Back to the Future revisited: Does Marty have a bright future?
Netflix just released Back to the Future Trilogy, and while I never really mention it whenever the “What is your favorite movie?” conversation comes up, it has a special place in my heart as a childhood favorite and I used to always watch it every time any of the film was on TV. And with all three at my disposal, I just couldn’t help to spend my weekend, revisiting it.
I also a huge fan of time travel stories. It is one of the most complex movie/TV series tropes, and when done right, the payoff is just grand. Over the years, I’ve seen quite a lot of time travel materials, and with that experience, I noticed something in my BTTF revisit, that never occurred to me before.
Before we start, let’s just agree that BTTF, like most time travel stories (e.g. Dark, Twelve Monkeys, Looper, About Time, The Butterfly Effect) follows the “Time is Linear” theory, in which what happens in the past will directly affect the future. When a person travel through time, it is in the same timeline and same universe, and if you go back in time, and change something big enough, in will create a ripple in time or a Butterfly Effect, and the future/your present will reflect that change, thus erasing the original version of your present. Paradoxes and causality are huge things in this trope.
The other trope is the “Multiverse” theory, where a person can travel through time, through different universe, or version of reality. If you change something in the past, then it will create a different reality while not erasing the original reality. The films/series that follow this, for example are Coherence, Star Trek (2009) and Dragon Ball Z, the Future Trunks/Cell Saga.
Right. That’s settled. Let’s dive in.
The first movie practically flawless. The original timeline was, Lorraine’s dad Hit George and got him inside the house, Lorraine took care of him and they fell in love. On the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance, they kissed, the rest is history. George never did stand up against Biff, so he’s a pushover his whole life. Also on this timeline, Doc Emmett Brown conceived the idea of the Flux Capacitor and time travel on 1955, and it was not realized until 1985.
Then Marty traveled back to 1955, created a new timeline, let’s call this the Prime Timeline, which replaced the original with a better one, where the McFlys are having a better life. On this timeline, time travel is actually, technically invented in 1955, on the night of the lightning strike the clock tower. In this new timeline, I think what Doc Emmet Brown did, after sending Marty back to 1985, he protects the causality by pretending to invent the DeLorean Time Machine in 1985, because in order for this timeline to happen, it needs Marty’s presence in 1955. So the whole thing on the now Lone Pine Mall, was an elaborate plan for the timeline to continue to exists. Then after the whole thing, he goes to the future of the Prime Timeline. The movie ends with Doc coming back from the future. And it was perfect.
The second and third movie, I’m gonna treat this as one, coherent unit. I love how the second one gave the franchise a darker tone, sort of like Empire Strikes Back, and while the third one doesn’t live up as much as the first and second one, it’s still an enjoyable, fun movie which wrapped the end of the story nicely. But the science is not as tight as the first one.
In the end of BTTF III, Marty didn’t give in to Needle’s taunt for a race, and he didn’t crash onto the Rolls Royce, which in turn erases the future we see in BTTF II with something Doc Brown said, “has not been written yet.” While it sounds nice, I think causality dictates it is not a good one. Yes, the YOU’RE FIRED message that Jennifer holds was erased, but bear with here. The 1885 story line happened because Doc was accidentally sent there from 1955. The reason they need to go back to 1955 again, because of the 2015 Sports Almanac. And the primary reason they went to 2015 from 1985, because Doc see something bad happened in 2015, and they want to prevent it from happening.
When Doc shows up in the end of BTTF III, he handed a framed picture of him and Marty in 1885, which indicates that the timeline is still intact. Nothing is changed, the whole thing in 1885 happened. And though 2015 has not been written yet, in this case, Marty will not crash into that Rolls Royce which will start a domino effect of him getting fired in the future, something else will happen, that will trigger the whole BTTF II & III events.
Otherwise, if my 4-Dimensional thinking is correct, if Marty didn’t hit the Rolls Royce, and 2015 turns out to be a bright future, when Marty and Jennifer returns to the DeLorean wreckage, then nothing should be there because it is a Paradox. Time should erase the remnants of the DeLorean becasue it should not be there. The BTTF II & III plot will also be deemed as paradox, be erased from time, and time will somehow catapult Doc from 1885 to be in the bright version of the 2015, with nothing to trigger him to bring Marty and Jennifer there. A powerful thing, time is.
What do you think?