marty out of the car. He then gets in the car with Lorraine and orders his friends to take Marty around back and wait for him. Biff’s friends lock Marty in the trunk of the dance band’s car. The band runs Biff’s friends off, but they discover that the keys to the trunk are locked in the trunk with Marty.

George, who is running late for his 9:00 rescue mission, runs into the parking lot and sees Biff and Lorraine struggling in the car. Thinking this is Marty carrying out their plan, George confronts Biff and tells him to get his damn hands off Lorraine. Once George realizes it is Biff in the car, he is afraid, but when Lorraine begs him for help, George stands up to Biff. George tries to punch Biff in the stomach, but Biff grabs his arm and twists it behind his back. Meanwhile, the band gets Marty out of the trunk, but the guitar player cuts his hand in the process. Lorraine tries to help George and when Biff pushes her down, George becomes angry and slugs Biff in the face, laying him out in front of his classmates, who are very impressed. Marty arrives on the scene just in time to see it happen. George and Lorraine head into the dance, but when Marty checks the photo, his siblings are still fading.

KissMarty rushes back to the band and discovers they plan not to play the rest of the dance, because of their guitar player’s cut hand. Marty fills in on guitar, so that the dance can continue and his parents can have their first kiss. Another boy cuts in on George and Lorraine’s dance and Marty begins to fade, but George pushes the kid out-of-the-way and then kisses Lorraine, restoring Marty and his siblings in the photo. The band talks Marty into playing an encore and he plays “Johnny B. Good”, which the kids like and a guitar solo, which they don’t, to finish up the dance. Marty says goodbye to his parents and George thanks him for all his good advice. Lorraine muses that Marty is a nice name.

Marty meets up with Doc at the clock tower and they say their goodbyes. The Doc gives Marty an alarm that will sound when he needs to start driving the DeLorean towards the clock tower. Marty gets in the car, but before he can leave, Doc discovers the letter Marty put in his jacket pocket and rips it up, in spite of Marty’s warning that his life depends on the information inside. Marty tries to tell Doc about the shooting, but is interrupted when a limb falls on the cable from the clock tower and the pair are forced to reattach it. Marty passes the cable up to Doc on the clock tower and then tries to tell him about the future again, but the clock chimes and drowns him out. The Doc orders Marty to get the DeLorean to the starting line before he runs out of time and Marty complies.

Marty gets the DeLorean to the start line and decides to reset the time machine, so he arrives back in 1985 10 minutes early, so he can warn the Doc about the shooting. Meanwhile, the Doc is having trouble getting the cables reconnected and nearly falls off the clock tower. Marty runs into his own troubles, when the DeLorean’s engine dies and won’t restart. Marty gets the engine restarted and the Doc gets the cables reconnected just in the nick of time and the DeLorean disappears, leaving a fire trail behind in 1955. The Doc celebrates in the street.

Not DeadIn 1985, Marty crashes the DeLorean into a building downtown. Marty stops the car and gets out to confirm he is in 1985. When he gets back in, the DeLorean won’t start. Marty sees the Libyan’s van pass him and pursues them on foot to the mall, where he arrives just in time to see the Doc get shot. He watches himself flee the Libyan’s, who crash into a photo hut after the DeLorean vanishes, and then rushes to check on Doc, who appears to be dead. The Doc sits up and reveals that he is wearing a bullet proof vest and that he taped Marty’s letter back together and read it. The Doc drives Marty home and tells him he is headed 30 years into the future. Marty tells the Doc to look him up when he gets there.

When Marty wakes up the next morning, he discovers that his family has completely changed. His brother is now a successful businessman, his sister has so many boyfriends, she can’t keep them straight and the house has much nicer furnishings. Marty’s parents have also changed. His mother is much thinner and his father is a successful author, who no longer looks like a nerd. His mother also now approves of Jennifer and their plans to go the lake for the weekend. Biff has also changed and now kisses his father’s ass, instead of bullying him. Marty also discovers that he now owns the fancy 4×4 pickup he had previously drooled over.

Just as Marty shares a kiss with Jennifer, Doc Brown arrives in the DeLorean. He tells Marty that he and Jennifer need to come with him to the future, because something has to be done about their kids. The Doc dumps some garbage into the DeLorean’s “Mr. Fusion” and prepares to take off. When Marty protests that they don’t have enough road to get up to 88 m.p.h., the Doc tells him where they are going, they don’t need roads and reveals that the DeLorean can now fly. The DeLorean takes off for the future and the film ends.

Back to the Future Commentary (Spoilers):

Back to the Future is an entertaining film that deals with the usual time travel tropes. The idea that a person can change the future in major and possibly disastrous ways by making small changes in the past is explored, as well as the idea that a person could also affect positive change (depending on your point of view) in the same way.

