Most films set in the future involve something trying to put an end to humanity as we know it. Machines try to kill us in 2001: A Space Odyssey, Terminator, Blade Runner, and The Matrix. Creatures try to kill us in Alien, Starship Troopers, and Planet of the Apes. And if that weren’t enough, we try to kill each other in Mad Max, Children of Men, The Hunger Games, and countless others. Movies that try to positively frame aspects of future living (Minority Report, Equilibrium, In Time) usually end up a complete nightmare.
In short, most films aren’t looking forward to the future. Except for one. There is one shining light in all the futuristic cinema that manages to give us a not only a good future, but an absolutely great one. Few films feature the future in a more positive light than Back to the Future II. I’m not a religious man, but awaiting the arrival of Marty in 2015 is pretty much the closest I’ll ever come to worship.
Today at 4:29pm Pacific Standard Time is when Marty, Doc and Jennifer arrive in the futuristic Hill Valley. BTTFII got enough right about what our year might look like that I’m wondering if the DeLorean could really travel through time. They were a bit off sure, but there are many real-life analogs to the events and technology BTTFII predicted.
BTTF 2015: We see three different types of eye wear that are more than just fashionable in the film. Doc’s opaque silver glasses are used as a rear-view mirror while driving; Marty and Jennifer’s kids use glasses to watch TV and take phone calls respectively. It seems Marty Jr.’s can actually do both.
Real life 2015: Google Glass, Oculus Rift , Microsoft’s Hololens and even Google Cardboard give us augmented realities to use in everyday life. It’s not used as mundanely as in the film, and most of these products are still fairly pricey (with the exception of Google Cardboard) — the future McFly’s were framed as a middle class family so it might be awhile until tech like that is a humdrum part of life. We’re not without progress though, maybe even surpassing their tech with this VR setup that Kyle got to demo:
BTTF 2015: The DeLorean was initially powered by stolen plutonium. (If we really think about Doc Brown’s actions, he was basically just as bad as the terrorists in the first film and has followed that up with fairly dubious motives and ethics throughout all three movies.) BTTFII used a Deus Ex Machina for the plutonium problem by introducing the “Mr. Fusion Home Energy Reactor,” which converts trash into power. The concept of powering a time-traveling car with a handful of garbage is pretty amazing if it’s assumed the 1.21 gigawatts are still needed to achieve time travel.
Real life 2015: We’re nowhere near Mr. Fusions but we have made advancements in solar energy, biodiesel, and alternative fuel sources. There are also worms and microbes that can consume plastics, which means that someday we may be able to harness that trait for power. It wouldn’t surprise me if a future Tesla had something like this considering all they can do now.
People Wearing Utter Nonsense
OK, so maybe this isn’t an actual prediction, considering spandex was as prevalent in 1985 as yoga pants and Under Armour are now, but BTTFII‘s 2015 people looked bananas. Every next generation will dress seemingly weirder than the previous one, so it’s not entirely fair to judge what they thought we were going to be wearing. However, it’s safe to say anytime after its introduction, skin tight clothing in some form will continue to be prevalent. Also, dude in the background is pretty much rocking a “left shark” sweatshirt.
Power Lace Shoes
What kid didn’t want a pair of these!? Nike designer Tinker Hatfield announced they were working on their BTTF-inspired power lacing MAG shoes in 2014 but replicas existed as far back as 2011, which were auctioned off to benefit the Michael J Fox Foundation.
Know what? Take a break from this and go donate — if you can — to the Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. It does a lot of good and it’s the least we all can do as fans to thank him for decades of entertainment.
As for the Nike Mags, is there really a need for this sort of technology? It’s doubtful, as shoes without laces already exist which are considerably easier than shoes requiring a power source. If and when these arrive they’d be a novelty at most.
BTTF 2015: In addition to the power lace shoes, Doc suits Marty up in an auto-fit jacket that also detects when it’s wet. With some sort of tiny and unobtrusive fan it can dry off its wearer.
Real life 2015: Sadly there are no auto-dry jackets as of yet but there have been advancements in fabrics over the years. Under Armour, Gore-Tex, moisture-wicking and stay-cool clothing are available in some form at most clothing stores.
Robotic Gas Stations
BTTF 2015: The Texaco station in the film appears to be completely automated from re-fueling to checking the status of other components of hover-cars. Oh yeah, also, there are hover-cars.
