If you already own the three-disc set released by Universal in 2002, you probably have all the bonus materials that will satisfy a casual “Back to the Future” fan. If you love the original movie, however — and you can count me in that group — this new two-disc set offers an excuse to spend an evening revisiting a film made nearly 25 years ago but still timeless in its themes. A word of caution, however: The new single-disc releases of Parts II and III are identical to the ones found in the original set.
The first disc of this new “Back to the Future” edition is also identical to the earlier release. By itself, it offers a solid primer on the movie, with in-depth making-of materials, a Q&A with director Robert Zemeckis and producer/co-screenwriter Bob Gale, a commentary track with Zemeckis and Gale, deleted scenes and outtakes, an “enhanced conversation” with Michael J. Fox that lets you pause the movie for some brief comments from him every time an icon appears onscreen, makeup tests, pop-up video style “animated anecdotes,” and screenplay excerpts.
The new stuff is found on disc two, which leads off with a 45-minute documentary called “Looking Back to the Future.” While Zemeckis and Gale, along with the principal cast members except Crispin Glover, already did this song-and-dance routine for the original set, it’s still fun to reminisce with them in a series of new interviews. There’s some duplication of topics covered in disc one, but you’ll learn some new facts too. You’ll also get to see a lot of new behind-the-scenes footage, most of which was taken from the 27-minute “Back to the Future Night” TV special that’s also included. It aired in 1989, as Part II was about to hit theaters. It’s a goofy bit of nostalgia hosted by Leslie Nielsen, but it’s also an intriguing look at the height of “Back to the Future” mania.
Extra material from the latest Michael J. Fox interview is presented separately in one- to two-minute chunks that add up to about 10 minutes of material. Unfortunately, there’s no “play all” option, so you have to keep going back to the menu and selecting the next one. I know, in the old days you had to get off the sofa and flip a laserdisc to keep watching the movie, so you’re going to say I shouldn’t complain about some extra remote control button presses. If the capability is there, though, why not use it?
Finally, we have something that only hardcore “Back to the Future” fans will want to sit through: video footage from the now-defunct Universal Studios ride. It’s all here: the 15-minute lobby monitor story that set up the ride, along with the full 16 minutes from the ride itself. If you want to get the full effect, I recommend watching it on a really big TV and having a few friends pick up your chair and rock you around in sync with the action.
So that’s it for “Back to the Future,” at least until the inevitable Blu-ray release and the possibility that someone will want to remake the original film someday. At the risk of sounding like a heretic, while I will always love the original because it’s a great movie that really spoke to the teenage Brad (plus, if you have an interest in screenwriting like I do, watch it again to appreciate all the storytelling devices that Zemeckis and Gale pulled out of their tool chest), I think a remake set in, say, 2010 and 1980 could be intriguing.
Imagine a teenager arriving in 1980, driving a 2008 Honda Odssey, wearing 70s fashions, and wielding an iPhone and a MacBook. “Where’s the Wi-Fi connection, kid? Look, do you want something to drink or do I gotta call the cops? No, I ain’t got no grande non-fat vanilla latte.”