Marty’s actions in the past, result in what he perceives as a better future, but what Biff, no doubt, would perceive as a worse future. It is unknown what other events the changes in Marty’s family may have affected over the years and whether those were to the good or the bad.

The Doc, who had protested potentially changing the events by learning about his future changes his mind and reads the letter, leading to his survival of the terrorist shooting. He then decides to meddle further in events, by dragging Marty and Jennifer into the future to change the fate of their children.

The movie requires a healthy amount of suspension of disbelief, particularly when it comes to things like the fading photo and even Marty physically fading away as the result of Marty pushing his father out of the path of the car.

The message of the film is, in many ways, quite reflective of the 80’s. By becoming the tough, manly man, via punching one guy in the face and knocking another to the ground, George gains all the trappings of 80’s success: money, a thin, beautiful wife, a successful son, a daughter who is popular with the boys, fancy cars, etc. It is also very reflective of the popular fantasy that standing up to your bullies will “build character” and fix all your problems. The fantasy is a fun one, but somehow I doubt that one event would actually result in such sweeping changes for George and his family. However, the entertainment value of the movie, makes the parts that are hard to believe worth overlooking.

Fox and Lloyd are perfectly cast and the film features mostly impressive for the time period effects, though the old age makeups on the 1985 versions of the actors aren’t entirely convincing. I loved this movie as a kid back in 1985 and I still enjoy it today. Back then, the movie sparked wonderment at what the future might be like. Today, it brings back nostalgic memories and a bit of resentment that we still don’t have those flying cars that run on garbage we were promised.

 

2001: A Space Odyssey – 100 Best Sci Fi & Fantasy Movies

Star child

The next movie I tackled on my list of 100 Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Movies is 2001: A Space Odyssey. This movie also appears on my list of  100 Best Movies.

2001: A Space Odyssey Plot Summary (Spoilers):

Monolith2001: A Space Odyssey begins with a space shot and a dramatic score that shifts to a terrestrial scene overlayed with the words “The Dawn of Man.” A group of apes discover a black monolith. The apes excitedly gather around the monolith and eventually begin to cautiously touch it as dramatic music plays. After touching the monolith, one of the apes begins to utilize a bone from a dead animal as a club. The ape discovers that he can bring down prey by bashing it with the club and he and the other apes who discovered the monolith feast on the meat of the animals they kill.

A rival group of apes confront the club using apes. The club wielders use their clubs to beat one of the rival apes to death, which subdues the other members of the rival group. One of the victorious club wielders tosses his club high into the sky and the scene shifts back to outer space.

Dr. FloydA scientist named Heywood Floyd arrives at a space station on a shuttle. He meets with some other scientists and they discuss some odd happenings at Clavius base, which is Dr. Floyd’s eventual destination. One of the scientists tells Dr. Floyd that they  have heard rumor that some sort of epidemic has broken out at Clavius and he questions Dr. Floyd if that’s the truth. Dr. Floyd tells him that he isn’t at liberty to discuss that, even after the scientist expresses concern that the epidemic could spread to his own base. Dr. Floyd then parts company with the other scientists and the scene shifts to a small vessel approaching the moon, where the Clavius base is.

Dr. Floyd arrives at Clavius base and addresses a group of colleagues. He congratulates them on their discovery and tells them it may prove to be one of the most significant in the history of science. He then addresses the concern some of his colleagues have about the “cover story,” they concocted about the epidemic, in order to keep the discovery a secret and keep outsiders away from their base. Dr. Floyd warns his colleagues that if word of their discovery were to get out, before they can properly study the situation and decide how to announce it to the public, it could result in a great deal of culture shock for the public.

Moon MonolithDr. Floyd travels to the site of the discovery, which is revealed to be a black monolith, like the one the apes discovered in the “dawn of man” scene, which Dr. Floyd is told they  have determined was deliberately buried under ground millions of years in the past. Dr. Floyd gingerly touches the monolith with the glove of his space suit and then he and several other scientists pose for a picture in front of it. The monolith begins to emit a piercing sound that causes the men to cover their ears. The scene then shifts back to a outerspace shot, overlayed with the words “Jupiter Mission 18 Months Later.”

Dr. Dave Bowman and Dr. Frank Poole are eating their space mush, while they watch an interview they did with the BBC about their mission to Jupiter, which is the first manned attempt to reach that planet. Three other men are also on board the ship, but they are in hibernation sleep. A computer called the HAL 9000 is also a part of the mission. The man interviews the ship’s computer, who he addresses as HAL, about “his” responsibilities as the brain of the Discovery ship, which include keeping the men in hibernation sleep alive. HAL responds that the HAL 9000 computer is the most reliable ever built and none has ever made a mistake of any kind. HAL also claims to enjoy working with his human companions and not to be frustrated at all by his reliance on them. The men call HAL the 6th member of the crew. The interviewer asks Dr. Bowman if he thinks HAL has genuine emotions and he responds that HAL seems to, because he’s been programmed that way to make him easier to talk to, but whether those emotions are real is not something any human can answer.

