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Back To The Future – 30th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray Review)

Back-To-The-FutureGreat Scott! In 1985 Director Robert Zemeckis, Executive Producer Steven Spielberg and Producer/Screenwriter Bob Gale embarked on a three-part journey through time that broke box-office records worldwide and catapulted Back to the Future into one of the most beloved trilogies in motion picture history.  In 1989, the filmmakers gave us a glimpse of the future in Back to the Future Part II as Marty McFly and Doc Brown traveled to 2015…or, if our calculations are correct, October 21, 2015, to be exact.  “The Future” has finally arrived.  Now, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment celebrates this once-in-a-lifetime date, as well as the 30th Anniversary of the groundbreaking first film, with three new releases debuting on October 20, 2015.  Experience the future all over again with the Back to the Future 30th Anniversary Trilogy! Join Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox), Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) and a time traveling DeLorean for the adventure of a lifetime as they travel to the past, present and future, setting off a time-shattering chain reaction that disrupts the space time continuum! From filmmakers Steven Spielberg, Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, this unforgettable collection features hours of bonus features and is an unrivaled trilogy that stands the test of time.

Back to the Future 2

Series 

These films need no silly introduction or synopsis.  If you’ve not seen them before, I highly doubt you’re coming to read my Blu-ray review of the 30th Edition set that is the second release of it on the format.  Back To The Future and its two sequels are some of the most beloved films of all time.  Oddly, its one series from the pre-modern era (Where sequels are generally good movies) that the follow ups made just as big a splash or cultural impact as the first film did.  While the first film looms largely on top of the other two, I really don’t think it matters because the incredibly fun journey we take and those characters we go on it with.

Marty’s original 1955 time traveling expedition is my personal favorite of the series.  Its also one of my favorite films of all time.  The film has had a big impact on my life and its one that I’ve always held on to fondly.  I remember the moment I first caught glimpse of it.  It was at my cousin’s house as they had rented it on VHS back in the 80s and my parents had come to pick me up as they were starting to watch it.  I was for some reason taken with Marty playing guitar and blowing up the big speakers and then skateboarding on the back of cars.  He was SO damn cool.  And then that car, woooo that was hot.  I didn’t get to see much after Marty went back, but I asked my parents to rent it for me ASAP.

That first movie is just so perfect.  Its quick, its fun, its got great characters, performances and lines.  A key element to the first film that I honestly think is a missing element in the other two is Crispin Glover.  The original film may be Marty’s adventure with his pal Doc Brown, but once you’ve gotten past that, you’ll see that the arc of the film belongs to George McFly.  Its his film and Glover’s performance really winds up and charges the original Back To The Future film to make it what it is.  If anything, none of these films are really ever about Marty (Part II is about Biff and the third belongs to Doc Brown).  Marty is more the role of the helper or observer, fashioning him to be the 1980s Doctor Who.

Back To The Future 6

Iconic as the series may be, it was never intended to be a series.  But, the public took the joke ending as a cliffhanger and we received two more to make a trilogy.  It was a big deal when this went into production that they were being shot back to back.  What happened was their script was gigantic and needed to be sliced in half because nobody was going to sit through a four hour Back To The Future film.  The second film was a very big deal upon release and people were looking forward to what the future was going to look like.  And the big secret would be that only a third of the film would take place in that future.  It would be a quick instant impact punch that wouldn’t overstay its welcome.

Back To The Future Part II has a much more complicated plot with a lot of hole in it.  But, you’d be lying to yourself if you didn’t find it to be a whole lot of fun.  It does get into some territory in the alternate 1985 that sort of goes off the rails from what the series is, and becomes really bleak and not a lot of fun.  However, there is a sense of suspense and urgency that comes with it to craft its own sort of thing.  Once we get back to revisit the first film from another prospective, it melds that darkness of alternate ’85 with the fun of the first film.  It pulls at our nostalgia for that film and makes an incredible romp with it.  And, the film carries a hell of a cliffhanger.

The second film in the series winds up being pretty darn iconic in its own right.  Its wild look at a 1980s-centric future has been something we’ve been poking fun at, quoting and talking about for decades.  Seriously, people won’t shut up about hoverboards.  When I was younger, I used to claim it as my favorite entry.  And I think I was always drawn to darker chapters in a series for something reason (Always looking for that Empire Strikes Back entry).  Nowadays, though, its clear to me how much better the first film is than this one.  I still enjoy the heck out of it, but its probably my least favorite of the three.  Please know that I’m saying that as someone who loves the film.

Back to the Future 7

On the opposite end of my youth, the third film was always my least favorite as a kid.  I think that holds true for much of the fandom.  It was the only one I got to see in the theater on their initial run.  But, this third entry, with time has grown on me…or even better, I’VE grown to see that its a clear second place in the trilogy.  It goes back to even more basics and returns to what made the first one tick so well; Marty and Doc Brown working together in a fish out of water scenario to return to 1985.  This time they are hampered with the constraints of being stuck in the old west.

