Tag Archives: Back to the Future

Futurology Part XVIII

Let’s think about the future some more. The future used to be so much cooler. Look at Back to the Future Part II. Our optimism was running so high, that when Marty McFly travelled to 2012, it was a techno-paradise. There were hoverboards. You could make a pizza go from the size of a dime to the size of a real pizza, right there in your kitchen. Every wall was a giant TV. Cars could fly. And did I mention hoverboards?

This vision of the future wasn’t sugarcoated either. It wasn’t perfect. Future Marty McFly still lived in kind of a dumpy house. He still got chewed out by his two-tie wearing boss. There were still truckloads of manure ready to be crashed into. That future was wondrous and marvelous and all that, but it still looked real.

The worst type of futures are where everything is too perfect. Like look at Star Wars. Everything is crisp, deluxe, clean, a little too clean. I don’t remember seeing any dirt anywhere in the entirety of the two trilogies. Nobody ever goes to the bathroom. Tattoine doesn’t count, because that wasn’t dirt, it was sand. Also, the ice planet Hoth doesn’t count either, because it was frozen. Now that I think about it, even when Luke and Han Solo spent the night together inside of that mountain yak’s stomach, they made it back to the base the next day looking cleaner than ever. That doesn’t make any sense at all. It’s not a convincing future. I know, technically Star Wars took place “A long time ago,” but seriously, spaceships, droids, light-sabers. Call it what you will, it’s a vision of the future.

At least when my parents’ generation was making films about the future, they were at least somewhat optimistic. They had enough whimsy to think about hoverboards and self-pumping sneakers. Whenever people imagine the future now, it’s always dystopian wasteland this, apocalyptic nightmare that. The Road just came out a year ago. I didn’t see it, but apparently the whole world was shot to shit. The Hunger Games. I never saw that either, but I read the plot on Wikipedia, and it didn’t seem like they had a great outlook about humanity or society. Prometheus, well, I didn’t get to see Prometheus either, I’m still waiting for it to come out on Netflix, but I saw the trailer, and while all the technology looked cool, I mean, it’s a horror movie, right?

Look at Wall-E. I know that all of these movies have long-term hopeful messages about humanity, but it’s way too long-term. As John Maynard Keynes famously said, in the long-term future, we’re all dead anyway. In the short-term future, the best that we can think of right now is massive destruction and planetary relocation. And seriously think about Wall-E for a second. Everybody on Earth moved onto that spaceship? I don’t buy that for a second. There’s no spaceship big enough to hold every person on Earth. We can’t even feed or clothe every human being on Earth, there’s no way we’re going to have some sort of smooth moving process, an “OK, single file everybody, there’s plenty of room on the spaceship for everybody, no pushing please, we promise, nobody’s going to get left behind to die.”

I’m telling you, I bet like ninety-five percent of the population got left behind. Weren’t all of the people living on the spaceship white? I don’t remember. But weren’t all of the babies being born in test tubes anyway? Why would they only breed white test tube babies? What kind of a future is that?

Imagine that our Earth started dying, fast, and the government made a huge spaceship for us all to relocate to. We would all claw each other’s throats out just to make sure that we got aisle seats. And then there would be the deniers, the people that say, “This is bullshit! The earth is fine! I’m staying and so are my followers. And not only that, we oppose the creation of any spaceship for anybody! We believe that everybody should stay here on this planet with us!”

And the news would have stories saying stuff like, “Where are they getting the money for this giant spaceship? Are your taxpayer dollars being spent wisely?” It would never get done. We’d all go down with the dying Earth. Not all of us. The mega-rich would just build their own, private, luxurious spaceships. And they’d be the ones to repopulate the cosmos. Assuming that’s it’s not already repopulated somewhere else. It has to be. But that’s another topic entirely.

Man, the future is scary. Maybe it’s because the present is so scary. Maybe I’m scared of too much stuff. Wall-E wasn’t really supposed to be a horror movie, was it? I mean, it was a kids movie, right?