DaveDuring the mission, HAL tells Dave that he has some concerns about some oddities with their mission. HAL talks to Dave about the rumors of something being dug up on the moon and how odd it was that there was so much security surrounding the preparations for their mission, including putting the other three crew members on board, already in hypersleep. HAL then tells Dave that he has just discovered a problem with the ship.

Dave retrieves the equipment HAL identified as faulty, but he can’t find anything wrong with it. HAL recommends they replace the equipment and allow it to fail, so they can trace the problem. Mission control agrees with the plan to replace the equipment, but advises the crew that they believe HAL is in error in predicting that the equipment will fail, based on the information they have gathered from their twin HAL 9000 system. When Dave asks HAL for his opinion on the discrepancy between the two HAL system’s data, HAL replies that it must be due to human error, because it always has been in the past. When Frank asks HAL if there has ever been an instance of a computer error with the 9000 series, HAL assures him that there never has been.

Frank & DaveDave and Frank go into one of the pods and turn off the mics so that HAL can’t hear them. Frank expresses concern about HAL’s reliability and says he has had an odd feeling about HAL the whole mission. Dave reiterates that the HAL series has had a perfect operational record and there’s no harm in replacing the unit and waiting to see if it does fail as HAL predicted. Frank agrees, but wants to discuss what they will do if the unit does not fail. Dave agrees with Frank that if HAL proves to be mistaken, then their mission would be in big trouble and Frank suggests they’d have no option other than to disconnect HAL, since he has complete control over the ship and Dave agrees. Though HAL can not hear what is being said, he is able to read their lips by watching them through the window of the pod.

Frank goes out to replace the equipment and while Frank is out of the pod, HAL uses the pod to disconnect Frank’s oxygen hose and send Frank tumbling off into space. The pod also goes tumbling off in a different direction, leaving Frank stranded in space. HAL tells Dave he doesn’t know what happened.

Sorry DaveDave uses one of the other pods to retrieve Frank’s body. While Dave is out in the pod, HAL shuts down the life support for the three crew members in hyper sleep, killing them all. When Dave returns to the ship and commands HAL to open the pod bay doors, HAL initially doesn’t respond and then says, “I’m sorry Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.” HAL tells Dave that he knows that he and Frank were planning to disconnect him and that he can’t allow that to happen, because their mission is too important. Dave tells HAL that he will enter the ship through the emergency airlock, but HAL points out that Dave doesn’t have his space helmet. Dave commands HAL to open the doors again, but HAL tells him the conversation no longer serves a purpose and ceases communication.

Dave dumps Frank’s body into space and then uses the pod to open the emergency hatch. Dave backs the pod’s door up to the hatch and then uses the explosive bolts to blow the door off the pod and propel himself into the hatch, where he quickly closes the door. HAL asks Dave what he is doing, but Dave does not respond. HAL acknowledges that something has been wrong with him, but assures Dave everything is alright now and HAL feels much better. Sensing that Dave plans to disconnect him, HAL attempts to talk Dave out of it by assuring him that HAL is back to normal and only wants to help Dave complete the mission.

Stop DaveWhen Dave is not persuaded, HAL switches to pleading for Dave to stop and telling him that he is afraid. Dave proceeds to shut HAL down. As HAL nears his end, a pre-recorded message from Dr. Floyd begins to play. The message advises that due to security precautions, only the HAL 9000 was privy to this information, until the ship reached Jupiter space. Dr. Floyd explains that 18 months prior to the mission, the first evidence of intelligent life off the Earth was discovered, buried on the moon. He explains that the monolith remains a mystery, except for a very powerful radio transmission aimed at jupiter. The scene shifts back to an outer-space scene with the words, “Jupiter And Beyond The Infinite.”

As the Discovery approaches Jupiter, there appears to be another black monolith floating in nearby space. Dave approaches the monolith in the pod and appears to be pulled through some sort of tunnel of colorful lights. After seeing a number of fantastical visions, Dave’s pod exits the colorful lights and flies over a planet. Dave’s pod eventually comes to a stop in an ornately appointed bedroom.

Old DaveDave sees a man in a space suit through the pod window and then a now middle-aged Dave is the man in the space suit walking through the bedroom and into the bathroom. Dave looks in the mirror and then turns to see an older version of himself sitting at a table and then he is that older version of himself, now walking through the bedroom again. He sits down at the table and eats, but knocks over a glass, breaking it. When he turns to examine the broken glass, he sees an even older version of himself lying in bed and then becomes that version of himself.

Star childThe black monolith appears in front of Dave’s bed and he reaches towards it. Dave disappears and in his place is a fetus inside of a transparent orb. The orb exits out into space and approaches Earth. The film ends with one last shot of the child floating near Earth and gazing at it.

