Back to the Future live

IMG_0016As Marty McFly would say, this is heavy! After 30 years it was time to go back, not just back to the big screen but back to the Royal Albert Hall for a live performance screening of Back to the Future.

The DeLorean ‘parked’ outside only helped heighten the anticipation, prior to us getting lost in the maze of the Hall’s stairways and corridors.But then we made it into the wide open space of hall itself, adding to the occasion we even found ourselves two across from a couple who had come dressed as Marty and Jennifer, McFly complete with ‘life preserver’. He must have been roasting!

Picture-12Seeing it on the big screen is not unlike time travel itself as it takes you right back to your childhood. I had never seen the original at the cinema until its 25th anniversary, only catching the sequels on the big screen first time round, although I had seen it more times than I cared to mention on TV, DVD and Blu-Ray. This mattered not as I approached the screening with the same excitement as if it were a brand new release…and so it appeared did the thronging Royal Albert Hall audience.

If Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd are the stars of Back to the Future then so is the DeLorean and if they are part of its very fabric the, like John William’s score to Star Wars and Indiana Jones, Alan Silvestri’s sweeping epic score to Back to the Future is as well. And that was the real reason thousands of us were there to listen and watch a live rendition of the iconic music played to the film.

images (1)We must have only been seated five or six rows from the front, a Back to the Future live screen welcoming us into the vast auditorium. It all only added to the electricity (1.21 gigawatts) of electricity that was in the room, an electricity that initially peaked when the orchestra played those familiar bars.

Simultaneously hairs stood on end and goosebumps were raised, somehow from somewhere it all started to feel very emotional and just stirred something seeing that famous piece of film music history, so intrinsic to my childhood and my growing up, be recreated in front of my very eyes and ears.

Even though the screening, the first of its kind of this particular film in the UK, featured newly written cues by original composer, Silvestri, notably the opening titles over the ticking clocks, it was hard to believe that the orchestra was creating this well known score, in fact and times you got sucked into the film and the music that you sometimes just plain forget that creative music forces were at work just in front of you. It was that good, it was seemingly effortless but amazing to watch as you could see how the famous tune was created layer by musical layer, instrument by instrument, hand motion by hand motion.

download (1)Certainly we ensured we were watching the orchestra as much as the film after the interval, and boy those guys in percussion were certainly kept on their toes. Again, it was amazing to just see all the individuals in action that helped create the whole. Just prior to the film starting up again for its second section we were treated to a Back to the Future Part 3 medley with its western overtones and drifting into Clara’s theme.

As a film Back to the Future holds up not just magnificently but majestically, both against those films touted as family friendly fair today and even those from ‘whence it came, circa 1985, such as The Goonies and Ghostbusters. They are both classic films but Future just raises the quality bar and actually, even today, doesn’t look to have aged in the slightest in its pacing or any aspect of its unfolding story.

It was a delight to watch the familiar story unfold with characters we have got to know and love every nuance and line of dialogue and see them giant on the big screen again. It’s of great testament to the writers, Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis, that the story, a modern day Wizard of Oz of sorts, still holds true and is practically timeless, which is perhaps as much to do with its setting as much as its writing.

Script wise it is practically faultless and doesn’t miss a beat, the perfect movie script, nothing is wasted, no plot thread is left hanging and each piece of dialogue dovetails into the next and has real meaning and consequence. It’s a piece of storytelling without an ounce of fat. Everything occurs and happens for a reason, right down to the tiniest of nuances and should be high on anyone’s list wanting to study the craft.

images (2)It’s almost as if the film was not made in 1985 but set in 1985, new audiences scoffing as much about Marty McFly’s bulky walkman as much as we did first time round about there being no Pepsi Free!

The film itself bounds along at a fair old pace, another sign of its unflabby script and and edit suite culling, it not out staying its welcome, and at 1 hour 40-something is practically short by today’s standards where we have become used to the somewhat ponderous unfolding of the likes of Harry Potter, Frodo Baggins and one Captain Jack Sparrow.

It’s also refreshing to see a film where everything looks real and doesn’t have that muted CGI feel to it, everything in both time periods looks and feels real and solid, almost as if you can touch them. Sure, we know the Hill Valley of the 1950s is a film set on the Universal backlot (as also used in Gremlins and countless other films) but we know that it was all recreated for us to see up on the big screen and not rendered in some computer.

images (4)The interplay between Lloyd and Fox dazzles on the big screen, I had a similar experience seeing Robert Shaw writ large in Jaws on the big screen. Fox is deft at comedy, his falls and reactions really sell yet combining both straight man reacting and playing it for laughs on different occasions.

