Back to the Future Trilogy

Travel back to the '80s as the three-part time-travel franchise makes the jump to HD

The Back to the Future Trilogy should play an integral part in every home cinema fan’s collection, standing proudly alongside the like of the Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park and Alien boxsets.

Back to the Future is no less enjoyable today than it was back in 1985: an exciting and pleasingly comic approach to time travel that thrives on its elegant plotting and superb performances from Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd. Back to the Future Part II is that rarest of sequels: one that not only lives up to, but arguably improves on its predecessor. Jumping headlong into the world of time paradoxes, …Part II is probably the smartest film about time travel ever made – not to mention the funniest. Sadly, despite its Wild West setting, Back to the Future Part III doesn’t quite measure up to the others, replacing smarts with overt sentimentality. But it’s a brisk adventure and ends up providing a fitting end to the saga.

Picture: There’s no denying that all three films look much better on Blu-ray than they ever did on DVD. But after seeing the restorations conjured up for the Alien Anthology recently, it’s hard not be left wanting a little more from the Back to the Future Trilogy.

Back to the Future is the most problematic of the three 1.85:1 1080p encodes. Colour saturation impresses from the start and there’s a clear step-up in image detail. However, the subdued film grain and slightly processed look to the visuals make me think that a touch of DNR has been used in addition to a splash of digital sharpening resulting in some edge halos.

The two sequels do look a bit better, undoubtedly thanks in part to the improvements in film stock and optical effects over the intervening years. They both look sharper than the original, with improved contrast levels and blacks. Curiously, the first two films use VC-1 encodes, while Part III opts for AVC – although this appears to have no bearing on image quality.
Picture rating: 3/5

Audio: Despite the swanky DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mixes they’ve received for this Blu-ray boxset, all three films remains predominantly front-heavy sonic experiences. That’s not to say that the rears don’t get any use – the flying car sequence from the start of Part II has some great directional effects across the entire soundstage – but for the most part there’s a natural adherence to the front speakers that’s undoubtedly points towards the limitations of the source material. On a positive note, dynamic range and fidelity in all three mixes is excellent.
Audio rating: 3/5

Extras: All three discs come packed with goodies, some repeated from the earlier DVDs, but many created specifically for this Blu-ray outing. Each film comes with three U-Control options – a trivia track, picture-in-picture storyboard comparisons and Setups and Payoffs, which shows how plot points are set up and, well, paid off during the course of the films. Also new to this release are the excellent six-part Tales from the Future documentary covering the production of all three films, a look at the science behind the films, storyboards for the abandoned nuclear test site ending to the first film and an archival 27min TV show hosted by Leslie Nielsen prior to an NBC screening of Back to the Future.

As for the old DVD extras, there’s a hefty collection of stuff including a pair of commentaries for each film, a Q&A with Michael J Fox, seven archival featurettes, makeup tests, photo galleries, music videos, trailers, outtakes, production featurettes, text-based FAQs and even footage produced for the Back to the Future ride.
Extras rating 4/5

We say: Great Scott! It’s no AV powerhouse, but the Back to the Future Trilogy packs plenty of fun onto its three Blu-ray discs.

Universal Pictures, All-region BD, £50 approx, On sale now