2001: A Space Odyssey Commentary (Spoilers):

Probably the most impressive and memorable things about 2001: A Space Odyssey are the visuals and the score. Both are gorgeous and the visuals are particularly impressive, considering the film was released in 1968. Many of the effects wouldn’t look terribly out-of-place in a modern film, with the one glaring exception being the apes, which could never be mistaken for anything other than men in monkey suits.

The plot of the movie is a bit sparse and at times confusing. There are pretty large stretches of movie where nothing much really happens. The action picks up in the middle with the iconic confrontation between HAL and Dave, but then tapers off again for the final act.

The movie feels largely like some kind of think piece or message film, rather than a film with an entertaining story. Many of the plot elements are left intentionally vague. The monolith seems to spark a leap forward in the evolution of the apes, but it is unclear whether that was the intent of whoever sent the monolith. It is also left unclear what the monolith actually is, and whether men were ever meant to find the one buried on the moon and follow it to the Jupiter monolith.

The advancement in technology the apes gain brings both life to the starving apes, by making it so they can more easily kill other animals for food and death to both the animals who become their prey and the un-evolved apes. In the modern era, the men who discover the monolith on the moon go to great lengths to keep their discovery a secret and maintain their advantage over their rivals. The timing of HAL’s discovery of the “flaw” in the ship, combined with the video message that plays as HAL is dying, suggest that it may have been mission control that triggered HAL’s false information in order to prevent him from revealing the information they were trying to keep hidden from Dave and the rest of the crew.

It is unclear whether Mission Control fully anticipated the consequences of their actions. Dave and Frank seem under the impression that no one had ever tried to disconnect a HAL system in the middle of a mission, however I find that hard to believe. It would be incredibly negligent not to test out how the system that has complete control of an important and expensive mission would react if it needed to be shut down or malfunctioned, however it’s also hard to fathom why Mission Control would want to risk HAL killing off the crew, considering they seemed to be needed to complete the mission. Perhaps Mission Control had some idea of how HAL would behave, but didn’t anticipate him flipping out and trying to kill the crew. The only other option would be that the plan was to have HAL complete the mission without the crew all along, but if that were the case, why bother to even send the men in the first place?

There is pretty much no explanation about what is going on in the final act. Is Dave seeing a vision of himself or did he actually live out his remaining days in whatever place the monolith brought him to? Does the monolith transform Dave into the “star child” or is the child something they created after Dave died? Does the child actually exist or is this just part of Dave’s vision? If the child is real, what is the purpose of it? If the aliens were intending to help us with the first monolith are they still trying to help us now? Have they been watching what man has done with the technology they gained with the monolith’s help? Do they regret helping mankind and now want to take it all back or do they plan to trigger another leap forward?

2001 is not an exciting, action-packed thriller, but it is a gorgeous film with some interesting things to think about. It is also interesting to note the hits and misses with how technology has advanced between 1968 and the real 2001 and observe the ways 2001 has influenced the science fiction genre over the years.

 

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial – 100 Best Movies

Moon

The next movie I tackled on my list of 100 Best Movies is E.T. The Extra-terrestrial. E.T. also appears on my 100 Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Movies list.

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial Plot Summary (Spoilers):

SpaceshipE.T. The Extra-Terrestrial begins with some eerie music played over a starry, night sky. The camera pans to a dome-shaped space ship. Several small creatures shuffle around the forest floor, just outside of the ship. One of the creatures wanders away from the rest of the group.

Left BelowSeveral vehicles enter the wooded area and a number of men go tramping through the forest. The creature who wandered off from the group, hides from the men, while the others get back on the spaceship. The men close in on the hidden creature, who squeals in fear and runs away. The creature tries to make it to the ship, but they close the entrance ramp and take off before he can get there. The men and the creature watch the ship ascend into the sky. The creature makes for the city in the valley below the forest, as the men pursue.

The scene shifts to a bunch of teenagers playing a tabletop RPG in a suburban home. The teens send a younger boy, named Elliot, outside to wait for the pizza delivery man. Elliot collects the pizza and heads back to the house with it, but is distracted by a noise in the yard. Elliot goes to investigate. He hears a noise coming from the shed and cautiously approaches. Elliot tosses the ball he has been carrying into the shed and is surprised when whatever is in the shed tosses it back to him. He takes off running back to the house, stepping on the pizza he had set on the ground on the way.

TracksElliot rushes into the house and excitedly tells his mother, played by Dee Wallace, that there is something in the tool shed and it threw the ball at him. He commands nobody to go outside, so of course, everyone does. The teens grab a few kitchen knives and head for the yard, while Elliot drags his mother by the hand after them. They don’t find anything in the shed, but the teens notice some strange tracks on the floor and Elliot’s brother, who is obviously a master tracker, declares that the coyote has come back again. Elliot’s mom orders everyone to get back inside the house. After everyone leaves, the creature grips the door frame of the shed with his hand.

