Experience the future all over again with Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd in the Back to the Future trilogy, a dearly beloved Hollywood classic that has become an influential cultural icon and younger generations continue to discover. Celebrate the 35th Anniversary of the first original sci-fi comedy on 4K Ultra HD from Universal Studios Home Entertainment, featuring a trio of beautiful Dolby Vision HDR presentations, awesome Dolby Atmos tracks and a new assortment of bonus material on a bonus disc. The Ultimate Trilogy 4K UHD set is a Must-Own.
The concept of Back to the Future is deceptively simple, but something most people can easily relate to. Written by producer Bob Gale and director Robert Zemeckis, the entire plot revolves around this straightforward, nearly universal idea of hanging out with one's parents as teenagers and discovering they were drastically different from the adults they grew into. The masterful script conveys this without making it blatantly obvious, and the end result is practically perfect in its structure and delivery, starting with how quickly the story wins over audiences. Almost instantly, we identify with Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox), his ordeals at school and with the way he talks about his parents long before we meet them. While expressing what a downer adults are, Marty sums up the story's theme wonderfully when he thinks his mother must have been a boring, square, unhip nun.
With the help of legendary filmmaker Steven Spielberg, therein lies the brilliance of Back to the Future. The skeptical teen accidentally travels back in time to when his parents were of similar age. Although the reasoning behind Marty landing in 1955 is simple arithmetic, the period couldn't be any more ideal because the era essentially gave rise to teenagers, and it's the decade that originated rock 'n' roll. It also coincided with a popular trend of the 80s, of looking back to the 1950s with loving nostalgia. In that sense, the movie almost offers a fun and quirky remembrance of that generation, and the filmmakers throw in numerous cultural gags while Marty tries to repair the timeline he's disrupted in his travels. The classic film effectively combines fantasy and science fiction with elements of the teen comedy, creating a remarkably charming and memorable centerpiece of 80s pop culture. (Movie Rating: 5/5)
For the sequel, that close friendship between Fox's Marty and Christopher Lloyd's Doc Brown remains an integral part of the story, and they are, this time around, joined by Jennifer (Elisabeth Shue) since it also concerns her. The two friends grow closer than ever as they work together in trying to stop Biff Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson) from changing the course of history. Unlike its predecessor, which took a simple, straightforward approach with the time-traveling aspects, Zemeckis and Gale expand on the sci-fi themes and have some fun with the butterfly effect, throwing fans head-first into the paradoxes of the space-time continuum although somewhat innocently and ingenuously. While our heroes gain personal experience about altering the events of history, the Biff character and his family lineage also take on a more prominent role as bullies historically harassing the McFly family.
Although the direct follow-up doesn't quite live up to the original, it is nonetheless an entertaining continuation that can be enjoyed as a quirky homage to the science fiction genre with a comical twist on the consequences of time travel. I recall as a kid watching the VHS of the first movie with the bold letters "To Be Continued" right before the closing credits and imagining where the two friends would travel next. It was fun envisioning 30 years into the future, plunging into an alternate reality and then forced back to 1955. Part II is a delightful and amusing joyride while avoiding a time paradox. Logically, the fact that Marty and Doc accidentally interact with people of the past should be enough to leave an unpredictable impact on the future. But with endless gags, setups and payoffs to divert us from pondering such conundrums, we simply sit back and enjoy the silliness. (Movie Rating: 3.5/5)
If the first movie is a nostalgic look at 1950s pop culture and the sequel is an homage to the sci-fi genre, then Back to the Future Part III is, undoubtedly, a loving tribute to the western and the American frontier in general. As a devoted fan of the genre, this last concluding chapter ranks higher than its predecessor, and like the original exploring the decade of rock 'n' roll, this Zemeckis-Gale-Spielberg production has fun with the epoch that gave rise to science-fiction novels with several mentions of the French author Jules Verne. After watching the previous two, seeing this combination of fantasy meets the American West can seem a bit awkward and rather outrageous for some. However, that little historical tidbit being alluded to by Doc and his love interest, Clara (Mary Steenburgen), the plot feels right at home with the six-shooters, train robberies and damsels in distress.
