Today I watched Robert Zemeckis’ Back to the Future Part 3 (1990)
At the end of part two Marty was trapped back in 1955 after Doc Brown was sent back to 1885 from a lightning strike on the Delorean. So Marty goes to see the 1955 Doc Brown who has just sent Marty from the first film back to 1985, this plays out a lot less confusingly than it sounds. Anyways 1885 Doc Brown left a letter for Marty telling him that he buried the Delorean in an abandoned mine with detailed instructions for it’s repair so Marty can return to his time. Doc’s letter explicitly states that he does not want Marty to come back for him, he is enjoying life as a blacksmith in 1885, he loves the wild west and seems to be getting along very well for himself. But just as Marty and fifties Doc are making the preparations as planned, they find a gravestone that says that Doc will die only a few days into his wild west adventure. Marty can’t just let his friend die and so he decides that he is going to go back and save him, taking him back to his proper time. Of course getting a Delorean with an empty gas tank up to 88 miles per hour in 1885 is going to be pretty hard and they are going to have to deal with Mad Dog Tannen, the guy who is going to shoot Doc, and also an emerging romantic interest for Doc.
Going to the wild west is certainly a fun idea, and it allows for a deeper level of fish out of water style humour than ever before. But at the same time this film seems to lose a lot of the implied darkness that helped define this series and made it stand out. This is odd because one would think that the wild west would offer many opportunities to get a little grim, and it does but none of them are taken. The west as it is in this film really just doesn’t pop visually or thematically, the humour feels so much more stale than the previous entries because it is so much more obvious. What saves the film is yet again the duo of Doc and Marty, Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox’s endlessly endearing protagonist duo. This film in particular takes a closer look at Doc Brown and really elaborates on his character in interesting ways, his interest in the wild west seems incongruous with his mad scientist persona but along with the romantic plot it adds layers and depth to his character beyond the one note archetype, as amazingly performed as that archetype may have been in the past.
With just those two doing their shtick, this movie is quite entertaining. Other elements, like the contrived character arc of Marty learning not to let insinuations of cowardice get under his skin, fade into the background as Lloyd and Fox steal all the scenes. It is unfortunate that this film seems to lose track of the most distinguishing non-actor aspects of the series, but at least those actors do their best to fill the void. In conclusion I do recommend this movie, it is very much so worth seeing. I am a fan od both Lloyd and Fox so to see their stories come to a conclusion is satisfying, and really, that conclusion is the best part of this film and is quite exciting in it’s own right. 4/5