October 20, 2015, by Guest Blogger

Welcome to the Future

Dr Liz Evans from our Department of Culture, Film and Media introduces Back to the Future Day. 

Those of you who haven’t been patiently waiting for today for the last 26 years may not realise that we’ve officially reached ‘The Future’. 21st October 2015 is Back to the Future Day, the day that Marty McFly and Doc Brown land in ‘Back to the Future Part II’ and discover a world of flying cars, self-drying clothes, self-tying shoe laces, Pepsi Perfect and, of course, Hoverboards.

Reaching the ‘future’ of science fiction films isn’t new. 29th August 1997 saw the arrival of Judgement Day from the ‘Terminator’ Series (well one of them), and was thankfully free of any robot rebellion. 2001 had a whole year to deliver intergalactic space travel and existential epiphanies.

In many ways these days are simply a good excuse to celebrate a particular film, especially if you’re a fan. Whilst other fandoms may be more prominent, ‘Back to the Future’ has long offered expansions of the trilogy’s storyworld. These glimpses into the fictional California town of Hill Valley offer fans like me a chance to suspend their disbelief and pretend, just for a moment, that fiction could be reality. When visiting Universal Studios Theme Park in LA I got more excited about seeing the famous Hill Valley square and a DeLorean (the trilogy’s iconic time machine) than I did any of the roller coasters. In August last year I got dressed in my best 1950s finery and actually went to Hill Valley thanks to Secret Cinema’s recreation at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Eleven months later I got to meet Marty and the Doc themselves, well Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd, at the London Film and Comic Con.

Such expansions and celebrations have only grown in number as the trilogy reached two key dates: the 20th anniversary of the original film’s release and the arguably more important 21st October 2015. Alongside the relatively standard behind-the-scenes documentary and books, Lego set and Monopoly, tie-ins have worked to create the illusion of Hill Valley 2015 in the real world of 2015. Rumour abound that Nike will soon release a real-world version of the self-tying trainers seen in the film; Pepsi have repackaged their standard drink in replica of the (non-existent) Pepsi Perfect bottle seen in the film; Universal Studios released a spoof trailer for Jaws 19. And of course, scientists at Lexus have been working on real, live hoverboards. There’s a knowing quality to these tie-ins – of course the real 2015 doesn’t match the fantasy presented in the film. But they’re a way for us to happily and willingly suspend our disbelief and pretend, just for a second, that it is.

But Back to the Future Day isn’t quite like the immersive expansion of Secret Cinema or the playfulness of the real world recreations. Ultimately it’s just a normal day, but to ‘Back to the Future’ fans, it’s so much more than that. We’ve caught up with Marty and the Doc’s adventures, we won’t be able to wait for Back to the Future Day any more. We’ve reached ‘the future’. And that’s heavy.

Image of Brick Lane street art: Garry Knight via Flickr.

Posted in Back to the FutureFandomFilm