Completing the trilogy, Back to the Future Part III was filmed back-to-back with its predecessor Back to the Future Part II and shifts the action 70 years in the past in 1885. While intrinsically linked to the previous two films, Back to the Future Part III sits slightly apart because of the Western-themed atmosphere. Commercially it made $70m less than the middle film of the trilogy, but was still considering a success taking over $240m from a budget of $40m.
Directly proceeding Back to the Future Part II’s cliffhanger ending, we join Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox), once again stranded in 1955. He reunites with his old friend Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) and together they read a letter sent from the Doc from the future who is now stuck in 1885. Despite being told not to go back for him, they discover a tombstone for the Doc that says he was shot in the back by Mad Dog Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson) over a matter of $80. In order to save his friend Marty travels back to 1885 and accepts a duel with Tannen in place of the Doc.
Where Part II traded the character and heart of the original film for wonder and innovation, Back to the Future Part III does the opposite. Lloyd’s Doc Brown is suddenly given a love interest and some character depth. He slowly but surely navigates away from eccentric lonely inventor to a fully-fledged family man. Meanwhile, Marty is given the majority of the leg-work with regards to moving the narrative forward. His personal journey effectively ended in Part II and so the Doc gets the big arc¦ and the girl in this pseudo sci-fi Western.
A lot of the laughs and fun of Back to the Future Part III revolve around Western takes on the best scenes from the previous films. There’s the obligatory manure scene, as well as reference to the Clint Eastwood scene that alternative 1985 Biff is watching in the second film. They even manage to top the ending scene from the original film with a time travel machine that out ˜wows’ the Delorean.
The real key to the success of Back to the Future Part III however, is the satisfying way it wraps up everyone’s story lines and leaves no room for any further sequels. It’s unusual in this day and age of endless franchise reboots and re-imaginings that the Back to the Future trilogy has not been touched, perhaps because it’s hard to imagine anyone else playing the characters. There’s no point trying to improve upon perfection and as 1980s light action-adventure films go, there’s none better.