October 26, 2010, marks 25 years since the first time the Delorean time traveled, way back in 1985. Back to the Future was a film that was expected to be a very small success; director Robert Zemeckis hoped that it would simply break even by earning back the cost of making it. Within a very short amount of time, the 1985 film turned into a huge unexpected success, spawning a trilogy and one of the greatest time-travel stories ever told. This release is a glorious, glowing temple dedicated to the minutiae of Back to the Future and worships the three films in all their glory. It is exactly the sort of release that makes the films more fun to watch, adding in a level of detail with every commentary and every remembrance. The special features are among the most complete I've ever seen on a DVD, with numerous archival featurettes made at the time of original release, as well as updated materials made or compiled specially for the 25th Anniversary release.
The newly made six-part documentary that chronicles the making of the three films is exceptional, interviewing many of the original actors and crew members. One of the highlights of this is the footage of Eric Stoltz as Marty McFly. Stoltz was originally cast by Zemeckis, and after five weeks of shooting it was decided that Michael J. Fox was a better fit for the role. The behind-the-scenes of Back to the Future is so fascinating, as the writing/producing team of Bob Zemeckis and Bob Gale had a small handful of box-office failures to their names before Zemeckis made Romancing the Stone, the success of which made Back to the Future possible. The two go on to explain the inception of the film, casting decisions, the difficulties they had in making it, and the surprising success of the picture. Their memories are almost as fresh as if the film had happened yesterday, the world of Back to the Future is familiar to them, and it is really a delight to delve into their experiences.
There are a few sets of Q&A's. Michael J. Fox recounts his difficulties in working on both Family Ties as well as the first Back to the Future, and answers other questions as well, and then Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale discuss the various aspects of each individual film. For all three films, the deleted scenes aren't too numerous, about twenty all told, and many of them were cut because they were unnecessary or simply made the film too long. The outtakes, on the other hand, are all funny, including one on the first disc that involves Michael J. Fox wearing a hairnet, smoking, and shouting.
These films were made in a time before CGI was standard procedure, and all three pioneered some advanced special-effects methods of filmmaking, including split-screen techniques allowing actors to play multiple iterations of their characters at one time. There is footage here of various special-effects tests including hoverboards, makeup tests, and other production design elements that chronicle the look of the film through the various years that the story covers.
On the second disc exists a strange little documentary featuring a theoretical physicist who explains how Back to the Future actually falls into alignment with some basic time-travel principles according to physicists as well as Einstein. Apparently Back to the Future is closer to reality than Hot Tub Time Machine. Who knew?
The audio commentaries are fantastic. Producers Bob Gale and Neil Canton provide insight into every moment of every one of the three films, and even though they reiterate a few of the things that get mentioned in the documentaries, it's reassuring, as if nothing is being left out. That the director, producers, and most of the cast were involved in the making of this special set is a very good sign.
Additionally there are excellent photo galleries, seemingly endless behind-the-scenes moments, and a feature on the third disc that takes you through the Back to the Future ride at Universal Studios. Music videos, trailers, and live trivia tracks with the film make it almost an exhausting endeavor to see every single one of the special features. Another nice detail is that the Blu-ray set comes with not only physical copies of the three films, but digital download codes so that you can download the films to your computer as well.
If I have one major complaint about the DVD, it is the DVD case itself. The case is ugly but functional from a graphic-design standpoint; it proudly touts the various features so you can easily find them on the different discs, there's a standard picture of Doc and Marty McFly on the front cover, etc. However, besides the lack of style, there is one major design flaw. Getting the actual discs out of the case is a study in excruciating patience and dexterity, as you have to carefully push the disc toward a very specific area in order to avoid snapping the disc in half or slicing your fingers off. I cannot figure out why this design is preferable to simply lining the packaging with razor blades, as the result seems to be the same. I found myself squinting and turning my face away every time I had to take one of the discs out, just in case it shattered. However, with some practice, even the most fearful can take the discs out with ease.
Aside from the fact that this may just be the one film trilogy that everyone should own, this release is highly recommended for anyone who's ever loved Back to the Future. Run, do not walk, to acquire this one. The new Blu-ray transfer looks amazing, the colors and details vibrant and clear, and the films were all remastered from the originals for this release, touting restored sound and heightened picture quality. Some movies are so good they make up for all the bad movies; some movies remind you of why you loved movies in the first place, and Back to the Future is one of those. Perfect for parties or movie nights, or simply to put on before falling asleep, Back to the Future has never looked better and the level of detail put into the special features make this an incredibly fun film to explore and discover all over again.
Back to the Future -- 25th Anniversary Trilogy is available now on Blu-ray from Universal Studios.