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Robert Zemeckis
Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Mary Steenburgen
Writing Credits:
Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale

Marty goes back to 1885 to save Doc in the Old West.
Rated PG.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French DTS 5.1
Spanish DTS 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 118 min.
Price: $49.98
Release Date: 10/20/2015

Available Only as Part of “Back to the Future Trilogy: 30th Anniversary Edition”

• Q&A with Director Robert Zemeckis and Producer Bob Gale
• Audio Commentary with Producers Bob Gale and Neil Canton
• U-Control Interactive Feature
• “Tales from the Future: Third Time’s the Charm” Featurette
• “Tales from the Future: The Test of Time” Featurette
• “The Making of Back to the Future Part III” Featurette
• “Making the Trilogy: Chapter Three” Featurette
• “The Secrets of the Back to the Future Trilogy” Featurette
• Deleted Scene with Optional Commentary from Producer Bob Gale
• Outtakes
• “Designing Hill Valley” Featurette
• “Designing the Campaign” Featurette
• Photo Galleries
• Music Video
• FAQ About the Trilogy
• Trailer
• “Back to the Future: The Ride” Featurette


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Back to the Future Part III: 30th Anniversary Trilogy [Blu-Ray] (1990)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 20, 2015)

As I noted in my review of Back to the Future Part II, I initially loathed that flick. Because I so adored the original movie, I took in Future II on its opening night, only to leave the theater actively perturbed by what I saw.

Due to that experience, I felt much less excited when Back to the Future Part III hit screens in May 1990, a mere six months after the release of Future II. In fact, I didn’t even bother to see it for two or three weeks after its release, and even then I went only because I’d heard a few positive things about it.

Happily, my initial encounter with Future III went much more smoothly than my viewing of Future II. While Future III didn’t quite restore the series to the highs of the first movie, it certainly did a lot to rectify the flaws I saw in Future II, and it provided what appeared to be a sweet and satisfying ending to the saga.

In retrospect, I attacked Future II much too harshly, and I forgave too much in Future III. I guess I felt so relieved that Future III didn’t replicate the problems of Future II that I overlooked its flaws. 25 years since I first saw both films, I still prefer Future III to Future II, but the gap seems much smaller than in the past.

Note that by necessity, some of this synopsis will provide spoilers for the previous movies. If you haven’t seen those two and don’t want to know any of this, you’d better skip ahead right now!

As was also the case with Future II, Back to the Future Part III literally starts with the ending of the prior flick. Wacky inventor Emmett “Doc” Brown (Christopher Lloyd) winds up in the Old West, but he appears doomed to a bad end. His teen pal Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) decides he needs to rescue his friend, so he leaves 1955 with the help of that era’s Doc and zooms back to 1885.

Marty provides the necessary information to get Doc out of hot water. A dispute will develop between Doc and Buford “Mad Dog” Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson), an ancestor of our moronic friend Biff. While it seems simple for Doc to get out of town and avoid trouble, the situation conspires to keep him where he stands.

One major element develops when Doc meets the new schoolmarm, Clara Clayton (Mary Steenburgen). The two instantly fall for each other, which creates a dilemma for Doc, as he plans to return to his own era in 1985 but doesn’t want to lose Clara.

In addition, Doc and Marty need to figure out the technical elements needed to get back to the future. Due to a rupture, the DeLorean runs out of gas and they have no other vehicle that can easily zoom to the requisite 88 miles per hour. III follows all of these issues and tosses in a few additional bits as well.

As I noted, after my immense disappointment with Future II, I found Future III to offer a substantially more satisfying adventure. It brought back the sweeter and lighter tone of the first flick and managed to seem somewhat different, even as it reprised many of the same elements.

Future II felt like the work of people who tried too hard to bludgeon us with action, whereas Future III came across as more natural and relaxed. It also provided an actual ending, something absent from Future II’s cliffhanger.

All of those points remain true, but my enthusiasm seems a little lower after 25 years. I now see the positives of Future II more clearly, and the negatives of Future III also become more apparent.

Mainly, a moderate sense of weariness enters the trilogy with Future III. The first film enjoyed a terrific sense of spark and vivacity, while Future II steamrolled us with its own dark energy. Future III comes across as a little logy at times, as if all involved saw the end in sight and limped across the finish line.

Fox seems especially drained here. To be sure, he still does a nice job as Marty, but the actor appears more than ready for the trilogy to finish and allow him to move on with his life. Since they shot Future III almost immediately after they finished Future II, I can understand Fox’s modest weariness, however.

Even with this somewhat low-key tone, I still think Future III works pretty well, and it boasts one significant addition: the presence of Steenburgen. Always a refined and dignified actress, she brings great warmth and heart to Clara, and she helps add some spark to the proceedings.

Future II offered no significant new characters not performed by actors previously established in the series. Fox and Wilson did all the key new roles.

With Clara, Future III provides an important personality not seen in the prior movies, and she brings weight and sweetness to her performance. Without Steenburgen, Future III probably would have remained entertaining, but she helps make it more memorable.

Despite a few weaknesses, Back to the Future Part III concludes the trilogy on a satisfying note. It wraps up the characters and scenarios in a smooth and rewarding manner, as it generally seems appropriately light and lively. It doesn’t better the first flick, but Future III nonetheless gives us a likeable and entertaining movie.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B- / Audio B+ / Bonus B+

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 2015 Blu-ray compare to the 2010 release? Both are completely identical, as the 2015 set simply reuses the 2010 transfer.

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”.

What does that mean? It means we learn about connections among all three Future flicks. We see how elements reflect and link to each other. I like this extra, as it gives us a good feel for the hints and “call backs” found through the series.

Under Tales from the Future, two new featurettes appear. We see “Third Time’s the Charm” (17:07) and “The Test of Time” (17:00). In these, we hear from Zemeckis, Fox, Gale, Thompson, Steenburgen, Canton, Lloyd, executive producers Steven Spielberg, Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy, production designer Rick Carter, key makeup artist Kenny Myers, costume designer Joanna Johnston, associate producer Steve Starkey, mechanical effects supervisor Michael Lantieri, replica car owner J Ryan, director of photography Dean Cundey and actors Marc McClure, Claudia Wells and James Tolkan,

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.

A warm and satisfying conclusion to the trilogy, Back to the Future Part III seems like a solid film. It falters at times, but it usually maintains a nice sense of heart and spirit, and it ends matters smoothly. The Blu-ray comes with generally good picture and audio as well as some informative supplements. Like the first two movies, I think this could be a better Blu-ray, but it’s still more than acceptable.

Note: This film can be purchased as part of Back to the Future: 30th Anniversary Trilogy, a boxed set that also includes the first two movies and a bonus disc. I like all three flicks, so I felt happy to pick up the boxed set.

To rate this film, visit the original review of BACK TO THE FUTURE PART III