30 April, 2009

Back to the Wrong Future

The Back to the Future trilogy is a great series of movies. I remember watching them as a kid and thinking how cool Michael J Fox was. Surely I could be as cool one day. This pipe dream prompted me to learn how to stand on a skateboard in the hopes that one day I could get to school by traversing my way through Cork on the back of random cars...

That never happened.

But I do still enjoy the movies and happily watch them again whenever they are rerun around Christmas time. I suppose the whole concept of time travel appeals to my nerdy nature, which is great. But that same nerdy nature has ruined Back to the Future 2 for me, because of a fatal plot hole. The whole second-half of the movie makes no sense when this plot hole is considered.

It goes like this...

Shortly after the time-travellers reach 2015 Jennifer falls asleep in the DeLorean and is picked up by the cops. On realising this, Marty and Doc go to Marty's future house to rescue Jennifer. Whilst they are gone, the old Biff, who has figured out about the time-machine, steals the DeLorean and travels back to 1955 to give his younger self the sports almanac. This is done in an effort to make himself filthy rich. Following this, the old Biff returns to 2015 and leaves the DeLorean back where Marty and Doc left it.

With me so far....? Good.

Next, Marty, Doc and Jennifer travel back to 1985 thinking all is well but they arrive to find that the past has completely changed and Biff runs the whole town. They have arrived in a 'rich Biff' reality. This is due to him becoming rich following a lucky streak of gambling, which we know is because he cheated with the help of the sports almanac. To make things worse for Marty, not only is Biff a millionaire but he has also married Marty's mother, Lorraine, and killed his father, George.

Does anything about those series of events strike you as being wrong?

OK.....if you haven't spotted it already here comes the plot hole...

Why does the past/future only change to the 'rich Biff' reality when Marty and the others travel back to 1985? It should have changed before they travelled back. Think about it. When the old Biff gives his younger self the sports almanac, he then travels back to 2015 and returns the DeLorean in what is still a 'poor Biff' reality. But that's wrong! The moment that he arrived in 2015, it should have automatically been a 'rich Biff' reality.

The implications of this small plot hole are massive.

The moment that the old Biff gives his younger self the sports almanac, all future scenarios would automatically become 'rich Biff' realities. That means that the 2015 future that the old Biff left would not exist anymore, meaning that it is highly unlikely that the future Marty and Doc were still trying to rescue Jennifer. In fact, we find out that in the 'rich Biff' 1985 reality, Doc has gone crazy and has been institutionalised. Based on this, it seems doubtful that he would build the time-machine and team up with Marty as had happened originally in the 'poor Biff' 1985 reality.

Of course, no time machine means no DeLorean in 2015 for the old Biff to steal. Which means that Biff can't give himself the almanac and become filthy rich thus creating the 'rich Biff' reality. This creates a paradox in which the 'rich Biff' reality actually prevents the future creation of the same 'rich Biff' reality.

The universe will explode in 5, 4, 3, 2......

......or it could just mean that time travel in a 1980's sports car isn't possible.

Good movie though! :)


Chris (from Oz) said...

You're not thinking 5 dimensionally....

I like to think that Doc Brown was having a dumb period, and didn't realise it was impossible that the events had gone down as they had.

However, after he rescues his future wife near the end of the 3rd movie, he settles down, has a couple of kids, gets a clear head, thinks back and realises it was all impossible, so he hatches a plan to fix everything.

1. Together with the help of his wife and kids, he makes a new time machine out of a train.

2. They all jump to ~2016 to interrogate Biff senior for information, add flying circuits and invisibility to the train, and pick up some virtual reality machines.

3. They pop back to early 1985, and park the train with the invisible mode turned on (ala Star Trek 4).

4. He plants a back door into the designs for the original flux capacitor so that on the jump they took from the future to the evil 1985, the flux capacitor will overload, rendering the three occupants unconscious.

5. He then waits for the other versions of him, Marty and Jennifer to arrive back unconscious in 1985, and straps them into the virtual reality devices, wakes them up and plays the simulated "evil" 1985 to them.

6. As the simulation ends, he puts himself and Marty back into the delorean, and sends them on their way back to 1955, where they will correct Biff's error. His wife cares for poor unconscious Jennifer all night, placing her on the swing outside her house just before Marty arrives back from the Wild West the next morning. (Doc and Clara wouldn't leave her on the verandah the whole night!! They're nicer than that.) They also switch the fax in Jennifer's pocket to a blank piece of paper.

7. Doc then picks up his dog Einstein from his place, and hops back into the train with his family, following Marty's movements from the sky, and as Marty and Jennifer are standing by the train tracks, contemplating the loss of Doc, Doc flicks a remote control to cause the barriers on the train tracks to activate (he'd set up the remote system earlier), and then turns the train back to visible whilst playing loud bangs through the speakers to simulate having jumped from another time.

That's obviously what happened.

It explains:
1. Future-Biff's arrival back in the unaltered 2015
2. Why it looked like Doc had just arrived in 1985, but was claiming that he'd come back to collect his dog, but already had his dog with him.
3. Why Doc knew that Marty had his copy of the photo in front of the old clock destroyed. Doc was watching when Marty had arrived back in 1985 and got the Delorean smashed, so Doc quickly wrapped up his own copy of the photo to give as a present).
4. Why Doc decided to make a new time machine even though he'd previously decided they were bad.
5. Why the fax in Jennifer's pocket from the future was blank when she looked at it in 1985.
6. Doc's comment about the future not being written, and to make Marty's a good one. Doc was lying. The future is written - but he's hinting that there's a lot of work required to make sure everything lines up so as to not rip the fabric of the space-time continuum and destroy the entire universe.
7. Why the train track barriers activated at least 10 seconds before Doc supposedly jumped in from another time.

I mean, it's obvious isn't it ?

Isn't it ? I need to go lie down now.

rhiggs said...

Wow! Just wow!

That was brilliant!

You need to get talking to Robert Zemeckis about Back to the Future 4.....

Chris (from Oz) said...

Thanks, if you have Robert's number, I'll give him a call!

I'm sure he already had this sequence of events in mind though :)

The alternative is that Robert didn't think things though, and I don't want to hear a bad word said about the man.

Chris (from Oz) said...

I haven't got a reason though that the Doc in 1885 didn't remember figuring out in 1955 that he gets shot in 1885...

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