The Trilogy: Part three of three

And then you get to part three of your trilogy and you probably realized that you bit off a little more than you could chew. What happened to the beautiful optimism of part one? If only there were some way to go back and maybe make the ending of part two a little less sensational, a little easier to write or explain your way out of. But it’s too late. And your audience is expecting something huge. They’ve lined up around the block for the better part of a day just so they can experience your grand conclusion, in IMAX, and those tickets cost close to twenty bucks, and it’s a midnight showing, like people are basically giving up their Friday so they can stay up until four in the morning just to say that they saw your finale first. Gulp.

That’s the problem with trilogies. The wrap-up. It better be good or else it cheapens the success of the first two parts. Whereas part two is your constant high, ever upward, oblivious to the fact that even this story is going to have to reach some sort of a conclusion, by the time part three shows up, it’s obvious that there’s going to be a letting down of sorts. From the moment part three starts, we’re already in the business of having our expectations lessened, maybe gently, maybe not as delicately, but it’s plain to see what’s going on. Even the most successful trilogies suffer from this inevitability.

Let’s look at Star Wars again. Empire starts out with this crazy ice planet battle and culminates with the big reveal, with Luke getting his hand cut off, and with Han Solo trapped in carbonite. And how do they pick up where they left off? Back in space? Nope, we’re right back on the desert planet, right where we started, right back with the droids, a really slow build up to, let’s be real here, a half-assed Jabba the Hutt scene. Leia’s in a gold bikini. Boba Fett’s there. OK, fine. But it doesn’t really have anything to do with anything from part two. What about the Empire? What about Darth Vader? Where’s Lando?

And they try to reconnect with whatever made the first two so magical, but nothing sticks. Luke goes back to Degobah and it’s not the same. There’s another Death Star, but it’s not the same. Lando’s back, finally, but totally not as cool as he was in part two. “Luke, I am your sister,” doesn’t even come close to packing the same wallop as “Luke, I am your father.” I could go on and on, but then I’d have to start mentioning Ewoks and I’m afraid everything would just spiral out of control and I’d have to finish up with some sort of weird musical number.

But whatever, I mean, this is part three of this blog post trilogy. I’m being honest, it’s going to be a let down, it just has to be. You make a trilogy and you’re bound by certain laws. Unfortunately, the third part of any trilogy is going to invariably disappoint on some level. I could go emo for a little bit, maybe have a jazz dancing scene like in Spider-Man 3, but everyone hated that. I could go back to the Wild West and turn an old locomotive into a time machine, but everyone knows that Back to the Future Part III was god-awful. Whenever a TV station airs an entire trilogy, nobody sits around to watch part three. It’s always such a waste. And let’s not even talk about The Matrix. Please. Let’s not get into that guy in the white suit, or whatever the hell happened at the end. I wish Neo and I could have switched places, so I could’ve had my eyes gouged out, so I wouldn’t have had to actually see such a disappointing finish.

I’m obviously not talking about Batman here. The Dark Knight Rises was sick, and as far as I’m concerned, is the only exception to this rule. But I already wrote about that, so I can’t really borrow any of that Batman magic to spice up this part three. Hmm. What else can I do to wrap things up here? Is it too early to start thinking about how I’m going to package all three together as a whole? Maybe draw up some cool artwork? How am I going to market this trilogy now that it’s all but complete? Maybe I should actually finish first. Hmm.

Well, I guess that’s it. Trilogy complete. That was kind of fun. Part two was definitely the best.

The Trilogy: Part two of three

Part one left you breathless. Even though you knew it was a trilogy, you still got to the end and couldn’t believe there wasn’t anything else. It left you completely enthralled with its gripping narrative, and just as you thought it couldn’t get any more exciting, it was over. The end. To be continued. And you had to wait. But you couldn’t wait. You’re heart was racing and the adrenaline was coursing through your system and you hit the end and that was it. And the comedown from the excitement was too much for you to bear. You scrolled back to the top and reread the first part in its entirety. And it was still amazing, still everything that it once was, but as you got closer to the end that second time, you panicked. You knew what was coming, a huge cliffhanger, a ton of unanswered questions. How many times are you going to put yourself through this?

