“Great Scott! In 1985, Director Robert Zemeckis, Executive Producer Steven Spielberg and Producer/Screenwriter Bob Gale embarked on a three-part journey through time that broke box-office records worldwide and catapulted Back to the Future into one of the most beloved trilogies in motion picture history. Ralph Potts reviews the Ultra HD Blu-ray release of Back to the Future, part of the Back to the Future: The Ultimate Trilogy from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

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The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )

Film:


Extras:


Audio/UHD Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )

93



Details:

Studio and Year: Universal - 1985
MPAA Rating: PG
Feature running time: 116 minutes
Genre: Sci-Fi/Comedy/Adventure

Disc Format: BD-100
Encoding: HEVC
Video Aspect: 2.40:1
Resolution: 2160p/24

Audio Format(s):
Subtitles:
Starring:
Michael J. Fox (Marty McFly), Christopher Lloyd (Dr. Emmett Brown), Lea Thompson (Lorraine Baines), Thomas F. Wilson (Biff Tannen), Crispin Glover (George McFly), Claudia Wells (Jennifer Parker), Billy Zane (Match), Casey Siemaszko
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Written by: Robert Zemeckis & Bob Gale
Region Code: A,B,C


Release Date: October 20, 2020


"The Future is NOW!"


Synopsis:

“Great Scott! In 1985, Director Robert Zemeckis, Executive Producer Steven Spielberg and Producer/Screenwriter Bob Gale embarked on a three-part journey through time that broke box-office records worldwide and catapulted Back to the Future into one of the most beloved trilogies in motion picture history.” – Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

My Take:

I previously reviewed the Back to the Future Trilogy when it was released on Blu-ray. This review will focus on Back to the Future and will include comments from my earlier review. The rating for the film is the same. New ratings for the Ultra HD video, newly remastered 1080p video, Atmos sound and additional bonus features are below.

From the Academy Award®-winning filmmakers Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis comes, the original, groundbreaking adventure that sparked one of the most successful trilogies in Hollywood history. When teenager Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) is blasted to 1955 in the DeLorean time machine created by the eccentric Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd), he finds himself mixed up in a time-shattering chain reaction that could vaporize his future—and leave him trapped in the past. Powered by innovative special effects, unforgettable songs and non-stop action, Back to the Future is an unrivaled adventure that stands the test of time.

I have been a fan of Back to the Future since seeing it in the theater back in 1985. Michael J. Fox was already well known to me from TV’s Family Ties and the film’s premise looked like lots of fun. Of course it turned out to be an instant classic that propelled Fox to stardom which led to more films including a pair of Back to the future sequels. Using time travel as the plot in film was nothing extraordinary however Back to the future brought it to life in a meaningful way that seemed tangible back then. The idea of a kid that most of us could easily identify with getting sucked up in an adventure where he goes back in time (via a very cool DeLorean) was promising but, taking it a step further by having him inadvertently disrupt the sequence of events 30 years earlier that led to his parents meeting (which could result in him ceasing to exist altogether) opens a Pandora’s box filled with conceptual possibility.

The outcome was a thoroughly entertaining, multi-genre film the likes of which I had never seen before. Combining elements of science fiction, comedy, and action/adventure Back to the future titillated our imaginations and appealed to our sensibilities via a superbly constructed script/screenplay that never felt cheesy/corny and led us on an almost painstaking journey filled with clever references, laugh out loud moments and “credible” action that was only over the top enough to garner the occasional raising of an eyebrow. The idea of needing to get “Back” to the future was just plain cool and the integration of the characters within the two timelines and how Marty interacted with them was brilliant. The idea of NOT interfering with the past due to its residual effects on the present (or future) is clear but who can blame Marty for “tweaking” things a bit? The concept of tweaking the past and future is what drives the continuing storyline in the two sequels.

I am such a fan and am thrilled that Universal Studios Home Entertainment has remastered these films and brought them to Ultra HD Blu-ray. Read on to see the results.

The Trilogy collection comes housed in an attractive book style keep case that is sturdily bound and features “pages” for storing each of the discs while including accompanying photos from each film. The “pages” are glossy cardboard which the disc’s slide into (not crazy about this method as it requires over handling of the discs in order to get them out). The book slides into a somewhat flimsy matching cardboard slipcover.

Please Note:
Back to the Future is available on Ultra HD as part of the Back to the Future: Ultimate Trilogy set and not separately.

