Back In Time

Year: 2015
Production Co: Malka Media Group
Director: Jason Aron

Sometimes we get very gratifying examples of how a beloved movie grows, breaks its own banks and becomes an institution. Perennial favourites like Star Wars, Star Trek or Lord of the Rings have the love of millions propping up a cultural apparatus that's part industry (the cons, costumes and collectibles), part meeting hall (the forums and websites) and all shared love letter.

Of course, back in the early 80s such things were far from the minds of the studio executives, below-the-line crew, cast and even the writer and director of such classics. They just wanted to make a good – in some cases just profitable – movie.

But when films come and go as fast as moths around a bug zapper, it's testament to something very special in our culture that such a following can exist for any movie that's now decades old, especially a romantic comedy with some sci-fi elements.

Writer/producer Bob Gale and director Bob Zemeckis - although they still love the franchise – have enjoyed careers in Hollywood in the years since that make the film just one more milestone among many (Zemeckis himself would capture lightning in a bottle again just three years later with Who Framed Roger Rabbit). Star Michael J Fox acknowledges during his interview in Back In Time that plenty of people know much more about it than he does.

And that's the example about how much the love of a movie can grow – some people are such fans they become more of an authority than anyone who worked on the movie in the first place. Just ask any 15 year old kid around the time of Back to the Future's 1985 release who was still trying to explain to his parents who Salacious Crumb was.

The webmaster and curator of bttf.com, Stephen Clark (featured in Back In Time), started the website because he loved the movie – he had no connection to Hollywood or anyone in it – and today it's seen as the definitive place for all things Back to the Future, Clark now one of the world's foremost experts on the movie.

It's the devotion to something so many of us love that director Jason Aron captures in Back In Time. The film itself covers aspects of the production and fancom like chapters in a book, from the people who've spent a fortune lovingly restoring DeLoreans (complete with picture-perfect flux capacitors) to the reactions the cast and crew remember from early screenings.

But through it all is a pervasive feeling of celebration, like a living online forum thread where people have nothing to gain or prove, they just love a movie and have a like minded group of instant friends the size of a small country who understand perfectly.

It has all the stuff you expect (and that you already know if you've pored over the trilogy's IMDb.com trivia pages more than a few times). Bob Gale talks about the inspiration of seeing his Dad's high school yearbook photo and wondering if the two would get along if he went back in time to meet him.

Zemeckis talks about how his 1980 comedy Used Cars put plans for Back to the Future off after it underperformed – he wanted a bigger hit that bought him a little more cachet with the studio, and got his wish in the form of Romancing the Stone. He still thinks it's the best thing he's ever written. Spielberg calls it the greatest time travel movie ever put on film.

But the best parts of the movie are where it's changed the lives of common people. An everyday guy had done an amazing job building his own replica of the DeLorean time machine, and was so crestfallen at the state of the hero picture car on the Universal Studios tour he approached the studio with a plan to restore it, and they agreed.

A young sports player paralysed after an injury talks about how he's inspired by George McFly, seeing himself as a similar outcast capable of much more than anyone realised. A married couple – one of them a cancer survivor – drives around America in their DeLorean raising awareness for Michael J Fox's Parkinson's Foundation.

Releasing on October 21, 2015 (the day Marty came to the future with Doc in Back to the Future Part II), Back In Time is a beautiful and very necessary reminder that movies are much more than just product to affect some conglomerate's stock price, as disposable as cotton swabs. Some stay around and endure, and Back In Time is a celebration of how art can bring people together.

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