And here it is. Finally. Part two. You’re shaking. You can’t even wait. That is, unless you’re reading this way in the future, like you’ve come across this trilogy already completed, already finished. And so you immediately read the first part and then it’s just a matter of jumping right to the second part. It’s like when I was a kid and I watched the Star Wars trilogy. All three films were already available on VHS before I was even born. All I had to do was pop in the second tape and I was ready to see Han Solo cut open a mountain yak’s stomach and crawl inside with his buddy Luke so they could survive the nighttime’s subzero temperatures on the ice planet Hoth.

In fact, I don’t even remember ever seeing Star Wars for the first time. I had fleeting memories of being a little kid and watching some of the tapes at my grandparent’s house. But I was too young to really get anything, or to understand what was going on, or to sit still for two hours. By the time I really watched Star Wars, I already knew basically everything that happened. By the time my brain really became conscious, it was already preloaded with Star Wars. It’s like you don’t remember meeting your mom and dad, you just think back as far as you can and they’ve always been there. Unless you’re an orphan, of course.

What would it have been like to walk out of the movie theater in 1977 and say to yourself, “Wow! That was so cool! I can’t believe I’m going to actually have to wait a bunch of years to see how this story continues!” And you have no idea about Yoda or Jabba the Hut or Luke kissing his sister or Luke I am your father.

A lot of people make the case that part two of a trilogy is always the best part. I can see the arguments. There’s no wasted time setting everything up. All of the characters have already been introduced. There’s no laying out any story, no big exposition about who’s doing what and why they’re doing it. It’s just jumping right into the action. It’s like ready, set, go, except they don’t even say that. They just go right to go. Ready and set were part one. Go is part two. And you’re rolling.

Look at the Back to the Future trilogy. Part II is easily the best movie. Why? Well, there’s obviously a hoverboard, and that’s just sick. But more importantly, you don’t have to spend so much time setting everything up. Who are you? I’m the Doc. What’s this? It’s a time machine. A time machine? I don’t believe it. Well, believe it kid. I still don’t believe it. OK, meet me at the mall. Oh no! Terrorists. Oh no! I’m dead. Oh no! I’m in the car. Oh no! I’m in the past. The movie’s been on for like half an hour and we’re just finally getting to see some actual time travel which, if I’m not mistaken, is the whole point of the movie.

Part II starts with the time machine automatically flying out of nowhere, ready to take them on another adventure. No nonsense this time. In fact, Part II is so ready to roll, that it doesn’t even wait for the beginning of the second movie, it starts at the end of the first. Genius. By the way, if I remember correctly, the Doc got the plutonium from the Libyans, right? And Qaddafi was in charge then, right? So if it weren’t for Qaddafi, Marty would’ve never gone back to the past and his dad would still be a huge loser and Biff would still be giving him noogies and making him wax his car. Is Qaddafi the secret hero here? What does it all mean?

Sorry, I’m getting distracted. But there’s no better place to get distracted, to run your mouth, to set up some truly crazy shit than in part two. Seriously, not only are you jumping head first into the action, but you have to heighten the suspense, the drama, you have to escalate based on your fans’ expectations. So throw in everything you’ve got. A crazy twist that you haven’t even begun to think of a logical solution to? Go ahead. Just write it. Write everything. Don’t hold back. This is part two we’re talking about here. You’ve got plenty of time after it’s out there and after everyone reads it and scrutinizes it to think, OK, I’ve really done it this time, I have no idea how I’m going to end this, but it doesn’t matter, I’m not going to think about that, I’m not going to try to work out a solution, I’m just going to milk part two for everything it’s got. Sure, there’s no way I’m going to be able to top all of this, but who cares? Let it ride. Luke, I am your father. Why so serious? Whatever they say in the Godfather Part II. Khan!

Check back tomorrow for the epic conclusion. Unless, like I said, you’re just finding this now and it’s already written. In which case, just go for it. It’s right there. Part three. Read it immediately.