Although everyone else was familiar with how the film unfolded there were still laughs to be heard when it came to Doc Brown and his constant questioning of the use of the word ‘heavy’, guffawing at the really rather more excellent than you ever remember Crispin Glover, he really is quite amazing as the hapless George McFly. His laugh still brought the house down and there were plenty of laughs during the many moments of Marty with his mum, Lorraine.

george_savesdayIt really did feel in many ways as if you were watching it for the very first time, more curious still was the spontaneous applause that erupted when George smacked Biff, I think for many this is a standout moment in the film execution wise and in many ways is just as fulfilling as the DeLorean striking the wire just as the lightning strikes the clock tower, cue massive applause and squeals of delight.

The viewing experience was almost akin to watching someone you know do well on the sports field or on stage. You know they were good last time you saw them and are pleased that they’ve given a barn storming performance this time round. Often favourite films or programmes viewed when growing up tend to lose their charm or appeal, but with this one it only grows. It’s as if you know the film intimately.

Having said that, the film is more sweary than I care to remember and Biff is also essentially attempting to rape Lorraine, moments that tend to get lost when you are younger. But that only makes the George McFly rescue all the more satisfying and shows that it’s not just a kid’s film.

bttf-clocktowerFuture also has its melancholy side as well, not so much in the feeling that this is a period that we are so far removed from – even when referring to the 1980s – and is almost unrecognisable but also in the shape of Michael J Fox. He’s never been more breezy and likable, well okay I’ve got a soft spot for The Secret of my Success as well, but with his absence from our screens, due in large part to his Parkinsons, it’s a reminder of the loss of such an comically gifted actor. And his glances, trips and delivery is effortless to the point that if you aren’t careful you could miss it. That’s how good he is.

I don’t think I’d ever noticed him edging away from Doc before when the DeLorean is heading towards them at Twin Pines Mall, classic. He will forever be Marty, much like Matthew Broderick will always be Ferris Bueller. He is stuck, quite fittingly, in a time capsule for us to enjoy again and again.

Dmc11After one of the greatest endings to a film ever the: “roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads” scene and flying of the DeLorean into 2015 (their time), we get the titles and a great rousing end of the score just as the Amblin logo crawls across the screen – so much so I’ve always found it hard to separate the two – that is just so uplifting and celebratory it is almost difficult to find words. That was like a Silvestri full stop to it as at that point he and no one else involved in the project knew there would be two sequels so he really gives it all he has got.

So did the orchestra and it was a sublime finish that was followed by a prolonged and much-deserved standing ovation and crackle of applause that continued long after the baton had been lowered. And as for the experience of a film that you love with a live orchestra, I couldn’t recommend it enough, it takes it to a whole new level.

I’m sure it won’t be long before I end up removing the wrapping of the Intrada special edition version of the score, which I’ve yet to open after six years. Great Scott you say, no, great score.And there was no finer way to celebrate 30 years of Back to the Future.

Will we be back in time to the Royal Opera House? Quite possibly, as Raiders of the Lost Ark is swinging into the venue to do the very same. Perhaps I’ll use the staff of Ra to locate the best possible seat this time round though.

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Jurassic World: a raptor-ous return

3039097-inline-i-2-jurassic-worldFirst things first, Jurassic World is not a remake or a reboot or a reimagining, it is a continuation, some 20 years down the line, of events post the original Jurassic Park. In the ensuing years let’s just say that the Park, now World a la Disney, Sea and er Peppa Pig, has evolved somewhat in the last two decades to become a giant tourism monster which now needs even bigger monsters to ensure the return of punters.

Jurassic World, like the two sequels to the original before was never ever going to be able to play the sense of wonder card of the original Spielberg blockbuster, but it knows it and that actually forms part of the plot. In a sense, in part, it is a love letter to the original and perhaps that is why it has struck such a chord and made more money than expected, After all it is 14 years since the last Jurassic Park and that is a whole generation that has only grown up with it on TV.

jw2And the ethos of the park: having bigger and newer monsters to pull in the punters, is something not lost on the writers and filmmakers for that exact reason, Not only have there been three previous Park movies but we’ve also seen the return of Godzilla (twice) and King Kong take on a pair of T-Rex, not to mention a whole plethora of creatures in the likes of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, so the film has to pull something out of the bag that we haven’t seen before either…with a brand new dinosaur.

The scope and scale of this entry into the series practically makes the original look like a small independent film, the original in comparison was a more intimate affair on a smaller scale,if such a thing could ever be said about the still impressive Jurassic Park. World certainly ups the spectacle with a fully operational park with nods aplenty to SeaWorld with its Mosasaurs attraction (nice touch with it essentially eating Bruce the Great White), DisneyWorld with its take on Main Street – where at one point it’s as if we hear echoes of Dr Ian Malcolm’s laconic wit from the first film when he says ‘but the pirates of the Caribbean don’t start eating the public’ when things start to go very, very wrong – and the giant escalators that reminded one of Universal Studios Hollywood.

It’s like the Park you dreamed of visiting as a child. And as with the original you do get the oh and ah of all the delights the new World has to offer, mostly seen through the eyes of Gray (Ty Simpkins), whose excitement we readily share. And because we know the dinosaurs the wonderful Jurassic Park theme reprise, amazing work by Giacchino, is utilised not for the introduction of a dinosaur but fr the wonder of the very park itself. And there is wonder and wow factor to be had as we see the park in all its splendour, even though we know it is going to end way out Westworld.

