Back to the Future appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was a mostly good presentation but not an exceptional one.
Sharpness looked fairly positive. Occasional instances of softness occurred, and the image could look a bit “processed” at times, but overall definition seemed accurate. No instances of shimmering or jagged edges occurred, but some light edge haloes could be seen. Print flaws failed to create distractions.
Colors varied somewhat. The hues usually came across as reasonably vivid and bold, but they periodically seemed a little heavy. That concern occurred more than a few times for Eighties flicks, however, and it seemed acceptably inconsequential here. The colors were a little dense, but not badly so. Black levels appeared nicely deep and rich, while shadow detail was appropriately clear and not too thick. The image of Back to the Future didn’t excel, but it seemed more than satisfactory for a film of its era.
I found myself even more pleased with the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Back to the Future. When I saw the movie theatrically in 1985, the audio greatly impressed me. While it now seemed like nothing special compared to modern titles, the sound still worked quite well for the movie.
As one might expect of a moderately older flick, the soundfield largely favored the front spectrum. Within that realm, the audio showed good life and movement. The elements popped up in logical places and blended together fairly smoothly. Music also demonstrated nice stereo imaging.
As for the surrounds, they usually just reinforced the score and ambient sounds, but they came to life well when appropriate. The more intense action scenes at the end and also big sequences like the dance used the rear speakers well, and a few bits even manifested split surround information; for example, toward the conclusion, a helicopter zoomed effectively from rear right to rear left.
Although the soundfield seemed generally unspectacular, the quality of the audio held up well. Future suffered from some moderately weak dubbing at times, but the speech nonetheless sounded natural and distinct, with no issues related to edginess or intelligibility.
Effects came across as accurate and vivid. Those elements lacked distortion, and they packed a nice low-end kick when appropriate. For example, the rumble of the DeLorean showed fine bass response. Across the board, the music sounded quite good, and Alan Silvestri’s score demonstrated fine clarity and dynamic range; his work came across surprisingly well. Ultimately, Back to the Future presented a nice soundtrack that has aged pretty positively.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the original DVD? Audio showed stronger fidelity and oomph, while visuals offered improved clarity and accuracy. The Blu-ray became a good representation of the film.
The Blu-ray mixes old and new extras, and we start with an unusual form of audio commentary. Instead of a traditional screen-specific track, we hear a Q&A with Director Robert Zemeckis and Producer Bob Gale. Hosted by disc producer Laurent Bouzereau, this chat comes from a session at the University of Southern California, and it offers a nicely informative conversation.
Of course, it never becomes screen-specific, but the two Bobs cover a lot of good topics. We get notes about the film’s origins and long struggle to the screen as well as many issues related to the production and reactions to the final product. We get more info on the firing of Eric Stoltz as well as fun trivia like the changes the suits at Universal wanted. This session provides a very useful and engaging piece. (Note that this piece ends at around the 99-minute mark, so it doesn’t fill the entire length of the movie.)
A second audio commentary provides a more standard format. This one involves producers Bob Gale and Neil Canton, both of whom sit together for a running, screen-specific piece. At its start, Gale warns us to listen to it after we check out the disc’s other supplements, and that makes sense, as this track mostly functions as an elaboration on other topics. Actually, much of it delves into fun trivia bits, so don’t expect a thorough discussion of the film’s production.
That doesn’t mean that this commentary doesn’t offer a lot of solid information. Gale heavily dominates the track, as we hear very little from Canton. Gale tells us many fun tidbits about the production. He points out locations and goofs as well as issues related to the cast and their performances, among other issues. The commentary suffers from a few too many gaps, but as a big Future fan, I really enjoyed it.
For our first video-based supplement, we go back in time to 1985. A featurette from that period, The Making of Back to the Future fills 14 minutes and 28 seconds with movie clips, images from the set, and interviews. We receive remarks from director Robert Zemeckis, actors Michael J. Fox and Lea Thompson, special effects supervisor Kevin Pike, executive producer Steven Spielberg, singer/actor Huey Lewis, production designer Lawrence Paull, producer/writer Bob Gale, and composer Alan Silvestri.
Most archival featurettes stink, especially those clearly created for promotional purposes like this one. However, “Making” actually gives us a pretty solid examination of the project. It includes good basic notes about the script and the story and takes us through a mix of other elements. From Fox’s harried work schedule to the challenges of recreating the setting to the music, “Making” doesn’t paint a full picture, but it presents an entertaining program.
