When I think of an example of an excellent sequel, two movies immediately come to mind. The first being The Godfather Part II and the second is Back to the Future Part II. To most of us, both are great representations of how sequels should be done, and I'm so glad they were made. Due to the success and praise of these movies, I was pretty surprised to find that the Back to the Future Part II wasn't originally part of the plan.
I know, right? In a 2010 interview with Empire Magazine (which was dug up by the awesome people at Giant Freakin Robot), writer and director of the series, Robert Zemeckis, co-writer and producer Bob Gale, and Executive Producer Steven Spielberg spoke in-depth on all three movies in the trilogy. It turns out, the three only started working on making a sequel after studios saw the first film turn into a blockbuster. He stated:
We’d never designed the first Back to the Future to have a sequel. The flying car at the end was a joke, a great payoff. We thought this would be really hard to unravel and do again. But when you make a movie that’s as successful as Back to the Future, it becomes this piece of corporate real estate. It becomes bigger than you as a filmmaker. You’re basically given a decision: we’re making a sequel, do you want to be involved in it or not?
I can't even imagine living in a world in which the first Back to the Future ends with Doc Brown flying away in the DeLorean and then...nothing. No Griff! No instant pizza! NO HOVERBOARDS! Terrible.
When Zemeckis and co-writer Bob Gale got on board with the idea of a sequel and started writing, the timeline jump were different from the ones we know and love today. Gale said:
I wrote the first version of the script pretty much on my own because [Zemeckis] was off making Roger Rabbit. The third act of the movie, rather than going back to 1955, took Marty to 1967. Biff ended up with the sports almanac in 1967 because I thought it would be cool to do the ’60s. George McFly would have been a college professor, Lorraine is a flower child. Let’s do this stuff in the ’60s and see what we could do with that.
That's a pretty interesting timeline that I hadn't considered. Don't get me wrong, I love Part II as is, but it would have been cool to see George and Lorraine in yet another stage of their lives.
I would say that the only place the sequel dips is in the darker, alternate 1985 where George is dead. As a kid, that part scared the crap out of me. As an adult, I now know that it was just a smart Hollywood move. According to Gale, the change came about after the issues they faced with Crispin Glover.
Crispin Glover decided he wanted all sorts of things that were way out of line for an actor at this point in his career. He wouldn’t budge so we said, “Okay, fine, we’ll make the movie without him.” So the whole idea of this alternative 1985 where George is a tombstone, really came about because we knew we had Lea Thompson, we knew we had Tom Wilson, but we didn’t have Crispin Glover. Let’s create this weird world where George McFly is dead.
If you're fan of the series, I highly recommend checking out the original interview because it is chock full of interesting facts like this. The last thing that I have to mention is the hint towards Part III's plot on Doc Brown's shirt.
Great Scott! Take a look at those trains and horses. Awesome.
So let's all take a moment to be glad that no one has to jump into a DeLorean to ensure that these sequels and the fictitious hoverboards were made. Unless that's happening right now. In which case, push that bad boy up to 88 MPH and good luck, our weary time traveler friend!