Friday, June 29, 2012

Favorite Scene Friday! Back to the Future: Hill Valley Chase Scenes

This is our 50th Favorite Scene Friday! Doing the honors for us today is CT from the Nerd Lunch blog and podcast. If you're a regular reader here you should be familiar with Nerd Lunch - we teamed up recently for a series of posts that lead up to The Avengers and I've made a few appearances on the Nerd Lunch Podcast. 

 CT loves the classic TV show Quantum Leap, and that makes him okay in my book. He also blogs about food, like the Burger King Bacon Sundae. That's food, right?

You can find the Nerd Lunch Podcast on iTunes and other purveyors of fine audio. You can also find CT on Twitter (@nerdlunch).

Nerd Lunch

I am a huge fan of the Back to the Future franchise. At the Nerd Lunch Podcast, we devoted an entire episode to the three movies. While there might be a few flaws throughout, it's the closest thing we got to a perfect trilogy for a long time.

When Robert asked me to contribute to Favorite Scene Friday, I kept coming back to this series. The movies are jam-packed with great, classic scenes due to exciting direction and vibrant characters. There is nothing wasted in the movies and in true Chekov's gun form, everything introduced early in the movies is paid off by the end. There are also such subtleties in the shots. One of my favorite parts about this scene is when Marty sizes Biff up before doling out a punch. The eye roll move is brilliant.

Marty's skateboarding was set up early in the movie but after going back to 1955, he didn't get much of a chance to use it until he had to interfere in the diner and chase Biff and his goons away from George McFly. With a simple wooden plank and some wheels, Marty evades serious injury or even death at Biff's hands. This scene goes to further set up Lorraine's fascination with Marty, but also Biff's vendetta against him that's carried out later in the movie and to an even greater extent in Part II.

But let me cheat a little bit and actually use this favorite scene to talk about two other favorite scenes. One of the things I love about the Back to the Future series is the symmetry in certain sequences throughout all three movies. The filmmakers are able to bypass certain need for foreshadowing by building on audience expectations from a previous film and turning it into something that advances the story for that film. Each film has it's own Hill Valley chase sequence with similarities.

In Back to the Future Part II, Marty, posing as his son, must evade Biff's grandson Griff and his goons. Unfortunately, the clip below cuts out some of my favorite moments. Griff had told Marty, Jr. to never go in that cafe (that part is cut out of this clip), Marty also sizes Griff up with the same eye roll. With that, the scene seems to be playing out the same, with Marty doing the same "Hey what's that?!" trick and throwing a punch at Griff. That's where the divergence begins, though. Instead of showing us the exact same scene, but in the future, Griff catches the punch and the sequence suddenly carries with it a bit more seriousness. Marty is out of his league and the suspense is heightened. Able to get away, Marty makes his way outside and the classic Hoverboard chase begins.

Again, a similar scene makes its way into the second sequel. Buford walks into a bar where Marty is hanging out. Mistaking him for his ancestor, Tannen opens with the same line, "McFly, I thought I told you never to come in here!" However, other than being a bit of a chase around down town Hill Valley, the similarities stop there. Marty had been in complete control in 1955 and in some degree of control in 2015. However, in 1885, he is completely out of his league. And in showing the audience that, we see at the end of the sequence that this movie is not as much about Marty, but a true passing of the hero baton to Doc, with the third movie becoming more about him.

Very clever ways of playing on similar themes, but each scene serves a different purpose.

And if you're in the mood for a change of pace, there exists an a capella version of the first movie's Hill Valley chase scene that's pretty fun to watch.


  1. Great pics, CT. You make me proud.

  2. Utter, utter awesomeness! Definitely the best trilogy of all time! That a capella version made me want to laugh and cry.

  3. Come for the BTTF stay for the a capella. Awesome scenes from one of the best series of all time. Thanks again for contributing!

  4. Man, I need to see these films again, it's been far too long! We have a comic con themed episode coming up at the community tv show I work for - our technical director is coming as Marty McFly!

  5. what kind of stupid name is Clint Eastwood? I recently wrapped up a podcast where I dazzle with my Doc impression. Great series with a valiant effort to make it a trilogy, but falls a little short. I'm more fond of the third one than the second though.

  6. Thanks for the comments everyone.

    Markus, I used to think the trilogy fell short because I wasn't the biggest fan of part III. However I've grown to appreciate Westerns more as I've gotten older and thus that movie itself. I think the second one is really fun, but if there is a fault, it is that it gets much more plot heavy than character heavy unlike the other two.

  7. Dude, this is awesome, brilliant work CT. The chase from Part II will always hold a place in my heart. I mean really, who doesn't wish they had a Back to the Future Hoverboard?

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