Additionally:

Three premium collections will be available at select retailers for a limited time only:
• BACK TO THE FUTURE 35TH ANNIVERSARY TRILOGY LIMITED EDITION GIFT SET (4K UHD): Includes exclusive levitating Hoverboard replica (Amazon Exclusive)
• BACK TO THE FUTURE 35TH ANNIVERSARY TRILOGY LIMITED EDITION GIFT SET (Blu-ray™): Includes exclusive levitating Hoverboard replica (Target Exclusive)
• BACK TO THE FUTURE 35TH ANNIVERSARY LIMITED EDITION TRILOGY (4K UHD): Includes three newly designed steelbooks (Best Buy Exclusive)
• For more information on these exclusives, please visit the individual retailer’s stores and websites.



Replay Value:



Parental Guide:

The rating is for thematic material.


AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.



UHD Presentation(HDR-10): 96
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)



    • HDR: Dark Highlights:
    • HDR: Bright Highlights:
    • HDR: Expanded Color:
    • Resolution:
    • Visual Impact:
UHD Presentation (Dolby Vision): 96
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)




    • HDR: Dark Highlights:
    • HDR: Bright Highlights:
    • HDR: Expanded Color:
    • Resolution:
    • Visual Impact:
Dolby Atmos Rating: 90
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)




    • Level of immersion:
    • Soundstage integration:
    • Audio object placement:
    • Effectiveness of Atmos platform:
    • Entertainment factor:
Back to the Future comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment featuring 2160pHEVC encoded video and lossless Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 channel sound.

Universal Studios remastered Back to the Future from the original 35mm film elements. Its presentation in Ultra HD is derived from that 4K image.

It's important to note that the ultimate goal for any release on home video is to present a film in the highest possible quality based upon its original elements. Back to the Future has an aesthetic that incorporates film grain and the use of cinematography that won't always result in the type of high gloss, tack-like sharpness of many newer films shot today. This isn't a problem and shouldn't be seen as such.

This is a sci-fi adventure/fantasy/comedy that strives to recreate the look and feel of director Robert Zemeckis’ vision. Reminiscent of other classic catalog films released on Ultra HD Blu-ray from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, this rendering takes the high definition presentation on Blu-ray to the next level.

I am happy to report that its primary foundation remains fully intact while revealing layers of seemingly new levels of detail, definition, color delineation (the engine/interior of the DeLorean!), and emboldened contrast that elevate its thematic impact. The opening scenes in Doc’s lab and Marty’s high school offer a glimpse of what is to come, appearing sharp, with emboldened color and noteworthy dimension. The sequence at the Hill Valley Mall parking lot with its brilliant whites, deep blacks and enriching contrast looks better than ever.

The daytime scenes that take place in the square at Hill Valley in 1955 are among the presentation’s highlights. Their bright, sun splashed aesthetic shone brilliantly, containing moments where the increased resolution and wide color gamut drew forth a bit more delineation and depth. The scene where Biff and his minions are submerged in manure after crashing into the back of the truck is a good example. After the camera pans in on Biff and he opens his eyes, the image looked nearly three dimensional.

There are a few shots when digital noise reduction was employed, such as the scene when Marty arrives in the Hill Valley town square in 1955, just before discovering what the year is. These “touch-ups” aren’t pervasive and appear momentarily during close-ups. Otherwise, film grain remains perfectly intact with a predominantly even and filmic essence.

The color range over the course of the presentation is reproduced beautifully, especially the rendering of primary colors, which are was gratifying and vivid. I also found that fleshtones appeared gradational and quite natural. The addition of high dynamic range added a pleasing visual element that enriched both natural and artificial light. I also felt that the purposefully dark/dreary sequences benefited from the application of HDR which emboldened their blacks and shadow delineation. The clocktower/storm sequence in the final act looks terrific. In addition to the increase in resolution, this made the differences between the 1080p video and this rendering standout.


All in all, I found the Ultra HD presentation of Back to the Future allows its attributes to be fully realized in a way that it hadn’t been before. As I sat and watched I revisited myself seeing it for the first time in 1985 in the theater.


Dolby Vision vs HDR-10:

I utilize the TCL 55P607 UHD Dolby Vision HDR flat panel in my review system to enable me to compare the visual quality of titles that contained the Dolby Vision metadata versus its HDR-10 counterpart on the same disc. All titles are first watched via my JVC front projector. I then select specific scenes which are watched on the TCL, first via HDR-10 then via Dolby Vision. The TCL isn’t among the top tier flat panels with DV, however it came recommended by AVS Senior Editor Mark Henninger, and calibrates/performs extremely well for a set at its price point.

