"As Bob Gale and I were outlining the story for 'Back to the Future Part II," recalls director Robert Zemeckis, "we realized that to complete the story of Marty and Doc, we needed more than one chapter. It had to be a trilogy."
When first approached to do a sequel to "Back to the Future," Zemeckis, Bob Gale and Neil Canton all agreed they wouldn't come back unless they could find a way to preserve the quality and originality of the first film. "The biggest obstacle one faces when making a sequel," says Zemeckis, "is that you are enslaved by the first movie. What we strived to do with the trilogy, was to take the concept of the sequel, which is generally looked down upon as crassly commercial and in many circumstances merely a rehash of the original film, and redefine that concept.
"We were able to do that in 'Part II' by actually going back into the first movie from a different perspective. In 'Part III,' we continue to explore and ultimately resolve the emotional complexities of the characters and their dilemmas. We've also structured each chapter so they work as one completely interwoven saga, from the original film through the end of 'Part III."
One of the reasons that Zemeckis wanted to do two sequels was to give audiences more of an insight into the character of Marty McFly. "We don't really know all that much about Marty from his adventures in the first film, except that if he doesn't repair the damage he's caused in the past, he'll cease to exist. To continue with the series, a new dimension of the character had to be revealed, explored and resolved. That's a lot to do in the course of one film.
"We didn't have the luxury of the cinematic 'shorthand' that you use in a normal movie, where you can start the film with the character in crisis. The first movie had already put Marty's predicament to rest. It took all of 'Part II' to put the character into a new crisis, which is caused by the additional information we've now learned about him.
"Although 'Part II' clears up the problems caused by Biff stealing the sports almanac, we still have Marty's character flaws to deal with and the new problems of Doc Brown in danger from "Mad Dog" Tannen, as well as falling in love with Clara. There is a natural growth process of the characters which causes Marty and Doc to exchange roles. Marty is forced into being the voice of reason, as Doc's love interest blinds him to the laws of the space-time continuum."
By splitting the continuation of his story into two parts, Zemeckis was also able to embellish the final chapter. "If the western chapter of the story was relegated to being part of just one sequel instead of two, it would had to have been streamlined to a point where it would have been merely a brief episode within the story. The luxury of having 'Part III' allowed us to give the film more texture and make the story richer."
Zemeckis grew up watching westerns and allows that his predilection for the genre helped in both the writing and direction of "Part III." Yet he maintains that although there are acknowledgments and references to past works of the legendary western stars and directors, he had not used his film as an 'homage' to his childhood heroes.
"Invariably, because these other films and similar images exist, if you put a character in a cowboy hat and have him ride through an open range, somebody will insist you're doing a 'homage' to the western. In actuality, the only true 'homage' I ever intended to put in any of the films was in 'Part II,' where I took a cue from Stanley Kubrick, who showcased the actual products like Hilton hotels and Howard Johnson restaurants in '2001: A Space Odyssey.' That's why we used real products in our future, as opposed to fictitious or generic brands."
In its completed form, Zemeckis is "incredibly satisfied with the overall effect of the trilogy. I think we have succeeded in our original goal, which was to enhance the quality and maintain the integrity of 'Back to the Future.' I'm very proud of all three films." Choosing not to continue the adventures of Marty and Doc, Zemeckis offers an oft used, but nonetheless valid line of explanation for that decision. Says the director, "All good things must come to an end."
Steven Spielberg Presents A Robert Zemeckis Film. "Back to the Future Part III." Starring Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Mary Steenburgen, Thomas F. Wilson and Lea Thompson. Music by Alan Silvestri. Edited by Arthur Schmidt, Harry Keramidas. Production Design by Rick Carter. Director of Photography, Dean Cundey, A.S.C. Executive Producers, Steven Spielberg, Frank Marshall, Kathleen Kennedy. Story by Robert Zemeckis & Bob Gale. Screenplay by Bob Gale. Produced by Bob Gale and Neil Canton. Directed by Robert Zemeckis. A Universal Picture.
as of April 24, 1990