Sunday, 18 October 2015

Book Review - Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History

By Michael Klastorin and Randal Atamaniuk

Published by Titan Books

"Great Scott! Few films have made an impact on popular culture like the Back to the Future trilogy. This deluxe, officially licensed book goes behind the scenes to tell the complete story of the making of these hugely popular movies and how the adventures of Marty McFly and Doc Brown became an international phenomenon.

Created in conjunction with Universal Pictures and fully endorsed by director/co-creator Robert Zemeckis and producer/co-creator Bob Gale, Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History is a stunning journey into the creation of this beloved time-traveling saga and features hundreds of rare and never-before-seen images from the set of the movies, along with concept art, storyboards, and other visual treasures.

The book also features exclusive, in-depth interviews with key cast and crewmembers— including Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale, Frank Marshall, Kathleen Kennedy, and more—and tells the complete story of the production of the movies, from the initial concept to the staging of iconic scenes, such as the Enchantment Under The Sea dance and the hoverboard sequence, and the film’s groundbreaking special effects. The book will also delve into the wider Back to the Future universe, exploring the animated TV show, Back to the Future: The Ride, Back to the Future merchandise, and much, much more."

I was 14 years old when I went to see back to the Future back in early 1986. I was getting into my movies then - there were plenty of fun, action-packed movies to see and travelling to the cinema on my own or with friends was becoming a regular thing. I saw a lot of movies but there were few that stuck with me beyond the 1980s, and one of these films was Back to the Future.

All three films are fun, entertaining and thrilling, the first film especially, and I made sure they were part of my movie collection from very early on. They've not lost any of their sparkle or magic and even though their predictions of the future weren't exactly spot on - it's their arrival date on the 21st October 2015 and sadly we still don't have flying cars, hoverboards or huge holographic sharks - it's an amazing look at the ages as seen through the lens of the 1980s.

And this is what the visual history gives us - a look back at the attitudes and techniques of the people who bought us these wonderful films. From the original, and very different, drafts of the project, through the original shoot with Eric Stoltz to Michael J Fox's inclusion and beyond. It covers the films and even the non-movie projects such as Back to the Future: The Ride and the animated series. Peppered with interviews and comments from the stars and crew, as well as stories about the sometimes troubled production there's an absolute treasure trove of information in here.

I'm a fan of the movies but I've never been a collector, so I can't tell you what in here that die-hard fans of the franchise might find new and enlightening, but personally I found a lot of the content to be full of facts and figures I wasn't aware of. The Eric Stoltz stories especially piqued my interest as I'd heard that there had been issues with his involvement but didn't fully realise the extent of it. This book fills in those blanks, and even though it doesn't appear to be anyone's fault there's a sense of relief when Michael J Fox is bought in.

Beyond this fascinating look at the early production the book then talks you through the rest of the primary film, and then the next two films. We get first drafts of scripts and ideas, early designs, storyboards and even internal memos and casting calls; it really is fascinating, A lot of the attention to detail is on the first film, and with good reason, but the next two films are discussed at length and there's a lot to learn. It's a great read.

But just reading the book isn't the only thing it's good for - it's interactive as well. Inside the book there are plenty of little treats that you can remove and have as keepsakes, reproduced mementoes of the movies. It starts with the photo of Marty and his brother and sister that you see in the movie - and when you tilt it the brother and sister vanish. Then there's a 'Save the Clock Tower' flyer, then a Hill Valley High School Tardy Slip... there's so much in here that you can take out, handle, read and simply geek out over it's wonderful. I didn't think it could get any better until I got to the back of the book and found a poster of Jaws 19 in the inside back cover. Now I can't decide whether it stays in the book or goes on my wall. Each item is
held in with simple glue that means you can tale it out to have a look and then pop it straight back in again.

Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History is a wonderful book and a great read. It fills you in with the details, the designs and the drama behind the making of the films and I had a lot of fun reading it. This book is what I hoped for in a 'Making Of' book. It was my density.

Highly recommended.