Back to the Future: 25th Anniversary Trilogy (+ Digital Copy) [Blu-ray]

Actors: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Mary Steenburgen, Lea Thompson, Thomas F. Wilson
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Writers: Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale
Producers: Bob Gale, Frank Marshall, Kathleen Kennedy, Neil Canton, Steve Starkey
Format: Color, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, Dubbed, Subtitled, Widescreen
Language: English
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Region: 1 (U.S. and Canada only)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Number of discs: 6
Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: Universal
DVD Release Date: October 26, 2010

Blu-ray Exclusives

  • U-Control
  • Setups & Payoffs: Note key scenes and see how they play out as you watch the movies
  • Storyboard Comparison: Compare key scenes in the movie with the original storyboards
  • Trivia Track: Get inside trivia and facts while you watch the movies
  • Pocket BLU: Experience Blu-ray in an exciting new way with the app for iPhone, iPod touch, BlackBerry, Android and more
  • BD-Live: Access the BD-Live Center through your Internet-connected player and download even more bonus content, the latest trailers and more
  • My Scenes: Bookmark your favorite scenes from the movies


Sometimes, you don't realize how much you've missed a movie until it shows up on your radar after a prolonged absence . . .

The Back to the Future trilogy always enjoyed considerable audience goodwill, but when placed amid more prominent blockbusters, it tended to take a back seat. People would either watch the recent hit du jour, or turn to more esteemed classics like Raiders of the Lost Ark if they wanted their nostalgia fix. That left Back to the Future a relegated byproduct of the 1980s, fondly remembered, but viewed with far less frequency than it deserved.

Universal aims to change all of that with the release of the 25th anniversary Blu-ray set, containing copies of all three movies, plus more special features than you could ever hope to watch. For those of us who haven't revisited the series recently, it feels like a breath of fresh air: a reminder of why we thought it was so cool way back when and proof that its charms haven't aged a day.

Part of that stems from the central theme of time travel, which renders its 1985 setting an integral part of the storyline instead of a case of dated filmmaking. (We can also laugh at the second film's rapidly approaching 2015 setting, since director Robert Zemeckis and his crew made no effort to imagine what the future might really be like and instead just poked fun at it.) On top of that, the film thought its science through reasonably well, with its ideas about cause-effect disasters and parallel universes holding water in ways that lesser efforts wouldn't.

And of course, it wouldn't be Back to the Future without Michael J. Fox in his signature role (sorry, Family Ties). Whenever the plot mechanics veer into undue artifice ("Can't have anyone thinking he's chicken"), he pulls it back from the brink with his comic timing, physical pratfalls and sheer likeability. We follow him and his mad scientist buddy Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd matching Fox step-for-step) from the brilliant first film through the placeholder sequel and into the solid finale, struggling to ensure that the timeline turns out for the best and that he can get back to 1985 before that tricked-out DeLorean finally gives up the ghost. Along the way, he must aid in the formation of multiple romances, prevent the creation of any universe-destroying paradoxes, and avoid various flavors of Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson) who seem hell-bent on ruining everything for everyone.

Though Zemeckis paints it all in fairly broad terms, he also does so with considerable inspiration. The series' odd descent into dark territory (notably in the second film) feels mean-spirited and out of place amid the otherwise bubbly proceedings, but it always recovers with plenty of flair. The humor never detracts from the trilogy's suspenseful moments - mostly involving the split-second timing required to activate the DeLorean - and a number of the gags remain justifiable classics.

Zemeckis has since gone on to bigger (though not necessarily better) things, and his subsequent reputation speaks to achievements he frankly hasn't earned. With less pretense than his later films, Back to the Future reminds us what he does best: deliver superior, crowd-pleasing entertainment without insulting our intelligence. He may have done better had he stuck with that formula instead of trying to prove what an artist he was. Back to the Future shines all the brighter for its comparative lack of ambition, a polished piece of old-fashioned fun that carries on when many of its so-called betters have succumbed to the whims of time. I suppose we shouldn't be surprised; time was one thing it always knew how to handle.

THE DISCS: Universal has pulled out all the stops on this one: two discs for each of the three films, making a grand total of six. The first disc for each movie contains a digital download copy. The second contains a truly gorgeous Blu-ray version of the film and veritable fistful of extras: storyboard comparisons, deleted scenes, music videos from Huey Lewis and ZZ Top, photo galleries, make-up tests and a discussion of the science behind time travel. The topper is a six-part retrospective that runs across all three discs, featuring interviews with Zemeckis, Steven Spielberg, and most of the principle cast members. (Wilson and Crispin Glover are the only notable no-shows.) They discuss every possible corner of the production, from the early drafts of the script to the design concepts for the DeLorean time machine to the development of the inevitable sequels. It even includes a few brief scenes of Eric Stoltz, who was originally cast as Marty and shot five weeks worth of footage before being recast. A sexy package contains all the discs nicely (despite some wonkiness with snapping them back into place), and looks damn good on the shelf.

WORTH IT? A fun trio of minor classics coupled with insightful documentaries, a gorgeous picture and more bells and whistles than you can shake a stick at. What’s not to love?

RECOMMENDATION: This easily ranks as one of the best Blu-ray products of the year: perfect for casual viewers, families with older kids, serious film nuts and anyone who grew up in the 1980s. In fact, let’s just make it “perfect for anyone” and leave it there.

- Rob Vaux



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