Wednesday, June 03, 2009

What I learned from Back to the Future 2

Things may not be so bad at work next semester. The department chair, who is also one of my good friends, came to my rescue and is trying to figure out how to fix my schedule so I'm not teaching so many classes. And my homeroom is changing so that I will be teaching seniors I already know, so that's a blessing. This morning I woke in a panic over my schedule for next year but now I'm feeling much better thanks to the leadership of my awesome coworker. I think I'm going to buy him a cupcake.

This past Saturday the Beefcake and I wandered over to the New Beverly to join a sold-out crowd watching the Back to the Future trilogy. We only stayed for 1 and 2 because 3 started at midnight and I've seen it bunches of times anyway.

They had a replica of the Delorian outside. It was pretty cool. It was also cool watching the film on the big screen with people occasionally shouting out quotes. The Beefcake and I yelled out "BILLY ZANE!!!" every time he appeared on screen. Fun.

On the wall next to the bathroom is a poster for a movie starring Joey Travolta. This is one of several observations I made while waiting in line between movies.

So the first movie is awesome, we all know that. But what I got out of this screening is an awareness of what's wrong with the second movie. Because it's got some real problems, and they're mostly in the first 20 minutes.

So first, a logic issue. Doc Brown makes this huge deal about how Marty can't encounter his future self and when Jen sees her future self she passes out, but when Biff sees himself it's all okay. Until the paradox happens, which is, I guess, why Biff wasn't supposed to encounter his future self. So nevermind. I think.

Okay so the inciting incident of that film occurs when Old Biff goes back in time and gives Young Biff the sports book, an event which occurs over 20 minutes into the movie.

So for 20 minutes we think this is a story about Marty's problem with his future kid. Then he resolves that issue and suddenly that's not the problem anymore, so we wait, and then the real problem shows up. And in the meantime we see an absurd world where people are just really really silly.

Once Biff gave himself the sports book, the story got interesting. Before that moment I was checking the time and thinking "Oh my god this is the worst movie ever! I didn't remember this movie being this bad!" I almost fell asleep. I told the Beefcake I wanted to leave like three times, but for some reason we kept sticking around for the next scene, until Biff changed that past and suddenly the story started.

This is a good lesson for me. I have a tendency to open every story with an action sequence that takes too long. I have fun punching people and firing shotguns and engineering chases and whatnot, and I forget that all this needs to go somewhere, so long about page 15 I finally get to the story. A friend pointed this out to me once and I haven't forgotten it.

So my new story has an action scene right up front, but this time I'm making sure that the opening moment is at least close to the one that sets everything in motion. I've been saying, what is the moment that creates the problem? The inciting incident needs to be in the first 10 minutes.

Otherwise you end up staring at your watch and begging to leave.


  1. glad to hear that your schedule will be fixed for next year.

    shit, I havent watched any of those Back to the Future movies since... 1998 or something. so I don't remember anything right now. I'm definitely gonna netflix all 3 movies, though.

  2. Ha, I was there Friday night, it was a really fun crowd. I also left before Part III, mostly due to needing sleep. You unfortunately did not mention one of the highlights, which was the showing of the TEEN WOLF trailer.

    Seeing it again, PART II is like a bunch of setpieces in search of a complete narrative. I like the alternate-1985 stuff, I like seeing scenes from the first film from a different vantage point but none of it really connects together. I just enjoy these things by themselves, not as a part of any plot. Zemeckis & Gale have said that the end of the first film was just a joke, that they never intended it to be a setup for a sequel. So they were kind of trapped in how they were going to start it, but you may have a point in that maybe they needed to do a page one rewrite to get that setup out of the way as fast as possible. Unfortunately, I get the feeling they were thinking more about the revolutionary effects they were going to do to show the future.

    Last night they showed CLASS OF 1984, about a teacher who fights back against a gang in his school. You should've been there for that one.

  3. I figured you were there somewhere, but I don't know what you look like. If you ever looked over to the wall and saw a big dude talking to two other big dudes with a girl, well that was us.

  4. So if I'm ever there and see either a big dude or three big dudes with a girl who looks like you, then it might be you. Got it.

    I'm not always there but I turn up often enough that I'm known by a few people so if you go down to the front before the film and shout "Mr. Peel!" then somebody might be able to tell you if I'm there or not. If you're ever there for one of the Saturday midnight shows, give it a try.


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