Of course the musical theme is as much a part of the Jurassic series as the dinosaurs, I couldn’t get it out of my head for at least the next day, but that isn’t the only footprint of Jurassic Park. Story wise it is essentially a retelling of sorts, writ large in every single way imaginable, but then so has pretty much every James Bond film. There are plenty of nods and winks to the first film though, that really celebrate and embrace it with confidence.

JURASSIC-WORLD-8Both the children in the original and World have a family that is breaking down (a Spielberg staple, here Executive Producer) and are only on the island to take their minds off it, well at least it does do that. There’s a lovely moment where the eldest son, Zach played by Nick Robinson, is in denial but the youngest, visibly upset, has googled his mum and dad’s lawyers and discovered they are divorce lawyers. it was very well handled on a monorail, where one of the passengers is reading a Dr Ian Malcolm book, Jeff Goldblum’s character. Later it is nice to see glimpses of a John Hammond statue, as well as cameos by Mr DNA (voiced by the film’s director Colin Trevorrow) and also a delightful moment from a Dilophosaurus, the spitting dino that killed Dennis Nedry.

And then there’s the more obvious, in a wonderful sequence, where the boys find the old Jurassic Park centre and the auditorium which housed the ‘when dinosaurs ruled the earth exhibition’, even coming across the infrared goggles that get discarded, a fantastic example of the audience knowing more than the characters. It was a genius idea that the boys find the original JP jeeps and get one of them working, In a way it was Jurassic World: Parks of Future Past.

There is also some fabulous juxtaposition in the scene where there is a field of decimated dinosaurs, there’s a real sense of dystopia and negative as opposed to the hope and positivity of when we first glimpse the vista of Jurassic Park after Dr Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Dr Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) see their first dinosaur. It’s also the scene where these aren’t just dinosaurs (or CG or animatronics for that matter) you care for them and you are sad when the dinosaur breathes its last. It evoked memories of Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend and the death of Littlefoot’s mum in The Land Before Time, the latter also executive produced by Spielberg.

Empathy built we also start to care and have feelings for other dinosaurs, especially when it comes to a major scene with the raptors where they are given their moment to shine as man’s beast friend.

For all its boom and bang, of which there is plenty and often, the film also relishes its smaller moments of focus or dialogue that also reminds one of the cleverness of the original and makes it just more than a bloated summer blockbuster lurching from one set piece to another. That Spielberg dust has clearly been strewn to ensure some of those little moments and nuances are just as remembered as the big and noisy ones.

The only returning character we get from the original series is Dr Wu, who is clearly as rubbish as he was in the first film but is played with relish by BD Wong, best known for being good on Law and Order: SVU, although he really does think what he is doing is not wrong. Last seen with an attaché case of specimens he will surely feature in any sequel, and at some point will end up being devoured by one of his creations.

Chris Pratt cements his position as a viable A-lister, and it is perhaps his biggest calling card for the part of one Dr. Jones, certainly he has the presence, likability and delivery. Pratt is a man of action in this, with a neat touch being that he is essentially a velociraptor whisperer and despite all the dinosaurs the ‘money shot’ of the film is definitely Pratt on his motorbike flanked by raptors. It works, is delightful and just brings joy. It may as well be us up on that bike exuding McQueen like cool.

He doesn’t really grow as a character, he’s been right all along like Charlton Heston in Earthquake, but he is something of a loner, he’s friendlier with dinosaurs than people but does become part of a family unit, with Claire, Gray and Zach by the climax.

Bryce Dallas Howard also impressed, as Claire, she saw the biggest change in terms of (limited) development of character and effortlessly switched from almost robotic towing the party line to all out Lara Croft protective Aunt.

There was lots of nice interplay between Pratt and Howard and they really fizzed, the sort of polar opposite dislike that you get in Raiders between Marion and Indy and original chalk and cheese, Hannay and Pamela, in The 39 Steps.

It’s Jurassic World, it was never going to be a deep and meaningful character study and to be honest we didn’t want it to be. We want a roaring dino romp and on that it delivers.

Ultimately this film is about working together as one, as a team, on several levels, as will become apparent to anyone seeing it. And ultimately that message is a deeply satisfying one, both from a human and dinosaur point of view.

I did miss Grant or Malcolm, perhaps next time we’ll get to see Pratt call on their services, and after a $500 million opening weekend, and the world’s fastest film to smash the $1 billion barrier, we won’t be waiting 14 years for the next instalment.

T-Rex_DigitalJurassic Park ended with the roar of the T-Rex as the banner proclaiming ‘When dinosaurs ruled the earth’ drops to the floor. With that opening weekend, the biggest in history, and it being the number one film in the 66 countries it was released in and the fastest film past the $1 billion barrier, that time is now.