Not counting any movie called Star Wars, I have now owned the three Back to the Future titles the most amount of times. From VHS to DVD (which I recall had framing issues and I had to return them to the manufacturer for a corrected version), the 25th anniversary Blu-ray, and, now, the 35th anniversary 4K. In fact, there was a small part of me that thought, well, maybe upgrading one more time wasn’t necessary. Maybe I could live the rest of my life with those good ol’ Blu-rays. After watching at least some of the 4K editions, okay, yes, I was wrong. This new transfer is incredible.
Before we get more into that, there is one bonus feature worth mentioning. Actually, all the bonus features are pretty great, but if you have the Blu-ray, most of the ones we get here (like the commentaries and deleted scenes) are brought over from that. The new one worth mentioning are (I wish longer) screen tests of some unlikely candidates for the major roles in the films. Want to see Ben Stiller audition for Marty McFly? It’s pretty weird! C. Thomas Howell dressed up in “’50s clothes,” but looks like he just stepped off the set of The Outsiders. Of all the auditions, only Peter DeLuise as Biff and Jon Cryer as Marty had any semblance of, “Okay, yeah, I could see that.” (Billy Zane’s Biff feels like he’s trying to talk his way onto a Titanic lifeboat.)
Though, what’s maybe more interesting is who’s missing, which is Eric Stoltz. It’s weird, when Stoltz is asked in interviews about filming a good portion of Back to the Future, only to be replaced by Michael J. Fox, he seems to be a good sport about it. But for whatever reason, the footage of his performance as Marty has never been released. And his screen test is nowhere to be found here. Look, it’s understandable why Stoltz probably wants nothing to do with any of this, but it’s such a historical artifact. Imagine if Tom Selleck had filmed half of Raiders of the Lost Ark? Alas, it’s probably never meant to be. Who knows, maybe when the 50th anniversary 10K version comes out? I’m sure I’ll own that one, too.
As far as the movies go, I decided to watch in full one of the three movies I’ve seen the least and my personal least favorite, Back to the Future Part III. The first film is the no-doubt-about-it best movie. The second film is like a sugar rush that never lets up. Then the third film, a full-on Western, has always felt a little out of place. It spends pretty much its entire running time in the Old West and the chaos of the first two films, which worry so much about affecting future events in the space-time continuum, is replaced by something that resembles a leisurely pace.
Anyway, in 4K, I couldn’t take my eyes off this movie. Even from the opening scene, as it shows Marty telling a shocked Doc Brown that he’s back from the future, the picture is so crisp I could see the mechanisms that produce the flames on the street where the DeLorean had just been. It’s like watching a brand new movie.
Of course, the third film has the most scenes set outside and this greatly benefits how this particular installment looks … and it’s stunning. I have to admit, I found myself appreciating this film more than I ever have before. When it’s viewed as its own entity, instead of as part of the trilogy, it has a pleasing tone of its own. And it’s always been difficult to separate the second and third movies since they were filmed at the same time and came out only months apart. But watching it now, with this 4K transfer, it’s a gorgeous film.
Anyway, yes, it turns out the Back to the Future movies are great. Who knew? But, yes, if you’re on the fence about buying yet another edition of these three films, do not be. And, yes, there’s also the fact these movies are on television a lot. But this new set is up there with some of the beautiful 4K discs released to date. You’ll watch them in a way you never have before. It’s shocking how good these look. And I reiterate, this is why I still think physical media is important. At least right now, streaming just can’t reproduce the level of detail we get with something like this set.
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