The cumulative A/V score will still be based upon the HDR-10 rating, with the DV rating serving as informational only for now.

Comparing the DV and HDR10 presentations for Back to the Future, I found the HDR to be extremely close. In fact, I would go so far as to say they were negligible. Again, I want to emphasize that this film’s predominating elements aren’t necessarily lent to the engaging type of HDR that makes the format shine. I did feel that the Dolby Vision rendering drew forth just a hint more depth in blues and reds and detail in specular highlights. While I wouldn’t categorize it as worthy of a rating difference, it would be my preferred way of viewing the film.


Dolby Atmos:

The new Dolby Atmos mix uses the entire platform so as to broaden the soundstage. Early in the film there is only the occasional use of the overhead channels, adding a discrete effect here and musical ambience there. At ear level the music is mixed over the sound field, adding natural depth to its orchestrated elements while complimenting the film’s thematic details. I liked how the new mix was used to pinpoint various sounds over the listening area. This is done to very good effect, correlating with the onscreen events quite nicely as the most minute audio cues are fully realized.


As the story progresses the use of the overhead channels take on a bit more prominence. The “Johnny Be Good” number at the dance sounds great. The storm sequence at the clock tower is the presentation’s highlight. I appreciated the fact that the sound designers didn't go overboard with the freedom of object versus channel- based mixing. The soundtrack retains much of its original essence with the Atmos mix adding a noticeable increase in scope.



For those not familiar with the details regarding Ultra HD Blu-ray you can refer to my article that includes some pertinent data on the subject. Here is the link:

Ultra HD Blu-ray Has Come to AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews


Blu-ray Video:


Video: 90
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)



    • Resolution/Clarity:
    • Black Level/Shadow Detail:
    • Color Reproduction:
    • Fleshtones:
    • Compression:
    [/B]
Audio: 86
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)



    • Dynamics:
    • Low frequency effects:
    • Surround Sound presentation:
    • Clarity/Detail:
    • Dialog Reproduction:
    • DSU/DTS Neural:X Rating * (non-rated element): NA
Back to the Future comes to Blu-ray Disc from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound.

According to the press documentation Universal remastered Back to the Future from the original 35mm film elements, and that same 4K restoration was used for the 1080p rendering.

In looking at this presentation I didn’t see a noteworthy quality difference when compared to the original Blu-ray release. This is a solid looking high definition catalog release that features clean, well depicted colors that offer a good mix of secondary hues that mate well with the source material. The earth tones appear very natural as the green grass, various shades of red, brown and blue look great.

I noted that during some (not all) of the close-up camera shots facial features appeared to have been “touched up”. I wouldn’t describe it in the same vein as excessive digital scrubbing and it probably has more to do with minor imperfections on the print that needed attention. The remainder of the frame doesn’t suffer and the application is mild enough that viewers may not even notice it.

Well balanced black and white levels bring out plenty of visible detail in both bright and dark segments onscreen. The nighttime segments shot in the town square and in particular the parking lot at the Hill Valley Mall, have appreciable dynamic range and depth. Film grain is intact, appearing well preserved and consistently rendered over the course of the presentation.

The same DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix found on the previous Blu-ray release is contained here. My comments regarding that are below

The high resolution DTS-HD MA audio mix does a terrific job rendering this 35-year-old soundtrack. Dialogue has discernible intonation, with distinctive clarity and above average room penetration. This is a more or less front oriented presentation that makes effective use of the entire system to deliver the action-based components which are highlighted by appreciable impact, defining clarity, and Alan Silvestri’s memorable music. Dynamic range is good but, not defining. Surround activity isn’t constant but, when applied, accents the film’s thematic tone.

The LFE channel is similarly used to punctuate sound effects like the rumble of the DeLorean’s engine or the thrust of the Flux Capacitor as it kicks in just before launch. Imaging across the front is excellent while front to rear integration isn’t quite as cohesive. I noted that sounds mixed to the rear channels tend to be a bit more prominent than music which skews balance. The overall effect doesn’t prove overtly distracting though. In general, I found the audio presentation to be quite good.


