Sunday, 3 October 2010

Why Back to the Future is a Narrative Master - Analysis

Back to the Future is one of the more successful Science Fiction movies to come out of the 80s. It has charm, charisma and an exciting plot all combined into one eccentric tale. But why is this film so well respected among film fans, critics and lovers of the genre? Well, it's all to do with the narrative. It is Hollywood storytelling at the point of perfection, and here's why:

Through all the phases of Hollywood (The Studio, Classic, Western eras etc.), producers and directors have always tried to maintain this sense of realism, because the viewers watch this life and either want to have it or can relate to it. This is why the cinema is so dominant, because it enhances an aspiration to live the lives of others because the tale told is so realistic. What encourages this realism is the way the film is put together.

Typically, to be a well loved story you need a beginning to build an establishment of surroundings, characters and the story, you need a middle which becomes the mass of the film, showing a change of the norm established in the beginning, and a point of no return where the audience believes the film will not have a way of coming back together. And the ending needs to effectively round up everything that's happened to leave no loose ends which means the audience can leave happy in their mind because everything on screen is okay.

Weaved into the story are key devices in the plot which can link back to each other. This can be key characters, props, or simple lines in the script. By giving attention to this means the story has continuity meaning the flow is easy to follow and understand. The film also needs to have a constant drive throughout, to give a mission for the story to continue and for the protagonist to complete.

Back to the Future does this with such perfection, analysing the film becomes so interesting because the detail is giant, yet the film is so fun loving and almost silly you find it hard to believe such a tale would have so much thought gone into it.

The Beginning: A character profile for is given for all the key characters featured constantly through the plot. We're shown Marty as the laid back teen, the mother and father in a difficult relationship, the brother and sister seeming to have a lack of interest in their surroundings, Biff the bullying boss and Marty's girlfriend. Emmett is shown with this sense of craze in his eye, full of excitement - This is a constant personality throughout the film that doesn't have a need to change. The rest of the characters, besides Marty as he is the protagonist, all have this need to change. We're also given lots of detail to the present location - This being because the film focuses on time travel, so the detail now will have a recognisable change when we're taken back. And from then we're given the drive in the film - Marty has a time limit to go away on a secret trip with his girlfriend, but we're also told about a clock tower not working because of a lightning bolt - It seems like a plot device to add a bit of humour from some dramatic protesters.

The Middle: We see Emmett shot by terrorists once we've been introduced to the time travelling car, and then we're taken back in time - So it's okay because we know we'll see him again. But at the back of the audience's mind you know he's died The audience are taken out of the location they've become familiar with and are put in a situation they don't recognise... But they do. The we see the clock tower, the school and the park. It becomes funny to see how times have changed, because I'm sure everyone has seen how buildings have changed over time. We watch Marty discover his parents who give reason as to why they are like how they are now. You find his situation funny because you can't relate to his bewilderment, but find it entertaining to see his reactions. We're shown his adventure to find Emmett, and his frustration at the limits this life has. You watch him grow and learn new things, while all the time you're being related back to the original situation.

Point Of No Return: Marty needs to get back and wants to tell Emmett about his death, but he refuses to listen as knowing the future can change things dramatically. Throughout the middle, Marty was constantly fighting to keep the outcome to same. We watch him almost fade away because his parents may not have met, then we see the car break down, and then we watch the plan for the lightning bolt to hit the tower (remember from before?) almost fail. All these build up to the point where Marty finally goes back to 1985. We see him run over to Emmett who is dead, because he didn't read the letter explaining the future. This is the point of no return - The beloved character is gone.

The End: But this is Hollywood at it's best, so of course he read the letter. The crazy scientist wore a bullet proof vest changing the future dramatically giving a sense of okay at the change. When Marty goes home after saying goodbye to his future travelling friend, he wakes up in the same position we were introduced to him with, and then we see professional siblings - Change One. His parents are happy and successful in love - Change Two. Biff is now working for his father - Change Three. Marty's trip with his girlfriend isn't a secret and he can be comfortable in the relationship. Change Four. And Emmett comes back from the Future to have a final glimpse on screen. It rounds everything up perfectly, leaving you only to want to jump into that magical car yourself.

Perfect, right?

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