Here, Marty also better understands that history repeats itself, which gives the filmmakers the opportunity for repeating the same running gags and setups, creating a funny feeling of déjà vu. For this genre enthusiast and staunch fanatic of the franchise, the best aspect of this final installment is watching a tongue-in-cheek encounter between the 50s romanticized view of the west and the more realistic portrayal of outlaws from Italian westerns. This is most apparent in Marty's silly cowboy outfit and how he's gawked at while walking through the streets of 1885's Hill Valley. Even funnier is Marty thinking the name Clint Eastwood universally epitomizes toughness, and a clever visual gag is the DeLorean driving directly into the movie screen at the drive-in. For his final journey across time, Marty not only travels into the past but literally jumps into the movies, making it a rowdy good time and an exciting conclusion to one of the coolest, oft-celebrated trilogies in motion picture history. (Movie Rating: 4/5)
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
Universal Studios Home Entertainment celebrates the 35th Anniversary of Back to the Future by offering fans a choice between three 4K Ultra HD box sets, starting with a trio of Best Buy exclusive SteelBooks and a limited edition gift set that includes a levitating Hoverboard replica exclusive to Target and Amazon. For this review, we look at the seven-disc digibook style package dubbed The Ultimate Trilogy, which includes a flyer with a code for Digital Copies and a brand new collection of special features on a separate Blu-ray disc. When redeeming said code, users are granted access to all three films on 4K Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos audio.
The package is shaped and opens much like a book with each page showing new artwork and pictures for each adventure. Those same pages serve as individual sleeves for each Region Free, triple-layered UHD100 disc and Region Free, dual-layered BD50 disc. They slides out by placing some slight pressure to the top and bottom, widening the mouth only a little. The inside is smooth and glossy to prevent the discs from scratching, and the whole package comes with a glossy, lightly-embossed, side-sliding slipcover. At startup, each goes straight to a screen with the usual options, music and full-motion clips of the special features.
At this point in time, it's becoming somewhat of a gag that fans revisit the classic Back to the Future trilogy every five years as a different anniversay collection with new artwork, supplements and on the latest home video format. However, this time around Universal Studios ensures the beloved franchise stands the test of time by reportedly performing a complete overhaul of the original 35mm camera negatives and remastering each film for brand-new 4K digital intermediates. With that said, the journey through the space-time continuum lands on Ultra HD with awesomely beautiful and often striking HEVC H.265 encodes that fly past previous Blu-ray editions and leave them forgotten to history.
Although not immediately apparent, the native 4K transfers boast excellent definition and clarity. Whether Marty narrowly escapes the clutches of bullies in the town square or rides the wild plains of the Old West, fine object and textural details are exceptional, from the unique features of Biff's black Ford Super Deluxe to Griff's heavily-modified BMW. The leaves of trees and blades of grass are distinct from a distance, the individual hairs are discretely sharp, and the grain in the aged wood of the saloon is unmistakable. Granted, a few sequences are softer than others, and various optical effects have not aged well while Part III still shows some very mild ringing around the edge of buildings, which is to be expected given the high-contrast photography. But overall, the resolution quality is an appreciable step-up with a very fine layer of visible grain throughout, giving each film a welcomed film-like characteristic.
More importantly, all three films benefit from a noticeable boost in contrast with daylight sequences, obviously, looking brighter and more vivid than in previous HD releases. The whites in many of the costumes from the past and the future are extraordinarily clean while the whites shining from various light fixtures are illuminate interiors scenes with a warm, natural glow. Added to that, specular highlights are absolutely spot-on, supplying the electrical sparks of the time-traveling visual effects with dramatic, eye-squinting brilliance, the metallic bodies of vehicles with a crisply tight, realistic sheen and the sun's rays breaking through the clouds with a beautiful, true-to-life radiance.