Bonus Features:

  • Disc 1: Back to the Future Ultra HD Blu-ray
  • Disc 2: Back to the Future Blu-ray
  • Disc 3: Bonus Features
    • An Alternate Future: Lost Audition Tapes (NEW) - Get a glimpse of the BACK TO THE FUTURE that could have been with rare audition footage featuring now-famous celebrities.
    o Ben Stiller
    o Kyra Sedgwick
    o Jon Cryer
    o Billy Zane
    o Peter DeLuise
    o C. Thomas Howell
    • The Hollywood Museum Goes BACK TO THE FUTURE (NEW) - Join Co-writer/Producer Bob Gale on an intimate tour of an exhaustive exhibit of the films’ props and memorabilia.
    • BACK TO THE FUTURE: THE MUSICAL Behind the Scenes (NEW) - Get a sneak peek at the new musical show including a Q&A with the cast and creative team plus two new song recordings.
    o Cast and Creative Q&A
    o Original Songs
     Gotta Start Somewhere
     Put Your Mind To It
    • Could You Survive The Movies? BACK TO THE FUTURE (NEW) - Explore the magic and science of BACK TO THE FUTURE and find out which laws of physics were actually violated in this special episode of the popular YouTube series.
    • 2015 Message from Doc Brown
    o DOC BROWN SAVES THE WORLD!
    • OUTATIME: Restoring the DeLorean
    • Looking BACK TO THE FUTURE
    o The Script
    o Casting Marty McFly
    o Christopher Lloyd Reflects on Doc Brown
    o The DeLorean Time Machine
    o Building Hill Valley
    o Prepping for the "Johnny B. Goode" Scene
    o The Score
    o Rushing the Cut
    o The Legacy
    • BACK TO THE FUTURE: The Animated Series
    o Brothers (Season 1, Episode 1)
    o Mac the Black (Season 2, Episode 1)
    • 2015 Commercials
    o JAWS 19 Trailer
    o Hoverboard Commercial
    • Deleted Scenes (Commentary by Producer Bob Gale available)
    o Peanut Brittle
    o "Pinch Me"
    o Doc's Personal Belongings
    o "She's Cheating"
    o Darth Vader (Extended Version)
    o "Hit Me George"
    o "You Got a Permit?"
    o The Phone Booth
    • Tales from THE FUTURE: In the Beginning...
    • Tales from THE FUTURE: Time to Go
    • Tales from THE FUTURE: Keeping Time
    • Archival Featurettes
    o The Making of BACK TO THE FUTURE
    o Making the Trilogy: Chapter One
    o BACK TO THE FUTURE Night
    • Michael J. Fox Q&A
    o How He Got the Role
    o The Character of Doc
    o Working on a Film and TV Series at the Same Time
    o Shooting BACK TO THE FUTURE II and III Together
    o DeLoreans
    o Special FX and Stunts
    o The Appeal of BACK TO THE FUTURE
    o Shooting BACK TO THE FUTURE
    • Behind the Scenes
    o Original Makeup Tests
    o Outtakes
    o Nuclear Test Site Sequence (Commentary by Producer Bob Gale available)
    o Photo Galleries*
     Production Art
     Storyboards
     Behind-the-Scenes Photographs
     Marketing Materials
     Character Portraits
    • Huey Lewis and the News "The Power of Love" Music Video
    • Theatrical Teaser Trailer
    • Join Team Fox
    • Q&A Commentary with Director Robert Zemeckis and Producer Bob Gale
    • Feature Commentary with Producers Bob Gale and Neil Canton
  • Digital Code
Final Thoughts:

Back to the Future is a classic film which has become engrained as a part of our pop culture. It has a remarkably timeless appeal that has remained constant over the 35 years since its release. Back to the Future arrives on Ultra HD Blu-ray as part of the Back to the Future: The Ultimate Trilogy Combo Pack from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment featuring excellent overall video quality, a complimentary Dolby Atmos immersive listening experience, and new/legacy supplements. Watching it again was like visiting an old friend. I am thrilled to now own it on Ultra HD Blu-ray.













Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:

JVC DLA-RS2000 4K Ultra High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman color calibration software and Portrait Displays C6 HDR2000 colorimeter from Portrait.com)
Stewart Filmscreen - Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16x9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Electronic Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV7704 Audio/Video Processor
Emotiva XPA-7 Gen 3 Seven Channel Amplifier
Emotiva XPA-11 Gen 3 Amplifier
Panasonic DP-UB820 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
Oppo BDP-203 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
System Controller: Apple iPad/Roomie Remote V6 Universal Remote Control
SVS Ultra Tower Speakers (Gloss Finish)
SVS Ultra Center Channel (Gloss Finish)
SVS Ultra Surrounds (Gloss Finish in Bipolar Configuration)
Dual SVS PC4000 Cylinder Subwoofers
Niles Audio In-Ceiling/In-Wall Series Speakers
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
AC Infinity Aircom T8 Component Cooling Systems
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