Made to accompany the film’s 1989 TV airing – and to promote the first sequel - Back to the Future Night goes for 27 minutes, 10 seconds. Hosted by Leslie Nielsen, we find notes from Zemeckis, Fox, Gale, Thompson, production designer Rick Carter and actor Thomas Wilson. We look at aspect of the films’ story and characters, sets and period details, visual effects, cast and performances, makeup, and related areas. Obviously “Night” exists for promotional reasons, but it comes with enough meat to make it worthwhile.
Created for the original DVD, Making the Trilogy: Chapter One takes up 15 minutes, 30 seconds as it fills in some of the blanks left by the prior show. It mostly shows film shots and interviews; we hear from Zemeckis, Gale, and Fox. We encounter a moderate amount of redundant information here, but some new details emerge, and since “Chapter One” offers some of the few shots of Eric Stoltz seen anywhere on this disc, it merits a look.
That’s right, you won’t see Eric Stoltz in the deleted scenes, but the clips offer some very entertaining material even without those famous outtakes. This area includes eight cut sequences, and they last a total of 10 minutes, 44 seconds. While I enjoyed all of them, I agreed that they should have been cut, with the exception of the peanut brittle shot; yeah, it’s redundant, since it just tells us info we already know about George, but at least it explains why the McFlys eat so much candy at dinner. (I always thought they did so just because they’re such losers.)
You can watch the deleted scenes with or without commentary from producer Bob Gale. He doesn’t tell us much more than the reasons for the excisions, but that’s good enough for me. None of the cut sequences seems significant, but all offer some fun material.
Additional unused footage appears in the Outtakes area. It runs two minutes, 49 seconds, and unlike the typical gag reel, it actually offers some amusing shots. Even the standard goofs seem more amusing here, as they generally provide something unusual, like Fox’s battle with a problem window.
We hear more from the actor during a feature called Michael J. Fox Q&A . He appears in eight little clips that fill a total of 10 minutes, 20 seconds. Fox adds some good notes about the different movies, and these pieces seem reasonably informative.
Next we find two minutes, 17 seconds of original makeup tests. We see examples for Doc Brown and the older versions of Biff and Lorraine. These offer a great look at the design process, especially since they include a little audio as well.
Under Nuclear Site Test Footage, we view a collection of storyboards that run a total of four minutes, 12 seconds. Here we see an alternate ending to the movie that uses a nuclear blast to send Marty back to 1985. It’s an interesting change but not as good as the climax found in the final film.
We can view the footage with or without commentary from Gale. He tells us how the scene would’ve fit into the film as well as why it wasn’t shot. Gale offers a mix of good info.
The “Photo Galleries” break into five smaller domains. These include “Production Art” (25 stills), “Additional Storyboards” (70), “Behind the Scenes Photographs” (76), “Marketing Materials” (39) and “Character Portraits” (74). All present good shots, though I like the alternate poster designs in “Marketing” best.
We find the film’s cool theatrical teaser trailer and we also get the music video for “The Power of Love” from Huey Lewis and the News. It mixes on-stage lip-synch footage of the band with a new Doc Brown-based story exclusive to the video. That side of it makes it a moderately entertaining piece and a nice addition to the set.
With U-Control, we get new elements – sort of. Its “trivia track” repeats info from a similar piece on the old DVD. A text affair, this one sporadically presents notes about the movie. We learn a lot of this information elsewhere; we hear that they originally planned to use a refrigerator as the time machine about 100 times throughout this disc. Nonetheless, the track points out some interesting bits at times, and it gives the dedicated fan some decent trivia.
Two other components are new to “U-Control”. We find “storyboard comparisons” for four scenes; these place art in the lower right part of the screen. They’re interesting, but it’d be nice to get more than just four of these.
“U-Control” finishes with “setups and payoffs picture in picture”. The disc bills this as our “visual guide to links and themes throughout the film trilogy”.
“Tales” examines the project’s roots and development, story/character areas, cast and performances, the tricked-out DeLorean and various effects, cinematography, period details and visual choices, stunts, sets and production design, editing, music, promotion and release. With more than an hour at its disposal, “Tales” covers the movie well. Some of the material repeats from elsewhere, but we find more than enough fresh material to turn this into an enjoyable collection..