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Last night I went to the theaters for a maraton showing of all three Back To The Future movies. Yes, it was incredible geeky fun seeing them on the kinda big screen again (it was a multiplex, after all).

But I was able to put my finger on my problems with BTTF 2, largely but not completely ameleorated with BTTF3. It's Marty's Fatal Flaws.

I've read that every interest character (definitely every interesting hero/protagonist) has to have a fatal flaw), and the difference between victory and tragedy is his ability to deal with it. (Or her, granted.)

In the first Back To The Future, Marty is smart, talented, can see options, etc. - but his fatal flaw is his lack of confidence. He can't send in the mix tape because people might not like it, say he's no good, and it paralyzes him into inaction. He's aware of it, can be pushed/push himself out of it, but it's there dragging him down. By seeing it in his young father (I don't need spoiler alerts, do I?), plus accomplishing some great stuff, he's able to deal with his fatal flaw - it may still pop up, but he can handle it. Yay! Victory!

In BTTF 2 and 3, he's got a sorta related but very different fatal flaw. He cannot abide being called a coward, so when people suggest that, he sets aside all reason and rationality and says "I'll do it". If he's aware, he doesn't show it, and in BTTF 2 it's completely incontrollable. Want to completely change every plan of Marty? Call him a coward. Even though it causes him problems every time we see him give in to the dare, he doesn't even try to argue his way out.

In BTTF 3, when he's being called out by Mad Dog Tanner, he's able to beat it down. Hooray! Marty is cured! Later, when the event happens in modern day that was to have ruined his life, no more fatal flaw, yippee!

I didn't like it.

First, maybe it's just me, the lack of self-confidence was more relatable. More importantly, it was a flaw, not a compulsion. Marty struggling with his flaw is interesting, even when he fail. Marty doing something stupid because of his flaw is a time to apply palm to forehead.

Worst, in BTTF 2, it's just something that happens. There's no struggle with his fatal flaw, it's just a cheap, lazy script bit to make a smart guy do something incredibly stupid. It's not until BTTF 3 that Marty appears to be aware of how much it negatively affects his life and that he has a choice not to give in. I suspect that's because BTTF 2 and 3 were filmed back to back so they were saving it for 3 - but in all other ways, BTTF 2 is it's own story (as is BTTF 3).

I did enjoy all three movies. There's a lot of good stuff in BTTF 2, and a whole lot of good stuff in BTTF 3. But I think I'd have enjoyed it more without the cheap "call me coward? I'll show you! I'll do something stupid!" bit.

Posted on October 22, 2015, 3:14 pm

Donald Brown
@GadgetDon

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