Elliot lies awake in his bunk, listening to rattling sounds coming from outside the house. He once again goes outside to investigate. Elliot finds more of the “coyote” tracks and follows them. Elliot discovers the creature in a corn field and they both scream and back away from each other. The creature takes off running, leaving fallen trash cans and a swinging gate in his wake. Elliot pursues, but the creature is nowhere to be seen.

The next morning, Elliot rides his bike to a wooded area and scatters some Reese’s Pieces candy on the ground. One of the men who chased the creature away from his ship appears to be looking for something and the creature watches Elliot from behind a tree.

At the dinner table, Elliot has apparently told his family about the creature he saw, but they don’t believe him. Elliot’s brother makes fun of him and his mother insists he must have imagined what he saw. Elliot becomes upset and retorts that “dad would believe me.” When his mother suggests he call his father and tell him about what he saw, Elliot replies that he can’t, because his dad is in Mexico with Sally. This seems to upset his mother and she leaves the table.

CreatureThat night, Elliot camps out in the yard with a flashlight, watching the tool shed. He hears footsteps and looks up to see the creature standing just outside the shed. Elliot tries to call his mother and his brother, but can’t get the words out. The creature shuffles up to Elliot and deposits a handful of candies on Elliot’s blanket.

Elliot lays a trail of candy from the yard to his bedroom. The creature slowly follows, munching on candy as he goes. Elliot manages to lure the creature into his room. The creature mimics Elliot’s actions. Eventually, Elliot goes to sleep, with the creature watching over him.

Back where the creature’s ship took off, a number of men are combing the site with various instruments. One of the men discovers a pile of Reese’s Pieces and eats one. Ewwww!

The next morning, Elliot is pretending to be sick so that he doesn’t have to go to school. Once the rest of the family is gone, Elliot lures the creature out of its hiding place in the closet. He tries to teach the creature his name and then shows him some of the stuff in his room. When the creature starts munching on Elliot’s toy car, Elliot decides he must be hungry and heads to the kitchen to get some food. When Elliot opens the bedroom door, the dog barges in and scares the crap out of the creature.

ClosetWhile Elliot is retrieving food from the fridge, the creature opens an umbrella in Elliot’s room and startles himself, which also causes Elliot to be startled and drop the food. Elliot returns to his room with some food and discovers the creature hiding in the closet.

ScreamElliot’s brother Michael returns home from school and Elliot forces him to swear that Elliot has “absolute power,” before letting him into his room and introducing him to the creature. Michael stares at the creature dumbfounded, while Elliot looks on smugly. Elliot’s sister Gertie, played by Drew Barrymore, barges into the room and she and the creature both start screaming. Elliot’s mother arrives home and Elliot ushers Michael, Gertie and the creature into his closet.

Michael keeps Gertie from giving them away while their mom is in the room and after complaining a bit about the mess, she goes to take a shower. Elliot joins his siblings in the closet and announces that he’s keeping the creature. Elliot tells his sister that she can’t tell mom about the creature. When she questions why, he tells her that only little kids can see the creature, but she doesn’t buy it. The boys then grab Gerti’s doll and threaten to rip it apart if she doesn’t promise to stay quiet, which she does. Meanwhile, the men are still hot on the creature’s trail.

That evening, the boys are debating what manner of thing the creature could be. Elliot shows the creature a map of the U.S. and then a globe and points at California, saying “We are here. Where are you from?” The creature points at the window. Elliot shows the creature a map of the solar system and points at Earth, calling it “home.” The creature lays several round objects on the map and then causes them to float in the air, like a working model of a solar system. Something scares the creatures and the balls drop to the floor. Elliot goes outside to investigate and hears the sounds of the men searching for the creature. Back in Elliot’s room, the creature uses his power to make the dead plant Gertie brought him live again.

Stuffed AnimalsThe next day, Elliot and Michael go to school. Michael’s friends tease Elliot about “the goblin,” and Elliot tells them that he’s not a goblin, he’s a space man. Meanwhile, Elliot’s mom is attempting to shuffle Gertie off to school, when she hears sounds coming from Elliot’s room. She goes to check it out, but the creature hides amongst the stuffed animals in Elliot’s closet and she doesn’t notice him.

KissWith everyone out of the house, the creature decides to leave Elliot’s room. He shuffles to the frig and starts sampling the food, including a few cans of Coors. The creature becomes drunk and stumbles into the counter, which Elliot appears to feel. Elliot also appears to be feeling a bit drunk. The creature discovers the T.V. and flips through some programs. The creature discovers a Buck Rodgers comic. Buck is calling for help, which seems to give the creature an idea. Elliot, who is the middle of waiting for his frog to “go to sleep,” so he can dissect it, mutters “save him,” and then begins releasing the frogs from their jars, telling them to run for their lives. The creature watches a scene from a movie on the T.V., where a man kisses a woman. Elliot emulates the scene with a girl from his class. Elliot gets hauled off to the principle’s office, while the other kids in the class release the frogs out the windows.