The movie features a good relation story between the two friends.  Gone are a lot of the ancillary characters and crazy shenanigans that overstuff the first one.  Its also a funny take on the Western film genre.  It shows the dangers of that simplistic time and the challenges as well.  The humor that worked so well in the first film shines once again in this final bow.  More Hill Valley history is seen in this movie as had happened in the first film.  Its neat to see the clock tower going up and the early ancestors of the characters we had been following for two films.  It also leads to a really fun train action sequence to get them back home.

A funny thing with the sequels, is that they feel so in tune and in line with the first movie, like it was always planned.  However when you go back to the first film after them, there is so much that you thought was going to be there that isn’t present.  They do such a good job with that stuff.  For instance, the whole “Nobody calls me chicken” bit was not introduced until Part II.  The character of Needles wasn’t a thing until Part II either.  Its a really terrific achievement that those two convince you of truths of the universe that were never true or introduced until they made the films.

Back To The Future is a series beloved by so many.  I’m so damn glad they’ve kept it at this trilogy though and not tacked more on.  I’d honestly prefer a remake over additional entries in this canon.  It would have been fun to remake it and have it come out this year, where a teen from 2015 travels back to 1985 to see his parents.  That could have been a lot of fun.  You don’t need to repeat the original, just the concept of traveling back 30 years in time to see your parents in high school.  This wouldn’t take anything away from the original either.  I dunno, sounds like fun to me.  Anyway, yes, the “Power of Love” for this franchise is well documented and well deserved.  Happy 30th Back to the Future and Happy 2015 to Jaws 19.

Back to the Future 5

Video 

Encoding: VC-1 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail:  Right off the top, this is the exact same transfer featured in 2010’s 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray set.  Nothing has changed.  Its still got the same old VC-1 encoding to it.  And, you know what, that’s not a bad thing.  Those films looked terrific.  Pearing around at some opinons, they also managed to accurately replicate the theatrical look to the films, which is the way I personally prefer my Blu-rays to look…as they were intended when they debuted in the theater.

Depth:  Depth is really terrific here.  Every environment gives plenty a scenes of space and depth.  Character move freely and don’t feel latched upon the room they occupy.  Movements are very cinematic and smooth.

Black Levels:  Blacks are pretty deep and rich.  Darker scenes impressively don’t get heavily grainy, which is something that can tend to happen from films of this era.  No detail is hidden and no crushing on display at all here in this transfer.

Color Reproduction: Colors are perfectly represented here.  The 1980s stuff has the opportunity to go crazy, but its restrained here and kept to a natural look while still being flashy.  Everything is bold and rich in its appearance.  Whites fare very well too. 

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones hold a natural look.  Detail is quite impressive.  You can see some make-up lines, wrinkles and even make out the prosthetic facial latex on the characters to make them age.  Its doesn’t make these state of the art for the time groundbreaking effects bad or distracting, but if you’re looking for it, its there.

Noise/Artifacts:  There is a nice layer of grain.

Back to the Future 4

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD MA, French 5.1 HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French

Dynamics:  This trilogy contains the same exact audio tracks and mixes used in the previous release of the film (The 25th Anniversary Blu-ray set).  That said, that’s again a good thing, as these are some fantastic 5.1 tracks that spruce up the films and make them sound fresh and new again.  That lightning striking the clock tower on November 5th, 1955 never sounded so bad ass.

Low Frequency Extension:  Going back in time, gun shots, crashing into manure, Huey Lewis & The News and experiments gone awry all feature a nice rumble from your subwoofer.  Its perfectly used here as its never overbearing and never overdone.

Surround Sound Presentation: These are some fun tracks.  Movements and character/action placement is incredibly accurate.  The rear channels also get in on the fun from time to time when called upon. 

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is crisp, loud and clear.

Back to the Future 3

Extras 

Back To The Future – 30th Anniversary Edition comes with UltraViolet Digital Copies of each film.  It also feature much much MUCH improved packaging from the previous edition.  That shit was a nightmare and had to come with instructions on how to remove the discs.

Please note – The discs featuring the films are identical to the 2010 release, meaning it has all the same bonus features.  The only thing new here is the bonus 4th disc that has all new features.  So I’m going to start with the new disc because that’s all the difference in the sets.

Disc 4 – Bonus Disc

2015 Message From Doc Brown (HD, :45) – As seen all over the web before the release, Christopher Lloyd reprises his role to reiterate his message at the end of the third film about future predictions made in the second film.

Doc Brown Saves The World! (HD, 9:38) – Doc Brown makes a video for Marty in which he projects the world ending in 2045.  He goes over inventions from Part II and talks how they play a part in the end of the world.

Outatime: Restoring The DeLorean (HD, 22:00) – A group of folks get together with Bob Gale and restore the DeLorean to its look in the films.

Looking Back To The Future (HD, 45:42) – A mini doc telling the story of the first film with a lot of archival interviews.

