Blockbuster Movie Month: "Back to the Future: Part III"

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After a letter from the distant past arrives from Doc Brown, Marty McFly goes back to the old west in the DeLorean time machine to find his friend and bring him back to Hill Valley in 1985. Complications ensue when the Doc happens to fall in love with the town school teacher.
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Rating: PG-13
Length: 118 minutes
Release Date: May 25, 1990
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Genre: Adventure / Comedy / Sci-Fi

"Back to the Future III" is the final installment in the "Back to the Future" film series. In this installment the science fiction comedy series takes a Western spin as Marty travels back in time to save his good friend Doc and return him to the year 1955. However, when the DeLorean is damaged during time travel, Doc and Marty are forced to choose between carrying out a dangerous plan to return to the future and remaining hopelessly stuck in the past.

Plot Summary

"Back to the Future III" opens with Marty finding out that Dr. Emmett "Doc" Brown is trapped in the year 1885 and that Doc is going to be killed by a man named Buford. Marty soon locates the DeLorean, a car equipped with a time machine, and leaves the present day, which is 1955.

When Marty arrives in the Old West in 1885, he finds a tombstone with Doc's name on it, dated six days in the future. Marty quickly locates Doc and explains that his life is in danger. Doc agrees to leave the year 1885. However, because the DeLorean's fuel line is damaged, their departure is delayed. Doc devises a plan to power the DeLorean using a train to speed it up to the requisite 88 miles per hour, but the two men must wait for the right moment to steal a train.

Marty and Doc arrive at a nearby festival and talk about what has happened since they last saw each other. However, Doc and Marty are soon forced to leave the town when Buford arrives and tries to kill Doc. Later that day, Doc saves a woman named Clara from an overturned wagon and the two fall in love. Their relationship does not last long, because when Doc tells her he is from the future, she ends their relationship thinking he is lying. Heartbroken, Doc goes to the town saloon and begins drinking.

Marty and Buford arrive at the saloon at the same time, both looking for Doc. A fight ensues, and Doc and Marty use the distraction to steal a train to power the DeLorean. At the last minute, Clara joins Doc on the train. She nearly dies, but Doc saves her. The train begins to power the DeLorean, but it must reach 88 miles per hour before time transport can occur. However, unbeknownst to Marty and Doc, a bridge up ahead is broken, so the train will fall off a steep cliff in a matter of minutes. Running out of time, Marty, Doc and Clara await their fate.

Cast

All of the main characters returned for the filming of "Back to the Future III," one of the elements which made this sequel so successful. Michael J. Fox again plays a young version of Marty McFly with Christopher Lloyd returning to play the eccentric Doc. By the third installment, both actors have perfected their portrayals of their respective characters, and the acting is flawless throughout the entire film. The film is enhanced by the new character of Clara, played by Mary Steenburgen, who makes Doc more central to the film.

In addition to the main characters, there are a few notable supporting cast members featured in the film. Pat Buttram, Harry Carey Jr. and Dub Taylor play minor characters who frequent the saloon and help Doc and Marty avoid Buford. All three actors acted in many Westerns throughout their careers, so their inclusion in the film adds a bit of authenticity to the Western auspices of the film.

Film Analysis

The plot of "Back to the Future III" contains the same basic elements as the other films in the "Back to the Future" series, including time travel, a looming deadline and complicated relationships. However, "Back to the Future III" is set apart from previous installments by its Western milieu and because most of the decisions in the film affect Doc's life rather than Marty's. Saloon fights, duels and commandeering a train all play a part in the plot. The Western spin adds a refreshing twist that makes the third film unique rather than a reproduction of the previous films.

"Back to the Future III" also brings the film series to an end in a way fans of the series can appreciate. In the final scenes of the film, the characters are shown in the year 1985 and the audience is able to see how Marty and Doc's lives have turned out. Several characters from earlier installments also make an appearance, further solidifying the outcome of the characters' lives.

Some of the events from "Back to the Future II" play an important part in the third film, connecting this film to previous installments. For example, after returning from 1985, Marty is able to avoid a car accident that he learned would occur in the future during his time travel in the second film. This fully resolves the problems foreseen in the second film, and establishes a connection between the films in the series.

"Back to the Future III" has a great plot and excellent acting, much like the other films in the "Back to the Future" series. However, the third installment provides its audience with a conclusion that explains the future of the main characters, fixes problems that occurred to the characters in earlier films and is fully satisfying. Ultimately, "Back to the Future III" is just as good as the previous films in the series.