Back at the house, the creature has collected a number of electronics devices, small appliances and various other supplies and is dragging them through the living room on a blanket. The creature is obviously still inebriated, and grumps around the room, kicking beer cans as he goes. Gertie and her mom arrive home. Gertie spots the creature and tries to introduce her mother to “the man from the moon,” but her mother blows her off, thinking she’s making up a story. Elliot’s mom discovers an empty beer can on the floor and then gets a call from the school, informing her that her son is intoxicated. Gertie is watching Sesame Street, which is teaching kids the spelling of a number of “B” words. The creature begins to repeat the word “be.” Gertie’s mom tells her she has to go pick up Elliot and misunderstands Gertie, when she tells her mom that “he can talk!” Gertie teaches the creature a few more words, including the word “phone.”

Dress UpElliot returns home to discover Gertie has dressed the creature as a woman and hidden him in her closet. He also discovers that the creature can now speak and knows his name. Elliot teaches the creature to say, “E.T.,” which Elliot has decided is his name. E.T. shows Elliot the Buck Rogers comic and points at the scene where Buck is calling for help and says “phone.” E.T. then points out the window and says, “E.T. home phone.” Elliot figures out that E.T. wants to call his people, so they’ll come get him.

That evening, a surveillance van trolls the neighborhood, listening in on people’s conversations. They hear Elliot and Michael talking about looking for anything they think E.T. could make a machine out of in their garage. Michael tells Elliot that E.T. isn’t looking so good anymore and Elliot responds, “we’re fine!” Michael questions why Elliot keeps saying, “we.”

OuchElliot smuggles a box full of stuff from the garage into E.T.’s closet. Elliot cuts his finger on a saw blade and E.T. extends a glowing finger tip, which he touches to Elliot’s hand and heals the cut. E.T. begins to assemble his machine in the closet. The plant that E.T. brought back to life begins to die.

MoonThe kids get ready to go out trick or treating. Michael and Elliot dress E.T. in a ghost costume and pretend that he is Gertie. The boys head out trick or treating with E.T. in tow. They meet up with the real Gertie at the lookout and put E.T. in the basket on Elliot’s bike. Elliot rides into the woods. When he tells E.T. they will have to get off and walk, E.T. uses his power to fly the bike to their destination.

With Elliot’s help, E.T. constructs his machine in the woods. Elliot’s aggravated mother leaves the house, presumably to look for her children and a number of men enter the house and search it. Elliot and E.T. celebrate when it appears the machine has begun to work. Elliot tries to convince E.T. to return to the house, telling him to give his people some time. E.T. indicates that he is hurting. Elliot tries to convince E.T. to stay, but E.T. remains focused on going home.

Sick E.T.The next morning, Elliot wakes alone in the woods. His mom is home with Michael and Gertie, talking to the police about her missing son. Elliot arrives home, looking terrible. A tearful Elliot implores his brother to find E.T. Mike sets off on his bike and some men in a car follow him. Mike loses his pursuers and heads into the woods, calling for E.T.  He finds a very sickly looking E.T. lying in a culvert. Mike covers E.T. with the sheet from his ghost costume, as he hears a helicopter overhead.

Dying E.T.Mike returns E.T. to the house and then gets his mother. He reluctantly shows her a very ill-looking E.T. Elliot tells his shocked mother, “We’re sick. I think we’re dying.” Elliot’s panicked mother ushers her children downstairs, leaving a frightened E.T. alone in the closet. Mike opens the front door and a man in space suit enters the house. Several more men in space suits frighten the family.

An army of men in hazmat suits approach the house, as E.T. gasps for air on the bathroom floor. One of the space suited men finds E.T. in the bathroom. The men outside, who now have a police escort, roll a large plastic tube up to the entrance to the house. They encase the house in plastic and park a van at the end of the long tube. A man in a hazmat suit exits the van and enters the home.

Inside, a number of people in surgical masks are asking Elliot’s mom questions she doesn’t know the answers to. She wants to know what is happening to her son. Mike explains to one of the men that E.T. communicates through Elliot and that Elliot feels E.T.’s feelings. The men have set up a medical facility inside the home, where they are running tests on Elliot and E.T., while Elliot complains that they have no right to do what they are doing. The men are trying to figure out how to save E.T. and presumably Elliot as well. Meanwhile, the man from the van questions Elliot about what the machine E.T. built in the forest does. The man tells Elliot he doesn’t want E.T. to die and asks what they can do to save him. Elliot tells him that E.T. needs to go home and that he is calling his family. The man tells Elliot that he did the best that anyone could do and that he’s glad E.T. met him first. Elliot begins to recover, but E.T.’s condition rapidly deteriorates.

