If you were writing the first words of a novel version of Back to the Future, how would you do it? Maybe you’d introduce the concept of time being important, like the film did with all them crazy clocks. Maybe instead you’d introduce Marty and Doc, show who they are and what their relationship is. Well, anyway, you’re totally wrong!
The correct answer is to KILL EVERYBODY.
Here, in the living room of a peaceful house in the suburbs, a typical family sits quietly. Dad reads the evening paper, unaware that disaster is about to strike. Mom cleans the dinner dishes, oblivious to the fact that in a few seconds their world will be reduced to a whirlwind of splinters and atomized debris. The children are in their rooms, doing their homework, little knowing that only a few moments of life are left to them, that they will never have to worry about homework again. The mightiest force ever created by man is about to be unleashed on them and there is nothing on earth they can do about it…
A second later, there was a flash of white and the unnamed family were enveloped in a surge of power that tore their tiny frames to pieces, bending them curiously out of shape before separating bodies from heads, arms from torsos, legs from abdomens. The solid-looking house simply crumpled into thin shreds of pulp and instantly ignited into raveling avalanche of flame. A wind-tunnel effect then whisked the body parts and wreckage of furniture and plaster into a horrible whirling mass that was sucked into the tortured atmosphere.
I didn’t cut anything out here. This is how the book opens, with tortured bodies bent curiously out of shape before their heads fly off. HAH HAH HAH WHAT
The next scene shows us that this is actually Marty watching a film, so really everyone didn’t die on the first page. This is awesome (the idea of killing everyone off on the first page is awesome; there can be no argument here) but also awesome crazy, because here’s a spoiler alert: NUCLEAR BOMBS KILLING EVERYONE NEVER COMES UP AGAIN. EVER. WHAT THE HELL. I mean, later on Doc does promise to build a bomb, but that’s just so he can get the plutonium, and that’s exactly zero justification for this scene unless it’s supposed to remind us that… Doc is a hero because he didn’t kill everyone? Even though he lied and said he’d facilitate that?
It’s like opening Star Wars with Luke getting lectured on the importance of always making sure the phasers are clear of debris, lest they misfire and destroy your ship. ”Wow,” you’d think, “Maybe Luke will use it that information to sabotage some Tie Fighters later on. Or MAYBE his attention to clean-phaser details will save him at a critical moment!” And then the lecture ends and nobody ever mentions it and they don’t even use phasers in Star Wars anyway!
Oh yes also in this video Luke watches on how to keep your phasers clean, people’s heads fly off of their torsos as their skin burns / eyes boil / dismembered bodies fly around a fiery inferno.
A CONFESSION: I’m being a little unfair, because the background of the film’s development does give some justification to this opening. In the early drafts of the film, the time machine was a freezer, not a DeLorean - the switch was made when they were worried kids would crawl into their freezers and DIE - and instead of a bolt of lightning, a nuclear test was the source of the power. Even when the switch was made to a car-based time machine, the “we need to sneak into a nuclear test site to power the flux capacitor” angle was still in the script for a while, which makes sense, because where else are you going to get the 1.21 gigawatts of power that makes time travel possible?? WHERE ELSE? DON’T SAY LIGHTNING YOU NEVER KNOW WHERE IT’S GOING TO STRIKE DUH
This scene would fit perfectly (well, except for the insane difference in tone from the rest of the movie) if they used a nuclear bomb to send Marty back in time, and I’m pretty sure it was left over from a draft of the film where that’s exactly what happened. We have two possibilities: either for some reason they gave George Gipe a screenplay version with this scene in it and he was like “welp, guess they know what they’re doing!”, OR, alternatively, he saw his script was missing a good everybody dies opening and wrote it in, loose cannon style. Either way, who wins?
Yes. It’s you, the reader.