To celebrate 35 years since debuting in theaters, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment has upgraded Back to the Future (1985) and both Back to the Future sequels to 4k Ultra HD. The Back to the Future Trilogy is available in both a 4k Blu-ray and Blu-ray edition, as well as three exclusive variations (from Amazon, Best Buy, and Target), and is also premiering in 4k Ultra HD on digital platforms.
Here’s a review of the original film, Back to the Future, on 4k Ultra HD Blu-ray.
Back to the Future is just one of those movies that was made at the right time with the right actors and became a phenomenon that generations have come to enjoy. The movie was directed by Robert Zemeckis and produced by Steven Spielberg who, at the time, had been enjoying the fruits of directing blocbusters such as Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Raiders of the Lost Ark, to name a few.
In Back to the Future, Michael J. Fox stars as Marty McFly in what is likely his most memorable movie role (althoughy Fox was already well known playing Alex P. Keaton on Family Ties, along with veteran actor Christopher Lloyd as Doc Brown who was known for playing the wacky part of Reverend Jim on Taxi, as well as the Klingon Commander Kruge in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.
But there are more classic characters in Back to the Future. Crispin Glover provides an unforgettable performance as the nerdy (and perverted) George McFly. Lea Thompson stars as the young Lorraine Baines (Marty’s future mom). And looking back, one of the coolest characters was Marty’s sister Linda (played by Wendie Jo Sperber) who had a small role and may have been somewhat overlooked at the time (but now a possible contender for forgotten 80s cult movie characters).
Back to the Future won an Oscar for Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing (Charles L. Campbell & Robert R. Rutledge) and was nominated for Best Sound, Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (Robert Zemeckis & Bob Gale), and Best Music, Original Song (Huey Lewis “The Power of Love”).
The Back to the Future Trilogy did release on Blu-ray Disc in 2015 to celebrate 30 years, but 5 years ago the Ultra HD Blu-ray format was still being formalized.
The new video presents each Back to the Future film in 2160p resolution at 1.83:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Vision and HDR10+ for added color depth. HDR10+ is the latest update to HDR10 that allows dynamic changing of the color specs from scene-to-scene (a native feature of Dolby Vision) rather than one “static” spec loaded at the start of the video stream. The Back to the Future films make up part of a very short list UHD BD titles to feature the HDR10+ specification.
In Back to the Future on 4k Blu-ray there is a surprising amount of detail in nighttime imagery that you don’t always get in films of this age. The night imagery has a really nice grain and the HDR reveals details not seen in previous 1080p prints and especially not in TV broadcasts. Take for example the first time travel attempt in the JC Penny shopping plaza parking lot. That was a fairly dark scene, but pause the video and you’ll find a range of tones in the dark values that is really impressive. You can even see texture and grey values in the black tires of the DeLorean.
HDR really boosts this presentation of Back to the Future. One moment where you can see the advantage of expanded color range is in the foggy image of Marty and Doc when they uncover the DeLorean. (See pics above.) In the 4k capture the video is full of color and detail in the shadow areas (see the flags for color and foreground bushes as evidence). An HD screenshot renders far less color and detail and looks really flat in comparison.
There is one particular image that must have bugged the film editors and remastering team, and that’s the wide shot of the farmer’s house where Marty first lands. Given the minimal amount of light, wide coverage, and wide aperture it was probably hard to hold focus, but this shot really sticks out like a sore thumb in 4k.
The intro scene with Doc Brown’s collection of clocks has some of the most fun surround sound moments in the film, eventually adding amplifier buzz when Marty enters the scene, and capped off with a giant guitar chord that sends Marty flying backward into a bookshelf. “Rock ‘n Roll!”
The DeLorean definitely sounds great while being chased by the Libyan terrorists, and the sound effect when the car hits 88 MPH is one of a kind. Of course, the theme music sounds great with tracks by artists such as Huey Lewis & The News, Eric Clapton, and The Four Aces. And, the original music by Alan Silvestri one of the industry’s best.
One criticism of the sound mixing could be found in the dialogue between Marty and his girlfriend Jennifer (Claudia Wells) at the broken clock tower. It just sounds flat and isolated and seems to lack any spatial qualities or ambient enhancement. Although, the flatness might be exacerbated by the somewhat stiff acting in that particular scene.
“When this baby hits 88 miles per hour, you’re gonna see some serious shit.”
If bonus features are what you like, bonus features are what you will get with this 4k trilogy. As well as previously-released extras the 4k Blu-ray edition includes over one hour of new bonus features. These include “The Hollywood Museum Goes Back to the Future,” “The Musical Behind the Scenes,” “An Alternate Future: Lost Audition Tapes,” and “Could You Survive the Movies?” featurettes provided (unfortunately) on the Blu-ray Disc. On the 4k Blu-ray you will find deleted scenes, behind the scenes footage, a Q&A with Michael J. Fox, and plenty more from past Blu-ray editions.
Rewatching Back to the Future 4k Ultra HD after many years was pure enjoyment. The script, special effects, cinematography, sound and editing were top notch for the time and still hold up today. In 4k there is a noticeable improvement in sharpness throughout most of the film, however, the updated color grading with the addition of HDR is really where Back to the Future shines.
If all 4k restorations were as good as Back to the Future, there would be a lot more people investing in disc players rather than settling for digital streams. Yeah, 4k streaming is getting really close (and hopefully doesn’t degrade with Netflilx’s newest initiative to chop data stream sizes in half) but opening a brand new Blu-ray disc case is still one of the delights of home entertainment.
Back to the Future: The Ultimate Trilogy on 4k Ultra HD Blu-ray sells for $42.99 (List: $55.98) on Amazon. The trilogy is also available in the Back to the Future 35th Anniversary Trilogy Limited Edition Giftset with levitating hoverboard replica that sells for $69.98 Buy on Amazon