Mike falls asleep and then wakes up in Elliot’s closet. He notices the plant E.T. revived rapidly dying and cries out. Meanwhile, Elliot begs E.T. not to go, but E.T.’s vitals cease, sending the doctors into a panic. Elliot screams that the doctors are killing E.T. as they wheel him away on his gurney. The doctors unsuccessfully attempt to revive E.T.

AliveThe neighborhood has gathered to watch, as the men begin disassembling and hauling away their equipment. The doctors finally decide that E.T. is dead and cease their attempts to resuscitate him. The men load E.T.’s body into some sort of cooling contraption. The man from the van sends everyone else away, so that Elliot can have some alone time with E.T., before they take him away. Elliot says his goodbyes and tells E.T. that he loves him. As Elliot closes the lid to the contraption E.T. is in, E.T.’s chest lights up. Elliot starts to walk away, but then he notices the plant coming back to life and runs back to the contraption. Elliot throws open the lid and unzips the body bag. E.T. enthusiastically says, “E.T. phone home!” Elliot asks if this means that E.T.’s family is coming and E.T. says, “yes.” Elliot celebrates, but then quickly attempts to hush E.T. up before the men realize he is alive. Elliot zips E.T. back in the body bag, covers his glowing chest with a blanket and then closes the lid to the contraption. He then throws himself over the window in the lid and pretends to be weeping, in order to prevent the men from seeing E.T. moving around. The men drag Elliot away, but they don’t notice anything different with E.T.

Elliot tells his brother that E.T. is alive and they begin making plans to get E.T. back to the woods. The man from the van is talking to Elliot’s mom when Gertie comes in asking if the boys are gone, because she has a note she’s supposed to give her when they’re gone. Gertie’s mother reads the note and she’s not pleased.

Meanwhile, the men have loaded E.T. into the van. Elliot climbs into the back of the van, while Mike, disguised in one of the hazmat suits, climbs into the driver’s seat. Mike gets caught before he can get the hood of his suit on, so he decides to just drive off, pulling two men behind in the plastic tube. Mike orders his friends to grab the bikes and meet them at the top of the hill. The men in the tube try to get into the van, but Elliot releases the tube before they can get in. An army of police pursue the van. They meet up with Mike’s friends at the playground and put E.T. in the basket of Elliot’s bike. The police arrive at the playground, guns drawn, but the boys have already left.

BlockadeThe police pursue the boys on their bikes. The boys think they have outrun the police, when they suddenly run into a blockade, where the police await, with guns drawn. Elliot squeezes his eyes shut and E.T. uses his power to fly all of the boy’s bikes over the blockade and to the woods.

GoodbyeThe boys arrive at E.T.’s communicator and see a spaceship landing nearby. The spaceship begins to lower its walkway as Gertie, the man from the van and her mom arrive. Gertie says goodbye to E.T. and he tells her to be good. He thanks Mike, as another alien begins to come down the walkway of the ship. E.T. asks Elliot to come with him and Elliot asks E.T. to stay, but they both realize that neither thing is going to happen and acknowledge their pain. E.T. touches Elliot’s forehead and tells him, “I’ll be right here.” E.T. takes the flowers Gertie gave him and gets on the ship. The ship flies away, leaving a rainbow in it’s wake. The scene shifts to Elliot’s face as he watches his friend leave and the movie ends.

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial Commentary (Spoilers):

I saw E.T. for the first time during its original theatrical release in 1982. I remember loving the film as an 8-year-old and I have seen the movie probably dozens of times since, though many of those times were in edited format on television.

I went through a phase in early adulthood where I found the movie boring, but at some point I returned to loving it again. The effects that seemed so amazing in 1982 have begun to show their age a bit, but the story is still as entertaining and emotional as it was back in the ’80s. However, viewing the movie with adult eyes, I find myself trying not to think about all the unpleasant things that probably happened to Elliott and his family once the government caught up to them.

The movie touches a lot of notes. It is full of the wonder of discovery. It has plenty of fun comedic moments. The story also sends a message about the tactics employed by the government or military or whoever all those dudes in suits were, as well as the police. Instead of trying to communicate with E.T. the way Elliot did, the powers that be immediately trap him and start poking and prodding and testing. They do try to save E.T.’s life, but you get the sense that all of that is secondary to their thirst to make some big, useful and possibly profitable discovery by studying him.

The police drawing their guns on a bunch of kids, is unfortunately another message that rings a bit too true today, with police brutality so much in the news over the past several decades.

The lead scientist or whatever he was, seems to have good intentions regarding E.T., but the fact remains that had he and his men captured E.T. before E.T. found Elliot, most likely E.T. would have ended up in little jars in some secret lab, rather than returning to his family.

