Back to the Future Part II is a 1989 film and a sequel to the 1985 film Back to the Future. Like the previous film, it was directed by Robert Zemeckis and written by Zemeckis and Bob Gale. Part II and the third installment of the trilogy, Back to the Future Part III, were filmed back-to-back, with some of the scenes of Parts II and III filmed concurrently, and released six months apart. Although released in 1989 and 1990, both films continued to portray 1985 as the present, due to them directly following the events of the first film.
Part II follows the continued adventures of Marty McFly and "Doc" Emmett Brown as they use their time-traveling DeLorean, which is now capable of flight and no longer is run by plutonium, to travel into a retro-futuristic version of 2015, an alternate 1985 and the principal setting of the first film in 1955. The film ends with a cliffhanger that is resolved in Part III.
The film begins with Doc Brown(1985) coming back from 2010 and tellling Marty he needs him to go to 30 years in the future to fix a problem with his kids (Part I's end). Marty and Jennifer(who was also here then travel to year 2015. Doc Brown is forced to put Jennifer inconciencious due to her wanting to know too much about her futurebegins asking many questions about her future. After landing in Hill Valley, Marty and Doc leave her in an alley, expecting her to remain unconscious while they attend to the crisis involving Marty's children. Doc explains that Martin McFly Jr., Marty's and Jennifer's son, is about to be approached by Griff Tannen, Biff's grandson, and his gang, who will offer him the chance to take part in a robbery. This event happening leads to the ruin of the entire McFly family. Marty impersonates his future son and tells Griff he will not join the robbery; however, his self-control crumbles Griff calls him "CHIKEN." The resulting confrontation leads to a hoverboard chase that causes Griff and his thugs to damage the glass facade of the nearby courthouse. Griff and his gang are arrested on an entirely different charge, Marty Jr.'s innocence has been assured without his knowledge and the planned robbery never occurs.
Before reuniting with Doc, Marty notices a sports almanac displayed in an antique store window, which lists sports statistics from 1950 through to 2000. He buys it, intending to take the book back to 1985 and use the data within for financial gain. Doc discovers the almanac, and sternly tells Marty that the purpose of inventing this time machine was for scientific investigation, not to win at gambling, and pitches the almanac into a garbage can. Meanwhile, Jennifer, still tranquilized, is found by the police, who mistake her for her future self after thumbprint identification, and take her to her future home, waking her up just as they arrive. Confused, she hide in a closet, not seeing Marlene McFly, Marty's and Jennifer's daughter, letting George and Lorraine in for dinner. She also witnesses the Marty of 2015 being fired from his job after his Japanese boss catches him "cooperating" in an illegal scheme that his immediate boss and "longtime friend", Douglas Needles, goads him into joining, again by taunting him that he is too "CHICKEN" to try it. Traveling to the house, Doc leaves Marty with the DeLorean, finds Jennifer and sneaks her out of the house. Along the way, she encounters her older self, who has just arrived home, with the shock causing both women to pass out. Unable to carry her himself, Doc calls Marty for help, leaving the DeLorean unguarded.
While Doc and Marty rescue Jennifer, the original Biff (age 78), having overheard Doc and Marty talking about time travel and about the folly and hazards in using it to win at gambling, recovers the discarded sports almanac, steals the DeLorean and travels back in time. [instead of going to alternative 2015 (timeline following his younger self gambling and beeng rich] He returns the car just before Marty and Doc return to it to leave for their own time. Upon arrival in 1985, Marty and Doc find that Hill Valley has become a dilapidated, crime-ridden slum lorded over by a middle-aged Biff, who is now immeasurably rich, powerful and corrupt thanks to decades of successful sports betting, the proceeds of which he invested in toxic waste dumps, oil, and to purchase the Hill Valley courthouse and convert it into a luxury hotel and casino, not to mention assisting Richard Nixon in his bid for a fifth term as President. Biff has also married Marty's widowed mother, Lorraine, after secretly killing her husband George. Doc deduces that the Biff of 2015 must have given the almanac to his younger self sometime in the past, also showing Marty that he has been committed to an insane asylum(in order to avoid this horrible fate Marty and Doc now have to go back to the very day Biff(2015) gave Biff(the don't already know when) the Almanac and take it back). Marty confronts Biff and finds out that he received the almanac on November 12, 1955, the date in which the "Back to the Future Part I event were set. Biff then intends to murder Marty (telling him that it's the same gun that he used to kill Marty's real dad George) as he now knows too much. Marty again is saved by Doc when Doc knocks out Biff with the DeLorean's gull-wing door. Marty and Doc travel back to 1955 to prevent Biff from getting the almanac. Marty goes through a long and complicated series of events involving his multiple attempts to recover the almanac, all the while making sure that he does not interfere with past events again and does not undo all that he had previously done in 1955 in the first film to set his parents up with each other. After revisiting the events of the Enchantment Under the Sea dance, he eventually manages to steal the book from the 1955 Biff with the help of Doc in the flying DeLorean, and burns it, restoring history to its proper course, as evidenced by the changes in the newspapers from the alternate 1985, which now read "George McFly Honored" rather than "George McFly Murdered" and "Emmett Brown Commended" instead of "Emmett Brown Committed." As Doc fights the controls while attempting to land the DeLorean during the storm to pick Marty up, the car is struck by lightning, causing it to disappear, the time-travel capability having been triggered by the lightning. A few minutes later, a Western Union delivery man appears with a letter, which he explains was sent seventy years ago with the explicit instructions that it be delivered to Marty "at this exact location, at this exact minute, November 12, 1955". Marty opens the letter, which is from Doc, explaining that he is now living happily in 1885. Knowing he has only one source of help, Marty runs to the clock tower to find the Doc of 1955, just as lightning strikes to send the previous film's Marty back to the future. The shock of suddenly seeing the new Marty, whom (he though) he has just sent back to 1985 causes Doc to faint. The film ends as Marty tries to revive Doc.
