BTTF Week–Review of new documentary “Back in Time,” arriving at theaters this week

Back in Time

“It’s great to have a bunch of lunatics on your side.  They’re crazy, but they’re crazy good.” — Michael J. Fox

If you don’t know the lengths some fans will go to express their love for the target of their fandom, some documentaries on the subject may give you a jolt.  Filmmakers enjoy looking not at diehard fans of beloved movies and other properties, they seem to thrive on meting out the fringe of those fans.  If you’re already immersed in the fandom, these documentaries may be your thing.  But if you’re not, you may find more cringing than amazement.  Examples of this, for some, include the 1997 and 2004 Trekkies and Trekkies 2, and the more recent 2010 documentary by Gene Roddenberry’s son called Trek Nation.  With these looks at the fans themselves, viewers are left to wonder whether the fandom is a target being objectified for its oddity or a true love affair by and for the fans.

As part of the 30th anniversary of Back to the Future and Back to the Future Week, filmmaker Jason Aron is releasing the documentary Back in Time, the result of countless interviews with fans and even some interviews with the cast and execs behind the time-travel trilogy.  If Back to the Future is more than your favorite movie, you may want to track down this documentary this week in theaters or pre-order a copy here at to get it on its release date, Back to the Future Day, October 21, 2015.

Probert BTTF design
Andy Probert’s design for the DeLorean time machine.

Highlights include an interview with Michael J. Fox where he recounts the British release of Back to the Future attended by him and Princess Diana and Prince Charles, an interview with concept designer/artist Andy Probert (best known for his work on Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica) who worked on storyboards and the DeLorean time machine, and the story behind the screenplay as told by co-writer Bob Gale.  The documentary also includes more brief interviews clips with Huey Lewis, who had a hit with the show’s songs “Power of Love” and “Back in Time,” score composer Alan Silvestri, Donald Fullilove (who played Goldie Wilson), director Robert Zemeckis, executive producer Steven Spielberg, and cast members Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, James Tolkan (Principal Strickland), and Claudia Wells (the first Jennifer).

Notably absent from the interviews are actors Crispin Glover (George McFly), Thomas F. Wilson (Biff Tannen), Elizabeth Shue (the second Jennifer), and Marc McClure (Dave McFly).

Back in Time is really aimed at diehard series fans.  If you like watching fans geek-out and “go all fanboy or fangirl” then you’ll love this documentary.  The first third of the film tells the story behind the scenes of the films most fans will be looking for.  The rest shows the impact of the series on individual fans and pet projects, the most appropriate and significant of which is Michael J. Fox’s “Team Fox” charity for Parkinson’s research.  But perhaps a little too much time is spent with DeLorean time machine replica makers and restorations, what did and didn’t come true as predicted in the movies, fans that have made Back to the Future part of their daily lives, and people trying to invent a real hoverboard.

Here is the trailer for Back in Time:

Surprisingly and disappointingly the worst addition to the documentary is Community writer/creator Dan Harmon’s negative and dismissive commentary throughout the show, most of which should probably have been edited out.  There’s a journalism school lesson that just because someone is famous and says something doesn’t mean it’s appropriate to be repeated, and Harmon’s flat-out assertion that everyone knows Back to the Future II and Back to the Future III “sucks,” true or not, really is an insult to the fans interviewed in the show and the fans watching the documentary.  Likely the inexperience of the documentary filmmaker by being happy to have secured Harmon for the film–and not knowing or using good judgment of what to edit out–is really to blame.

Still, interviews with Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, and Lea Thompson about the series don’t happen every day, the fans interviewed in the show clearly have a deep affection for the series, and it’s hard to get enough images of a parking lot full of DeLoreans, so there’s something that could appeal to everyone in Back in Time. 

Check local listings this week for screentimes.

C.J. Bunce




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