The other day on Facebook someone posted some screenshots from Back to the Future II with the caption “Marty McFly just showed up in a Delorian.”
Shortly thereafter, another poster pointed out that the screenshot was doctored, and that the actual date of McFly’s arrival in his own future is still a couple of years away: October 21, 2015.
Which doesn’t alter the fact that the movie is dated, both literally and figuratively.
The website 11 Points has a couple of articles about the movie:
- 11 Predictions that Back to the Future Part II Got Right
- 11 Predictions That Back to the Future Part II Got Wrong
Dated science fiction is nothing new. I’m sure George Orwell, writing in in 1940s, thought 1984 was impossibly far away.
That’s the year I graduated from high school.
Arthur Clarke very cleverly predicted we would have an orbiting space station by 2001. But it’s not wheel-shaped, doesn’t have artificial gravity, and isn’t used as a way station for moon trips.
All of these are examples of why dates in science fiction are a bad idea.
In his novel Contact, Carl Sagan gets it right. There’s no date in that book. It could happen tomorrow. In the movie version, however, Robert Zemeckis unfortunately nailed a potentially timeless story down to a specific time by casting Bill Clinton as the president of the United States.
Pardon me while I go off on a rant: In the book, the president of the U.S. is a woman. Lines that in the book belong to the president are, in the movie, given to Angela Basset, who plays the White House chief of staff. So Zemeckis (who also directed the Back to the Future movies) passed up the opportunity to cast a black woman as president of the U.S. in favor of Bill Clinton. Booo.
Where was I…Oh, yes, dates.
Now, there’s not a lot you could do about Back to the Future II, because if teen Marty leaves the 1980s and arrives in a future where he’s in his 40s, there’s a limited number of future years in which that story could take place. But Orwell and Clark…they should have left the numbers off.
Had Orwell and Clarke omitted the numbers from their books, as Sagan did, those stories could still be read today as taking place in the future, just like Contact. Unless, of course, Robert Zemeckis had gotten his hands on them.