All the while, black levels are significantly richer with a more luxurious luster and superb gradational differences in the clothing, vehicles and various articles of clothing. Every nighttime scene and poorly-lit interiors are bathed in deep, velvety shadows with outstanding visibility in the darkest corners, providing the 1.85:1 image of all three films with lovely cinematic appeal and appreciable dimensionality.
The biggest upgrade in this Dolby Vision HDR presentation is the improved palette overall, one that washes over the first two movies, especially the 1950s scenes, with a wider, more vibrant array of primaries. Reds range from the dramatic candy cherry and crimson rose of posters, clothing and car accessories to deeper, fuller scarlets and ruby lipstick shades of Marty's iconic jacket and Doc's many gadgets. Greens are richly saturated and lively while blues vary from popping cobalt and navy gradients at night to the true cerulean and arctic tones of the daytime skies. The cinematography of the third film, of course, favors a warmer yellow and earthy brown gamut, showing a very pleasing variation of fiery oranges, attractive violets, royal magentas and hearty sepia accents mixed with a cool, gritty style. Facial complexions are quite revealing while appearing healthier with more lifelike textures across all three films.
Also, it is worth noting that this UHD edition of Back to the Future: Ultimate Trilogy features a HDR10+ metadata for those with the capabilities. However, as of this writing, we are not yet equipped to evaluate the quality of the said video format.
Back to the Future: 90/100
Back to the Future Part II: 84/100
Back to the Future Part III: 88/100
The sci-fi comedy franchise also flies into home theaters with highly enjoyable and terrifically satisfying Dolby Atmos soundtracks in all three films. As expected, being a dialogue-driven film, much of the action is spread across the screen and centered around character interactions. With splendid precision and intelligibility, the unique, distinctive inflections and utterances in Michael J. Fox's voice and the funny, high-strung tone in Christopher Lloyd's wacky scientist are crystal clear and distinct. Meanwhile, a surprisingly extensive and even far-reaching mid-range is extraordinarily dynamic with impressive acoustical details and good channel separation, never faltering between the high and mids during the loud time-traveling sequences. Movement and directionality of the background activity is highly engaging and convincing, especially when traveling in time, generating a broad, expansive soundstage.
Best of all, these immersive-audio alternatives offer a notable improvement over their DTS-HD MA counterparts with a better and slightly more palpable low-end. It's not a dramatic boost, but bass now provides a bit more weight and depth to the action and Alan Silvestri's iconic score. Likewise, various atmospherics more effectively and attractively employ the surrounds and rears with subtle discreteness. Some effects are impressively extended into the height channels in some places and during certain, key moments. Birds can be heard chirping in the distance, cars fly race through the skies, crickets sing in the open range and thunder loudly cracks directly above the listening area, wonderfully expanding the soundfield into an understated but nonetheless amusing hemispheric ambience. Silvestri's memorable, signature brass-style music also spreads evenly throughout the entire system, providing an awesomely engaging highlight to this UHD edition in these object-based mixes.
Back to the Future: 88/100
Back to the Future Part II: 90/100
Back to the Future Part III: 88/100
All the same set of bonus features are ported over from the previous Blu-ray versions, but this UHD edition features a seventh Bonus Disc with all new material to enjoy.
DISC ONE & TWO: Back to the Future
DISC THREE & FOUR: Back to the Future Part II
DISC FIVE & SIX: Back to the Future Part III
DISC SEVEN: Bonus Disc
When creators Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale first made Back to the Future, they never expected the film to turn into such a beloved Hollywood classic and become an influential icon in the lives of so many fans. Taking a universal fantasy about time travel, the adventures of Doc and Marty live on today as a cultural favorite that younger generations continue to discover. Dubbed The Ultimate Trilogy, Universal Studios Home Entertainment celebrates the 35th Anniversary of the first movie with an attractive 4K Ultra HD package a trio of beautiful Dolby Vision HDR presentations and awesome Dolby Atmos soundtracks, making this UHD edition a notable upgrade over previous Blu-ray box sets. Although the same set of supplements are ported over, this new digibook package nonetheless comes with an assortment of brand-new material on a separate bonus disc, making it a must-own set.