When Doc takes Marty and Jennifer out of 1985 and brings them to the future, the Marty and Jennifer from the future couldn't possibly exist since their disappearance from 1985 instantaneously erased their future. This rather large plot hole was admitted by writers Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale as something they had noticed while filming. They decided to leave it, however, since they had already set up Marty and Jennifer to meet their future kids by having Doc say, "Something's got to be done about your kids" at the end of the first movie. Having them travel to the future only to find out they didn't exist would have been a bigger disappointment to the audience. Although they could still exist in the future having already left the present as long as they return to the present.
- Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly Sr., Marty McFly Jr. and Marlene McFly
- Christopher Lloyd as Dr. Emmett L. "Doc" Brown
- Thomas F. Wilson as Biff and Griff Tannen
- Lea Thompson as Lorraine Baines (McFly/Tannen)
- Elisabeth Shue as Jennifer Parker (McFly)
- James Tolkan as Mr. Strickland
- Jeffrey Weissman and Crispin Glover (original Back to the Future footage) as George McFly
- Billy Zane as Match
- Casey Siemaszko as 3-D
- J.J. Cohen as Skinhead
- Flea as Douglas J. Needles
The characters of George McFly and Jennifer Parker were played by actors different from those of the original film, requiring some previous scenes to be reshot.
Zemeckis states that initially Back to the Future was not destined to have a sequel, but its huge box office success led to the conception of a second installment. At first Part II was to take place in 1967. "Mr. Fusion" was to be destroyed, and Marty and Doc Brown would have to fly the DeLorean over a Canyon.
A major stumbling block arose when negotiating Crispin Glover's fee for reprising the role of George McFly. When it became clear that he would not be returning, the role was rewritten so that he is dead when the action takes place in the alternate version of the present in the year 1985.
The greatest challenge was the creation of the futuristic vision of Marty's home town in the year 2015. Production Designer Rick Carter wanted to create a very detailed image with a different tone to the movie Blade Runner, saying he wanted to get past the smoke and chrome. Rick Carter and his most talented men spent months plotting, planning and preparing Hill Valley's transformation into a city of the future.
When writing the script for Part II, writer and producer Bob Gale wanted to push the ideas of the first film further for humorous effect. Zemeckis admits he was somewhat concerned about portraying the future because of the risk of making wildly inaccurate predictions.
Replacement of Crispin Glover
As Bob Gale states in the DVD commentary, actor Crispin Glover was asked to reprise the role of George McFly in this film. Glover indicated interest, but demanded a salary the producers felt was unreasonable. Glover reportedly refused to budge, so he was dropped from the picture. Glover later insisted in a 1992 interview on The Howard Stern Show that he and Zemeckis had some "creative disagreements" over the character, and felt that the director simply wanted an actor who was more pliable. He also said that the salary offered was "really low" (reportedly around $50,000), and that he was certain they never really wanted him back.
In the BTTF FAQ, Gale and Zemeckis state that Glover was uninterested in doing the sequels and was asking for the same salary as Michael J. Fox, and therefore was written out of the story.
As a result, the filmmakers found inventive ways of avoiding showing the character's face in the movie, despite the fact that George McFly was in certain key scenes and dialogue. During all scenes in which the George McFly character appears in both this film and Back to the Future Part III, he is played by Jeffrey Weissman and seen wearing sunglasses, from the back, upside-down, or out of focus in the background. This was to preserve the George McFly character's continuity, despite being played by a different actor. However, producers also recycled footage from the original Back to the Future that included Crispin Glover's portrayal of George McFly. Glover sued Universal for compensation, on grounds that his contract for the first film did not allow subsequent uses of his portrayal of George McFly in new films. The day before the lawsuit went before a judge, Universal quietly settled the case, paying the actor an undisclosed sum. Glover would not reveal the amount during his Howard Stern Show appearance, but did suggest the real reason for the settlement was that Universal was reluctant to "open up their accounting books to the public" during the trial. The Screen Actors Guild later rewrote their rules regarding the derivative use of actors' works in films or TV series, setting terms under which to require the studios and networks to give payment and credit to the actors.