Back To The Future The Animated Series (HD, 23:24/23:08) – “Brothers” (Season 1, Episode 1), “Mac the Black” (Season 2, Episode 1)

2015 Commercials 

  • Jaws 19 Trailer (HD, 1:28)
  • Hoverboard Commercial (HD, 1:06)

Disc 1 – Back To The Future (1985)

Audio Commentary

  • Q&A Commentary with Director Robert Zemeckis and Producer Bob Gale
  • Feature Commentary with Producers Bob Gale and Neil Canton

U-Control

Deleted Scenes w Optional Commentary (HD, 10:44)

Tales From The Future: In The Beginning… (HD, 27:24)

Tales From The Future: Time To Go (HD, 29:54)

Tales From The Future: Keeping Time (HD, 5:43)

Archival Featurettes

  • The Making Of Back To The Future (HD, 14:28)
  • Making The Trilogy: Chapter One (HD, 15:30)
  • Back To The Future Night (HD, 27:10)

Michael J Fox Q&A (HD, 10:20)

Behind-The-Scenes

  • Original Makeup Tests (HD, 2:17) 
  • Outtakes (HD, 2:49) 

Nuclear Test Site Sequence with Optional Commentary (HD, 4:12) 

Photo Galleries – “Photo Galleries”, “Additional Storyboards”, “Behind-the-Scenes Photographs”, “Marketing Materials”, “Character Portraits”

Huey Lewis & The News “Power Of Love” Music Video (HD, 6:27) 

Theatrical Teaser Trailer (HD, 1:24)

Disc 2 – Back To The Future Part II (1989)

Audio Commentary

  • Q&A Commentary with Director Robert Zemeckis and Producer Bob Gale
  • Feature Commentary with Producers Bob Gale and Neil Canton

U-Control

Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary (HD, 5:45)

Tales From The Future: Time Flies (HD, 28:37)

The Physics of Back To The Future With Dr. Michio Kaku (HD, 8:25) 

Archival Featurettes

  • The Making of Back To The Future Part II (HD, 6:40)
  • Making The Trilogy: Chapter Two (HD, 15:30)

Behind-The-Scenes

  • Outtakes (HD, :49)
  • Production Design (HD, 2:55)
  • Storyboarding (HD, 1:29) 
  • Designing The Delorean (HD, 3:31) 
  • Designing Time Travel (HD, 2:41) 
  • Hoverboard Test (HD, :58) 
  • Evolution of Visual Effects Shots (HD, 5:42) 
  • Photo Galleries – “Production Art”, “Additional Storyboards”, “Behind-the-Scenes Photographs”, “Marketing Materials”, “Character Portraits”

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:21)

Disc 3 – Back To The Future Part III (1990)

Audio Commentary

  • Q&A Commentary with Director Robert Zemeckis and Producer Bob Gale
  • Feature Commentary with Producers Bob Gale and Neil Canton

U-Control

Deleted Scene with Optional Commentary (HD, 1:18)

Tales From The Future: Third Time’s The Charm (HD, 17:07)

Tales From The Future: The Test of Time (HD, 17:00)

Archival Featurettes

  • The Making of Back To The Future Part III (HD, 7:32)
  • Making The Trilogy: Chapter Three (HD, 16:20)
  • The Secrets of the Back To The Future Trilogy (HD, 20:41) 

Behind-The-Scenes

  • Outtakes (HD, 1:35) 
  • Designing the Town of Hill Valley (HD, 1:08)
  • Designing the Campaign (HD, 1:18) 
  • Photo Galleries – “Production Art”, “Additional Storyboards”, “Behind-the-Scenes Photographs”, “Marketing Materials”, “Character Portraits”

ZZ Top “Double Back” Music Video (HD, 4:09)

FAQs About The Trilogy

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:18)

Back To The Future: The Ride (HD, 31:06) 

Back To The Future 1

Summary 

Here we go, yes, this 30th Anniversary Blu-ray set of the Back To The Future Trilogy is a better release than the 2010 edition and the best release the films have ever seen on any format.  But this jump is essentially better casing and a bonus disc.  Those who already own the original set probably will be ok with holding on to that one.  Now, if they were to do an edition with all of the Eric Stoltz footage, now THAT would be worth double dipping on the same format (Even over a new transfer imo).  If you haven’t owned the set on Blu-ray yet (If you’re a fan, I’d be shocked if you didn’t), this is the one to pick up.  This is one of the most beloved series of films ever, and the characters and adventure holds up over any sort of obstacles dating could try to throw at it.  Its the entertaining family and generational story that conquers over all and makes Back To The Future the incredible trilogy that it is.  Kick up the “Power of Love” and grab yourself a copy.

Back-to-the-Future-Blu-ray

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

2 Responses to “Back To The Future – 30th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Brian White

    Great coverage of this release!

    Don’t hate me for asking this, but I need to know. The former box set of this series only came with SD itunes files of each film. In this one, am I right in thinking that Universal gives out both the UV HD file and the itunes HD file like all their other current releases?

  2. Brandon Peters

    Yes, this is HD