I’m giving you 7 months to prepare for October 21, 2015. No, it is not another Maya prediction. On that day, we will finally be at the point in time to which Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) travels in Back to the Future Part II. The future of that Robert Zemeckis‘ 1989 sequel is the now of 2015.
2015 also marks the 30th anniversary of Back to the Future. I don’t expect the time-space continuum to collapse in October and find Marty, Doc, and Jennifer visiting us, but I would not be surprised to see them together on TV in some reunion fashion.
Watch the trailer for that film and refresh your memory. I have already seen and heard a few news reports on what the film got right and wrong about this future that is our present, and I’m sure more will be written about it as the date approaches.
It doesn’t seem to be too important that Marty’s self-tying shoes have a Nike real-life experimental version. And the filmmakers did miss on the Internet and mobile phones, but so did most futurists. We have been anxiously waiting flying cars for about a hundred years and people keep trying to make Marty’s hoverboard.
But they did guess/predict things like computerized fueling stations (though not robotic yet) and non-military drones. One of those is used by USA Today in the film to take a photo.
It’s tough doing this future-predicting. In many cases things predicted in sci-fi came true, but it took a lot longer than expected.
In Marty’s Hill Valley hometown, the theaters are showing in October 2015 Jaws 19, in 3D, directed by Max Spielberg. Thankfully, the Jaws franchise was killed by the actual 3D third film. Max Spielberg (Steven’s real-life son, born in 1985) has worked on a few films, but no directing. That gag seems a lot more like an insider director joke than a prediction. (After all, Steven Spielberg produced the film.) They are right – Hollywood is in love with sequels and franchises in 2015.
It’s probably okay with most of us that we don’t have remote-control litter bins, dog walkers and waiters, but all of those are in development.
We are actually scanning eyes and fingerprints for identification as they do in the film. It’s on your iPhone but not ubiquitous in our homes. I still have a boring doorknob instead of the McFly family’s scanner.
We have advanced more away from paper than the film shows. The USA Today is quite a thick stack of paper and the film likes using fax machine devices which probably are only used by government agencies these days. McFly gets terminated from his job in a video call that is confirmed by a printout that looks like it was done on a dot-matrix printer using Print Shop.
Some observers have pointed to Google Glass and Microsoft Hololens as versions of the different high-tech eye-wear in the film with cameras, magnification, information and some bluetoothy way of connecting.
I don’t remember noticing in my initial viewing of the film that Marty’s father, George, was not reprised in the sequel by actor Crispin Glover (some kind of salary disagreement). Another actor with some very heavy-duty prosthetics made to look like Glover spends his short screen time in an inverter device because of a bad back.
The film’s 2015 is having a bit of a nostalgia love affair with the 1980s. That allows the set decorators to use their contemporary props, like a Macintosh computer and a dustbuster vacuum, as collectible items of the future. Marty visit a Cafe 80s where my circa 1970s jeans, NY Yankees t-shirt and Chuck Taylor sneakers would not have been an oddity in 1989 or 2015. Future fashions in films always seem to be metallic, unisex and either very odd or more like uniforms – but those fashions never seem to emerge.
I think you’re safer predicting that the future will look more like today than going over to the other extreme. The filmmakers were wise to have Marty able to still use cash to buy things in 2015. Even with all our credits cards and merchants experimenting with alternate ways of paying, a $20 bill still works just fine.
Doc Brown says that he had some life-extension procedures – a full blood transfusion, hair repair and a new spleen and colon – and I have always suspected that rich people were doing those things already. Those procedures help Doc (Christopher Lloyd) look a bit younger in the 1990 Back to the Future Part III, which was already in the works when they shot Part II. For III, they took an easier path and went back in time again where we know what to expect. (Not that filmmakers don’t often get the past wrong too.)
The movie missed our 2015 penchant for watching video on small screens. It does provide plenty of big flat-screens on walls with multiple channels displayed, and as advertising and even on window blinds.
No Internet in the film but the McFly family does use a big screen AT&T-connected device for video calls that looks like our Facetime/Skype/Hangouts kind of video conversation. The screen also carries data about the caller (names of children, hobbies, food preferences) which have been part of the database facial recognition being built into devices these days.
In the original 1985 film, Back to the Future, they only had to portray 1985 and the past. That’s easy stuff for filmmakers.
When George Orwell wrote 1984, he flipped his own 1948 and probably wasn’t too worried about when his predictions would come true because he was hoping his cautionary tale might help prevent it from ever coming to be.
When Arthur C. Clarke wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey and the sequels 2010: Odyssey Two, 2061: Odyssey 3 and 3001: Odyssey Four, I think he was trying to be scientifically accurate in his predictions. Later, director Stanley Kubrick would have to update 2001: A Space Odyssey‘s technology and interpret the visuals.
Since none of us will be around to post online about how well Clarke was at predicting 3001, he was free from criticism. 1000 years after Frank Poole was sent out into frozen space by the supercomputer HAL in 2001, he is brought back to life. That future is full of human minds that are connected to computers, space elevators and genetically-engineered dinosaur-like servants. Good old David Bowman and HAL are now one consciousness and those damn monoliths are still causing problems.
When the first film version of Orwell’s novel was released in 1956, that horrible future probably still seemed quite possible. Thankfully, when the 1984 film version of 1984 was made, the Cold War had passed, but many of Orwell’s predictions seem to have come true (NSA, privacy etc.).
I think Clarke sets a good model for writers of the future: set the plot in a time after your own death, so no one can call you out for your predictions to your face.
Filmmaker Jason Aron is working on “Back in Time: A Back to the Future Documentary.” He has interviews with Michael J. Fox, Robert Zemeckis, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, and many other actors, crew members, and fans of the trilogy. He is seeking funding via a second Kickstarter to complete the film which has expanded far beyond the original vision. Kick in a few bucks and be part of the project.