Back to the Future, Part II

Inciting Event: After traveling to the future (2015) with Doc to “save” his own kids, Marty devises a get-rich scheme and buys an almanac of sports statistics. This is almost a “hidden” Inciting Event, since viewers don’t know until later that this is the event that will drive the entire conflict. As far as Marty and the viewers know at this point, the obvious Inciting Event—and the obvious “big” moment in this part of the story—is the moment when he poses as his son and “just says no” to the grandson of his old nemesis Biff.

First Plot Point: Again, the real plot-mover here is “hidden.” On the surface, the main event is Marty’s unconscious girlfriend Jennifer getting picked up by the cops and taken “home.” But really, the mover here is when Biff overhears Marty and Doc’s conversation about the DeLorean’s being a time machine. He then steals the sports almanac, which Doc made Marty throw away. The plotting is actually a little questionable throughout the First Act, since the main conflict takes so long to manifest, and there isn’t a distinctive and properly timed moment when Marty leaves his Normal World and enters the adventure world.

First Pinch Point: While Doc is off rescuing Jennifer, Marty leaves the DeLorean for a moment and Biff sneaks inside with the sports almanac. Again, all of the oomph of this moment comes from the chaos of “future Marty” and his family. Viewers don’t know what Biff did in the future, just that it can’t be good. The turn in the plot then comes when Marty, Doc, and Jennifer return to 1985—to discover it has completely changed for the worse (due to Biff, of course, which they don’t yet realize).

Midpoint: Marty learns his father is dead in this version of 1985—and that Biff (who became rich betting on sports events with the almanac, which his older self gave him) is his stepfather. Marty and Doc figure out what Biff did, and Doc hypothesizes that Biff’s actions have created a new time continuum.

Finally, the conflict catches up with the plot here. This revelation (which lacks punch, since the audience is already way ahead of Marty and Doc in understanding what Biff has done) completely changes the characters’ understanding of the conflict and allows them to stop reacting and start taking deliberate action to resolve it.

Second Pinch Point: Marty gets Biff to tell him the exact date on which he received the almanac—only to have Biff nearly shoot him. Marty escapes, and the plot turns as he and Doc go back in time (again) to 1955 to try to keep the almanac out of Biff’s hands.

Third Plot Point: Marty experiences a moment of false victory, in which he believes he has gotten the almanac back, only to sink to a low place when he realizes he has only the dust jacket. This is a very minor Third Plot Point that doesn’t create any great emotional ebb and flow, since it blends in with the rest of the ups and downs of Marty’s attempts to get the almanac back. This is a fault we see often in high-intensity “action” movies—and especially sequels—since they have so much they’re trying to cram into a tight space.

Climax: Biff takes the notebook back from Marty and drives off with it. This pulls the conflict away from the crowds at the high school dance and brings the conflict down to a mano a mano confrontation between Biff and Marty.

Climactic Moment: Marty grabs the notebook—and Doc pulls him to safety in the DeLorean. Biff crashes into a manure truck.

Resolution: There really isn’t much resolving here, since the story immediately sets up the sequel. As Doc is attempting to get them home through the lightning storm, the DeLorean is struck by lightning and disappears, leaving Marty stranded in 1955. He receives a letter from Doc in 1885—where he ended up.

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