Back to the Future Part III appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was a good but inconsistent transfer.
Sharpness generally came across as tight and distinct. A few slightly soft shots occurred, but these didn’t pop up frequently or provide any significant concerns. The movie mostly looked well defined and accurate. As with the prior two flicks, jagged edges and shimmering caused no issues, but I noticed edge haloes at times, and those could be a minor distraction. Print flaws failed to appear.
Given the film’s earthy setting, III presented the most stable and natural palette of the trilogy. The colors consistently appeared distinctive and warm, and they demonstrated no signs of concerns like noise or bleeding. The movie featured more exteriors than either of the predecessor, which definitely helped make it the most satisfying in regard to color reproduction.
Black levels were dark and tight, and shadow detail looked appropriately heavy but not overly dense. Lose the edge haloes and this becomes a fine presentation. Even with that “enhancement”, this was a “B-” image.
When we moved to the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Back to the Future Part III, it seemed pretty similar to that of the prior two flicks. Much of the audio remained focused in the front channels, but the imaging spread nicely throughout the movie. Elements blended together cleanly and moved across the spectrum neatly and accurately. The surrounds consistently presented a good sense of environment and kicked into gear effectively during the louder scenes; they worked especially well during the movie’s train-based climax.
Audio quality sounded better than ever here. Speech seemed natural and crisp, and I noticed no problems related to edginess or intelligibility. Music appeared bright and lively, as the score demonstrated nice clarity and good depth. Effects also came across as distinct and accurate, and they showed solid bass punch when appropriate. Compared to today’s movies, the audio of Back to the Future Part III was dated, but I felt the sound seemed quite positive for its era, and it continued to succeed 25 years after the fact.
How does the Blu-ray compare to the DVD version? Visuals appeared tighter and smoother, while audio came across as more vivid and full. The Blu-ray could’ve been better in terms of transfer, but it still topped the DVD without much trouble.
The Blu-ray mixes old and new supplements, 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. This comes from a session at the University of Southern California, as DVD producer Laurent Bouzereau hosts a conversation with the filmmakers. By far the shortest of the three Q&As, this one lasts a mere 30 minutes, and it seems more lackluster than the other two.
Not that Zemeckis and Gale don’t offer some useful information, as they cover a mix of good topics. They relate various facts about the production as well as their thoughts about the series as a whole and its legacy. The track seems too short to be tremendously notable, but it still gives us some nice facts about the third film.
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. As with their tracks for the first two films, Gale heavily dominates this one; though Canton chimes in a little more frequently than in the past, I can’t imagine he talks more than five percent of the time here.
As always, this track generally acts as a repository for information not heard elsewhere, so a lot of the information Gale covers falls into the “trivia” category. But that doesn’t mean the material fails to become involving and interesting, as Gale provides a nice traipse through the production. He gets into a myriad of different issues and lets us know many compelling factoids that add to our appreciation of the flick. For instance, we learn of one personality they tried to land for a cameo. As with prior commentaries, this one suffers from a few too many empty spaces, but it still seems engaging and useful.
For our first video-based supplement, we go back to 1990. A featurette from that period, The Making of Back to the Future Part III fills seven minutes, 32 seconds with movie clips, images from the set, and interviews. We receive remarks from director Robert Zemeckis, actors Michael J. Fox, Mary Steenburgen and Thomas F. Wilson, producer/writer Bob Gale, and producer Neil Canton. Although it shows too many film snippets, the program actually packs a fair amount of good information. It includes some nice behind the scenes images and gives us a quick but moderately useful glimpse of the production. Despite its brevity and promotional focus, the featurette still merits a look.
Newly created, Making the Trilogy: Chapter Three takes 16 minutes and 20 seconds. As with the two prior chapters, it mostly shows film shots and interviews; we hear from Zemeckis, Gale, and Fox. Only approximately the first half of “Chapter Three” addresses the production of III, and it includes a cursory discussion of the hectic schedule caused by the almost-simultaneous creation of the two sequels.
The second part of “Chapter Three” acts as something of a valedictory statement for the trilogy. We get comments on the films’ impact and success and what they meant to the participants. Added together, the three chapters of “Making the Trilogy” don’t offer a great look at the series, but they seem reasonably entertaining and informative.
Next we find a single deleted scene that lasts one minute, 18 seconds. It features Buford Tannen and Marshal Strickland, and it definitely deserved to be cut, as it seems way too dark for this flick. You can watch the deleted scene with or without commentary from producer Bob Gale. He conveys the reason for its omission.
Additional unused footage appears in the Outtakes area, which runs one minute, 35 seconds seconds. I usually don’t care for gag reels, but this one tosses in some fairly funny stuff. It’s not quite up to the standards of the first disc’s amusing outtakes section, but it beats the tepid material found on II.
After this we locate two short featurettes. Designing the Town of Hill Valley lasts only one minute, eight seconds as Bob Gale chats about the evolution of the location. He covers the basics of the set but doesn’t give us enough specifics to make this a very useful piece.
Designing the Campaign (1:18) also features Gale, and he goes through the different advertising concepts for all three movies, with an emphasis on the first one. The images of the rejected posters are cool to see, but otherwise, this featurette seems pretty insubstantial.
Within Photo Galleries, we break into five domains. These cover “Production Art” (15 frames), “Additional Storyboards” (50), “Behind the Scenes Photographs” (154), “Marketing Materials” (28) and “Character Portraits” (80). These add up to a good collection of elements.
Music videos for songs from films usually blow, and the clip for ZZ Top’s Doubleback doesn’t alter that impression. It integrates the Top into shots from the movie – or the other way around – and it does so really crudely. The song’s nothing special, and the video seems cheap and dull.
The Secrets of the Back to the Future Trilogy runs 20 minutes and 41 seconds. Hosted by Kirk Cameron (!), this program apparently was created to promote III. It features questions about various issues, and we see lots of shots from the set to depict some of the “secrets”. These include the effects that brought the hoverboards to life, the physical strains of the shoot, and the creation of the train scene from III.
We also hear short interview snippets from Zemeckis, Fox, Thomas F. Wilson, Steenburgen, Neil Canton, Gale, visual effects supervisor Ken Ralston, and supervising model maker Steve Gawley. Much of the material appears elsewhere, and the program seems too puffy and promotional to offer anything terribly worthwhile, but at least the behind the scenes images provide some good pieces.
For some text information, we go to FAQs About the Trilogy. Composed by Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis, this question and answer series goes through a lot of interesting issues related to the series. Most of them deal with time paradox concerns, and the Bobs reply openly and amusingly to the problems in this fun extra. Some of this repeats information found in “Secrets” and elsewhere, but the “FAQ” offers a reasonable amount of new material.
We find the film’s theatrical trailer as well as a look at Back to the Future: The Ride. This splits into two areas; “Lobby Monitor” (15:00) and “The Ride” (16:05). The first shows what you saw when you waited in line for the attraction, and “Ride” lets you check out footage you viewed right before and during the experience itself. Of course, the ride doesn’t work as well without the motion simulator elements in the actual cars, but this is still a good way to remember a fun attraction.
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. These tend to point out small tidbits we otherwise might not notice. Although the remarks pop up somewhat infrequently, they add some good information.
Two other components are new to “U-Control”. We find “storyboard comparisons” for five 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 five 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”.
The programs look at taking the series into Western territory, sets and locations, costumes and period details, cast and performances, story/character areas, various effects, and the series’ legacy. Nothing revelatory comes out here, but the last two “Tales” featurettes act as a nice complement to the rest of the extras.