BLU-RAY REVIEW: Back to the Future - 25th Anniversary Trilogy
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In 1985, Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale delivered Back to the Future to theaters and it immediately became a classic. And for the twelve weeks that it was in the theater, it was the number one film for eleven of those weeks. This film connected with all ages: kids who grew up in the '50s, kids who grew up in the '80s, and everyone in between. Back to the Future had it all in that it was a love story, a science fiction story, a comedy and a period piece all rolled into one. It really had it all and I don't believe there is a more perfect screenplay than the original Back to the Future.
The success of the first film naturally spawned a 2nd and a 3rd film, and even though the first film ended with a "To be continued" tag, that was all a joke; a joke that became a reality. While the two sequels didn't do as well critically than the original, they were still wildly successful and entertaining in their own right. As much as I love the original, I find myself quoting Part II and Part III equally.
I will spare you the plot summary of all three films because a) you really need to see these films yourself and b) you need to buy this set because of how great it is.
All three films are included in this special 25th Anniversary set and if you bought the standard DVD recently, you will recognize many of the same special features but there are new special features on each disc with newer interviews with cast and crew. Many are retelling of the same stories you've heard, but they’re still great to watch.
Let’s start with the blu-ray visual and audio quality, where you'll have to cut the trilogy a degree of slack because of its age and hasn't had the luxury of getting special edition treatments like Star Wars. The digital restoration is beautifully done but you will discover more obvious matte lines between the effects and footage. The audio quality is good and clear but again, due to its age, not the best hi-def has to offer. Still, this is the very best this film trilogy has been experienced in quite some time.
The blu-ray set comes with a total of 6 discs in an attractive case with a sleeve to go around. The front of the sleeve has a Velcro-sealed opening flap that reveals all the bonus features that await you inside. The case inside is perhaps the most awkward I've ever experienced. It opens up to reveal three panels; the first two for Back to the Future, middle panel for Back to the Future Part II, and the last panel is for Back to the Future Part III. For each movie is a blu-ray disc and a digital copy disc that lies underneath. Removing the discs are quite complicated and not for the impatient. They're tricky to get around and certainly not well designed. Otherwise, it's an attractive set.
The bonus features is what really gets me to buy a movie that I love and this 25th Anniversary set has it all. Each film comes with two audio commentaries. The official track is with writer Bob Gale and producer Neil Canton offering trivia, backstories, anecdotes and the like. The second audio commentary is with director Robert Zemeckis and writer Bob Gale, but this is an interview done by Laurent Bouzerau in front of a live audience. This is essentially just an interview while you're watching the film so if you'd rather have something on while you clean up around the house, this would be a good track to turn on, as you really don't need to be watching the movie at the same time.
Also on each disc is something called "U-CONTROL" where you can watch each film in various modes. One is a "Setups & Payoffs" mode where you can watch the film and notes will pop up that show you how key scenes are connected throughout the trilogy. There's a "Storyboard Comparison" mode which is self-explanatory and then a "Trivia Track" mode which gives the viewer pop-up facts and trivia while you watch the movies.
Brand new featurettes made for this release are titled TALES FROM THE FUTURE, a six-part retrospective that features all new interviews with the cast and crew. These featurettes are filled with backstories, issues that came up while filming, and the like. You can also see Steven Spielberg's story of how the film could have been titled Spaceman From Pluto.
One of the highlights of the new bonus features is one titled THE PHYSICS OF 'BACK TO THE FUTURE', an 8 minute interview with Dr. Michio Kaku, a Theoretical Physicist who talks about time travel in films. This is a fun look at the what is possible and what is impossible within the world of Back to the Future.
There's hours more bonus features on each disc that will provide plenty of enjoyment to the Back to the Future fanatic but already seen by owners of the previous DVDs. It's still great to have them included though so we can pass on our older sets to new fans to discover. And in case you're wondering, the old Universal Studios Ride is also included. The only downside to all these extras is that they are not at the same quality of blu-ray so expect to see just what your VHS tapes looked like again.
Back to the Future is a pivotal film for me; not in the exact same way that Star Wars was but it comes so close and without me spending so much on toys. That really says a lot about how great these are. From the casting, to the direction, to the original score by Alan Silvestri, they rarely make them like they used to. Fortunately for us, we have blu-ray and a digitally restored set of movies that make them brand new again.
Back to the Future: A+
Back to the Future Part II: B-
Back to the Future Part III: B+
HD Video Quality: B
HD Audio Quality: B
Bonus Features: A+
Bonus Features Audio/Video Quality: D
Verdict: OWN IT!
Universal Studios / 1985 / 344 Minutes / Rated PG
Street Date: October 26, 2010
By David Yeh
Sample Courtesy of Universal Home Entertainment