The words ‘musical’ and “Back To The Future” appeared in close connection in an article I read the other day and sent a chill down my spine. Now, I like musicals as much as the next man but sometimes you can just take an idea too far. I mean, I’ve seen Chitty Chitty Bang Bang ‘fly’ on stage and believe me that was far from good. How the hell are they going to get the DeLorean up to 88mph?
Yet in one of those tenuous ways writers work, it made me think that now, as we’re just three years shy of the point Doc, Marty, and Marty’s girlfriend Whatsername travelled forward to, it would be worthwhile seeing which of the film’s predictions have come true/might come true/are ridiculously wide of the mark.
First up, the one we all want to get our hands on – the hoverboard. Sadly, I’m not going to be able to buy one of these ‘for my daughters’ any time soon. (Imagine the hours pissing about on one of them while the kids were at school.) The film’s director, Robert Zemeckis, fuelled rumours that hoverboards were real by joking in interviews: “They’ve been around for years but parents’ groups worry that kids will get hurt, so they pressured toy companies not to put them on the market.”
There was even a fake extra scene on an early DVD release purporting to show stuntmen practicing on the boards. Mattel were inundated with calls and responded by telling people that they only made a few for the film or to “wait until 2015”. Bastards, the lot of them.
For the small layout of $279,000 you can “simply land at the airport, fold your wings up and drive home”. Really? Ooh, brilliant, and so cheap.
In reality there are very rudimentary hoverboards. Tel Aviv University created one that uses magnetic super conductors and quantum levitation. Great, once we coat all our roads and pavements with metal, we’re in business. French artist Nils Guadagnin also created one for an exhibition called – wait for it – Back To The Future but it can’t support weight, doesn’t move and, well, just hovers on a plinth. Frankly, they’re both a bit shit.
The other big one is, of course, the flying DeLoreon. As things stand, it seems like another no-no certainly on the scale predicted in the film, although we’re closer than we are with the hover boards. A company called Terrafugia has developed the Transition which they disappointingly and rather clumsily, don’t call a flying car but “roadable aircraft”. They’ll be available by the end of this year and 100 are already on order.
For the small layout of $279,000 you can “simply land at the airport, fold your wings up and drive home”. Really? Ooh, brilliant, and so cheap. I’ll have two – one for the wife. It seems the way things are going we’re still going to need roads.
Let’s not forget Mr Fusion. No petrol? No worries, just chuck in a banana peel, some beer, the beer can and away you go. Only, you don’t. Mr Fusion is no more real than Mr Stay Puft (Ok, wrong film but you get the idea). That said a team at America’s Purdue University have built something which can consume waste and turn it into energy. Only it’s the size of a small van, not a coffee machine. I think the jury’s still out on this one.
No one wears double ties, see-through ties, metal headgear and brightly coloured visors. No, the less said about 2015 fashion Back To The Future style the better.
OK, so there’s a lot the film got wrong. We don’t make mini pizzas into big pizzas by using a food hydrator; bionic implants are not commonly available; every home does not have a fax machine in every room (or, in fact any room); no one can control the weather and there is no Weather Service; lawyers have not been abolished; newspapers are not, as portrayed, still the go-to source for breaking news; we do not wear CD players on our heads. Mobile phones are conspicuous by their absence (Marty’s son even uses a phone box – do they still exist?) and there’s no sign of the internet, nor the omnipresence of the laptop/netbook/iPad (delete as appropriate).
Then there’s fashion. Shoes don’t have “power laces” (although Nike filed a patent in 2009 for an ‘auto-lacing system’, so…); jackets don’t “size adjust” nor dry themselves and thankfully, apart from perhaps in a wanky haute couture collection, no one wears double ties, see-through ties, metal headgear and brightly coloured visors. No, the less said about 2015 fashion Back To The Future style the better.
However, there’s also a hell of a lot the film got right. First up, given it’s central plot, the movie impressively predicted there would be a baseball team in Miami (for the record they’re called the Marlins, were formed four years after the film was released and have since won the World Series twice). Perhaps someone got their hands on that almanac after all.
The film also nails our obsession with cosmetic surgery. Doc tells Marty he’s been to a “rejuvenation clinic” had his “wrinkles done, a hair repair and a change of blood” and there are at least three other references, one being a TV ad for “The Super Inflatable Tit” (I swear I’m not making this shit up). Given that Doc doesn’t look that different, you’ve got to think that the film also nails the fact that cosmetic surgery is, well, a bit of a fraud.
Given that Doc doesn’t look that different, you’ve got to think that the film also nails the fact that cosmetic surgery is, well, a bit of a fraud.
Most of the stuff the film gets right, perhaps unsurprisingly, focuses onthe entertainment industry. We see bundles of laser discs and CDs left out in the rubbish, a nod to the fact we increasingly access media digitally (Netflixs and iTunes, anyone?).
The McFlys of the future have a massive, wall-mounted, flat-screen TV with picture-in-picture capability and Marty Jr surfs through several channels which number in the hundreds (let’s not forget that back in 1989 when the film was made British TV viewers had the choice of a massive four terrestrial TV channels and four satellite channels on the month old SkyTV). I think we’ll score that as an accurate prediction, if not two.
Marty #2015 has two video call conversations. Okay, the film misses the boat on mobile phones and bummed out with the fax machine thing, but it nails FaceTime and Skype.
The 2015 house has no door handles, instead there is a finger-print recognition entry system (and old Biff pays for a taxi in the same year using just his fingerprint on an electronic pad). Okay, these aren’t anywhere near standard but the technology exists and is being used in an increasing variety of places from hospitals to college libraries.
Where would we be without 3D? It’s now almost impossible to see a boring, old (and less expensive) 2D film at the cinema and 3D’s even entered our living rooms.
Before we get to Marty’s 2015 house Marty #1985 is ‘attacked’ outside a cinema by a huge virtual shark advertising Jaws 19. That film (thankfully) hasn’t come to pass and the film’s ‘director’ Max Spielberg, son of Steven, hasn’t made it big in the film industry either despite a few jobs here and there thanks to dad, but where would we be without 3D? It’s now almost impossible to see a boring, old (and less expensive) 2D film at the cinema and 3D’s even entered our living rooms. Again, I’ll take that as another tick in the box marked ‘accurate’.
But that shark predicts more than just the 3D revolution, though, as it focuses on Marty and Marty alone. What’s that if it isn’t the type of ubiquitous, targeted advertising which now pops up on our Hotmail, Gmail and Facebook accounts, or pretty much most of our internet usage?
Following this, we see Marty #1985 showing off to some kids in 2015 with his skill on an old school NES “Wild Gunman” arcade game, but they are less than impressed. A game where you have to use your hands? No thanks, mate. They bugger off home, no doubt to play on their Xbox Kinect.
So, on reflection I think it’s fair to say Back To The Future II, while having a few misses, has a more than adequate amount of hits. Of course, the real issue here is whether the film predicted this stuff, or whether the ideas in it inspired the creation of these things. If the latter is the case then, as Doc might say, that’s a paradox breaking the space-time continuum and we’re all fucked.
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