At least according by the hubbub today, c.f. #BacktotheFuture, this movie struck a deep chord in audiences with its tongue-in-cheek futurism and occasional forays into brilliance. And while much of social media has been poring over the film to see what it got right (the pointless interpretation of futurism, imho) let’s instead return to our little corner of nerdery and see how its interfaces fared.
Sci: C (2 of 4) How believable are the interfaces?
This movie didn’t really aim for a serious futurism. It’s a fun adventure comedy that toyed with a futuristic setting amongst its near and far pasts. It didn’t always aim at believable as much as it did entertaining. (This permeable 4th wall is why comedy interfaces are so hard to review, and why I’ve mostly avoided it.)
Mr. Fusion? Oh, we get it. A play on Mr. Coffee, but super high tech! Cafe 80s? Yeah, I guess that’s us(1985) in a nutshell. A hydrator? It’s like those new fangled microwaves only even more fangled! We were never meant to take these things seriously.
But some of the technologies were presented a little more in earnest, but weren’t thought through. Car controls are meant for navigating a vehicle across 2 dimensions, not the 3 of flight. (Or the 4th dimension of time for that matter, and Doc kind of screwed those up, too.)
On the other hand, the skyways are a believable and a familiar way to corral the potential chaos of millions of flying cars. (Though I should note somberly that where they were going, they did, actually, need roads.) Barring personal stations in our garages, fueling stations may evolve to become as agentive/robotic as this. And given ubiquitous thumbprint readers (and a weak sense of security), you imagine that cops, homes, and service providers would have taken full advantage of it.
Fi: A (4 of 4) How well do the interfaces inform the narrative of the story?
So if you’re going to tell of a future that is a few cool leaps ahead of what the audience currently knows, Back to the Future Part II kicked it. It presented technologies that made people want to live in that exact future. It still inspires people to try and actually make it so. Nike plans to release MAGs in 2016. People keep trying to make a hoverboard. That’s the mark of an impression made so deeply people are still yearning for it to be real, 28 years later.
Interfaces: C (2 of 4)
How well do the interfaces equip the characters to achieve their goals?
Interestingly, the plot didn’t depend on much technology beyond the DeLorean and the hoverboard. These two were incredibly crucial, but you can pretty much take out all of the rest and all you lose is the gee-whiz. That said, these two were very critical to the plot and the characters’ goals. And between them it’s a wash, with the DeLorean failing to even be believable in giving Doc Brown tools to navigate any of the 4 dimensions (see above), and the hoverboard being so awesome we’re still many attempts in to try and bring it to life.
I should add a tiny shout out to the the ceiling hydroponics, too, even though it wasn’t critical to the movie’s plot, to the McFly’s family goals of having healthy fresh food available even in their urban setting. Gawsh. What will they think of next?
Final Grade B- (8 of 12), MUST-SEE
It’s with sorrow that those of us who first imprinted on this far out future must, as of today, put this in our past. Hopefully the next generation will get another film that so vividly paints a vision of the future so awesome that they’ll still want to make it happen in, say, 2043.
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