The cast did a nice job all the way around, with Henry Thomas, as Elliott, providing a particularly strong performance. He has done quite a bit more acting than I thought he had since, though most it seems to be small roles.

Drew Barrymore was cute and funny and even after many other projects and a number of headline making scandals, people still remember her as the cute little girl in E.T.

Spielberg set out to make a movie featuring an alien that was peaceful, kind and loving, as opposed to the aliens that have dominated much of the film landscape trying to dominate or destroy the Earth, experimenting on humans, etc. The movie carries a hopeful message that there is intelligent life out there and that life is not hostile to us.

I got a bit of a chuckle out of all the product placement. I remember well the commercials for Coke and Reese’s Pieces that promoted their tie-ins to this movie, which was of course a huge juggernaut of mass merchandising, including toys, video games, cartoons and whatever else you can think of. For awhile, E.T. was everywhere.

E.T. remains one of my favorite movies of all-time and no matter how many times I see it, I still cry at the end. I have to say, that rainbow thing was a bit hokey though.

 

100 Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Movies – Watch them All

Top 100 Fantasy Movies

Much like with books, science fiction and fantasy are my favorite movie genres.

I have compiled a list of the top 100 science fiction & fantasy movies by consulting the most popular top 100 lists on the internet and picking the 100 movies with the most mentions.  Tie breakers went to the movies I am the most interested in seeing.

Here is the list:

  1. Brazil (1985)
  2. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
  3. Spider-Man Trilogy (2002-2007)
  4. Star Wars IV–VI (1977-1983)
  5. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
  6. Alien (1979)
  7. Aliens (1986)
  8. Avatar (2009)
  9. Back to the Future Trilogy (1985 – 1990)
  10. Blade Runner (1982)
  11. Children of Men (2006)
  12. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
  13. District 9 (2009)
  14. Forbidden Planet (1956)
  15. Harry Potter Series (2001-2011)
  16. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
  17. Jurassic Park (1993)
  18. Mad Max Trilogy (1979-1985)
  19. Metropolis (1927)
  20. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
  21. Pirates of the Caribbean Trilogy (2003-2006)
  22. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
  23. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
  24. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001 – 2003)
  25. The Matrix Trilogy (1999)
  26. The Terminator (1984)
  27. WALL-E (2008)
  28. 12 Monkeys (1995)
  29. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
  30. Batman (1989)
  31. Dark City (1998)
  32. Donnie Darko (2001)
  33. Edward Scissorhands (1990)
  34. Escape From New York (1981)
  35. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (2004)
  36. Ghostbusters (1984)
  37. Groundhog Day (1993)
  38. Inception (2010)
  39. Minority Report (2002)
  40. Planet of the Apes (1968)
  41. RoboCop (1987)
  42. Serenity (2005)
  43. Solyaris (Solaris) (1976)
  44. Spirited Away (2001)
  45. Star Trek (2009)
  46. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
  47. Superman (1978)
  48. The Fly (1986)
  49. The Princess Bride (1987)
  50. The Thing (1982)
  51. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
  52. Total Recall (1990)
  53. War of the Worlds (1953)
  54. 1984 (1984)
  55. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)
  56. Akira (1988)
  57. Beauty and the Beast (1991)
  58. Beauty and The Beast (La Belle et la bête) (1946)
  59. Big Fish (2003)
  60. Contact (1997)
  61. Fahrenheit 451 (1966)
  62. Galaxy Quest (1999)
  63. Gattaca (1997)
  64. Ghost in the Shell (1995)
  65. Highlander (1986)
  66. Hook (1991)
  67. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
  68. Iron Man (2008)
  69. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
  70. Jumanji (1995)
  71. Labyrinth (1986)
  72. Men in Black (1997)
  73. Monsters, Inc. (2001)
  74. Moon (2009)
  75. Predator (1987)
  76. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
  77. Shrek Trilogy (2001-2010)
  78. Silent Running (1972)
  79. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
  80. Soylent Green (1973)
  81. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
  82. Star Trek: First Contact (1996)
  83. Starship Troopers (1997)
  84. Sunshine (2007)
  85. The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1989)
  86. The Andromedia Strain (1971)
  87. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)
  88. The Crow (1994)
  89. The Dark Knight (2008)
  90. The Fifth Element (1997)
  91. The Mummy (1999)
  92. The Neverending Story (1984)
  93. The Time Machine (1960)
  94. The Truman Show (1988)
  95. Them! (1954)
  96. THX-1138 (1971)
  97. Toy Story Trilogy (1995-2010)
  98. Tron (1982)
  99. Westworld (1973)
  100. Who Framed Roger Rabbitt (1988)

Sources:

Rotten Tomatoes

Popular Mechanics 

 Sci Fi Lists

Examiner

I Check Movies

IMDB

Fantasy 100

Digital Dream Door

Top 100 Fantasy Movies