Replacement of Claudia Wells
Claudia Wells, who had played Marty McFly's girlfriend Jennifer Parker in the original Back to the Future was to reprise her role, but turned it down due to her mother's ill health. The producers cast Elisabeth Shue instead, which required re-shooting the closing scenes of Back to the Future for the beginning of Back to the Future Part II.
It was nearly 10 years before Claudia Wells returned to Hollywood, with a starring role in the 1996 independent film Still Waters Burn. She is one of the few actors not to make an appearance during the 2002 "behind the scenes" documentaries on the Back to the Future trilogy documentaries on DVD.
All in all it took two years to finish the set building and the writing on the script before shooting could finally take place. During the shooting the appearance of the "aged" characters was a well-guarded secret. Their look was created using state of the art make-up techniques. Michael J. Fox describes the process as very time consuming, “it took over four hours although it could be worse”.
Rumors and urban legends
As a joke, Robert Zemeckis said during a television interview that the hoverboards (flying skateboards) used in the movie were real, yet not released to the public due to parental complaints regarding safety. A surprising number of people thought he was telling the truth and demanded them at toy stores. After the release of Part III, Zemeckis had the opportunity to explain in another interview that all of the flying scenes were accomplished by a variety of special effects techniques. There was even a high demand for the Nike tennis shoes Marty wears with automatic shoe-laces, which fans thought to be real. Nike eventually released a limited-edition version of the shoes, without the "power-lace" feature, called the Air McFly, in July 2008.
After the Florida Marlins beat the Cleveland Indians in the 1997 World Series, and again in 2003, when the Marlins defeated the Cubs in the NLCS (and subsequently defeating the New York Yankees in the 2003 World Series), rumors circulated that the movie predicted the Series' results; however, this was not the case. In the film's future news broadcast, it is announced that the National League Chicago Cubs beat the American League team 'Miami Gators' based in Miami, which has an alligator logo, in the 2015 World Series. Aside from the incorrect year, the mascot of the team mentioned does not match that of either current Florida-based team, the Florida Marlins or Tampa Bay Rays. At the time the movie was filmed, Florida did not have a Major League Baseball team of their own, but the Miami-based Marlins played their first season in 1993. In addition to foreseeing the birth of a Major League Baseball franchise in Florida, the film accurately predicted a number of technological and sociological changes, such as the rise of ubiquitous advertising and video games without hands.
Robert Zemeckis also said in an interview that Marty and the Doc were originally going to travel back to 1965 rather than 1955 to recover the almanac from Biff, saying that this would allow the viewers to "see the hippies and lava lamps". This was later scrapped after it was decided that it would be too costly and time consuming to rearrange the set a fourth time to reflect a fifth decade.
Back to the Future Part II earned $27 million in its first weekend of U.S. release (November 22, 1989) and $118 million total US gross – $332 million worldwide. However, this was still short of the first film's gross, and the film experienced a drop of over 50% in its second weekend, a steep figure at the time. The same fate occurred in Part III, which Universal Studios released only six months later. On December 17, 2002 the studio released all three movies in a three disc DVD and three tape VHS boxed set which sold extremely well when it was released, despite having widely discussed widescreen framing problems, which had led to an unpublicized product recall.
Home video release history
- March 18, 1990 (VHS & Laserdisc)
- July 4, 1991 (VHS, Compact Disc & Laserdisc)
- December 8, 1991 (VHS, Compact Disc & Laserdisc)
- March 23, 1995 (VHS, Compact Disc & Laserdisc)
- June 7, 1998 (VHS, Compact Disc & Laserdisc - The Last release of CD & Laserdisc)
- May 12, 1999 (DVD with Lucasfilm THX)
- July 9, 2000 (VHS & DVD with Lucasfilm THX)
- March 15, 2002 (VHS & DVD)
- May 7, 2006 (VHS & DVD)
- Back to the Future: Frequently Asked Questions. BTTF.com. Retrieved on January 10, 2006.
- Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale. Back to the Future Feature: Making the Trilogy DVD commentary on part 2 [DVD]. Los Angeles: Universal Pictures.
- Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale. Back to the Future: Featurette [DVD]. Los Angeles: Universal Pictures.
- Walk a Mile in McFly's Shoes
- Whirled Series: Did the 1989 film 'Back to the Future II' predict that the Florida Marlins would win the 1997 World Series?
- 11 Predictions That Back to the Future II Got Right