Real life 2015: Gas stations are still staffed by human beings but Tesla’s charging “snake” promises to be creepier than any 4am gas station attendant could ever hope to be.
BTTF 2015: The holographic Jaws 19 — directed by a Max Spielberg — was playing at the Holomax theater where “This time it’s really REALLY personal.”
Real life 2015: We don’t have holographic movies yet but we have seen holographic technology in the form of various Tupac Shakurs, Michael Jacksons and Li’l Sebastians. Our 3D movie tech is pretty damn awesome as well, but we do still need glasses to achieve it. Thankfully, the Jaws franchise stopped long ago and we only have to deal with three awful Jaws iterations, but the wonderful folks over at Universal made a Jaws 19 trailer for us to enjoy:
The real Max Spielberg was born in 1985 and actually did end up working in movies. Not that hard to predict when you’re the son of Stephen Spielberg.
BTTF 2015: Cafe 80s had no human waitstaff. Instead, robotic TV waiters with screens depicting Michael Jackson, Ronald Reagan and Ayatollah Khomeini took orders and interacted with customers. Beverages are served up through the counter itself and dishes are explained to you by the figures onscreen. MJ offers a patron a “Fajita Tortilla Pita, It’s got hot salsa, avocados and cilantro, mixed with your choice of beans, chicken, beef or pork.”
Real life 2015: Auto-mat diners have been around for ages and it seems every year we hear of a new robotic restaurant opening somewhere (usually Japan, it’s always Japan). But can we talk about the real eye-opener here? The Michael Jackson robot predicted Chipotle’s entire menu.
Elijah Wood is 4 feet tall
Alright, hear me out. Knowing Elijah Wood was in Back to the Future II is simple trivia, but in this scene (which is set in 2015) he’s shown not wanting to play Wild Gunman after Marty, the one with experience, shows him how to defeat bad guys. A hobbit-sized Elijah Wood is shown turning his back on fighting bad guys head-on and leaves the movie’s hero with his blonde and slightly taller best friend. Some sort of time loop was closed with this scene.
BTTF 2015: Marty orders a Pepsi and a futuristic bottle of Pepsi Perfect rises up out of the counter itself.
Real life 2015: IT EXISTS YOU GUYS! Well, sort of. A number of bottles were given away at New York Comic Con this year to people cosplaying as Marty. A reported 6,500 bottles will go on sale for $20.15 (ha, the year) sometime this month.
A bit of a stretch, but the idea of Cafe 80s has somewhat come true in the vein of countless beercades across the world where anyone can enjoy the cabinet video games of the 80s. I live in Chicago and there are exactly five within a 3-mile radius of my apartment.
BTTF 2015: There is no reason that this far into an article about BTTF tech that you don’t already know about hoverboards.
Real life 2015: Alright, let’s put this to bed right now. Hoverboards — at least in the BTTF sense — are not a thing, but to some degree they do actually exist. With spinning magnets and Lenz’s law, hover tech is possible. It’s something we can all envy Kyle Hill for getting to try earlier this year:
Lexus has announced its own hoverboard technology that works in much the same way as the Hendo board. However, Lexus was a bit sneakier about things and buried a magnetic rail under a skatepark, making it look as though it’s hovering above normal ground. Also, the board has to be refueled with liquid nitrogen about every ten minutes, so there’s that. Oh, before you get your wallets out, Lexus won’t actually be selling it — it’s part of a bigger ad campaign for, you guessed it, something Lexus actually makes. Sadly, the hoverboards of our dreams are just that at this point, and we still have a long way to go until we can involve entire town squares in hoverboard-related gang scuffles.
The Chicago Cubs
BTTF 2015: The cubs sweep Miami in five games (according the the newspaper, but we’ll get to that in a bit) and win the World Series.
Real life 2015: This is quite possibly the scariest prediction of BTTFII. The Chicago Cubs — who haven’t won the world series in over a century — might actually stand a chance this year. Right now everyone is wishing they could go back to the beginning of the series and “put some money on the cubbies.”
The Miami Marlins were even in the BTTF spirit earlier this year when they gave away this shirt with a distinct logo change:
BTTF 2015: Large flat screens and projectors around the McFly household can broadcast television, conduct video calls, and even process peer-to-peer credit card transactions.
Real life 2015: Yeah, we got all that.
BTTF 2015: The same cubbie-betting old man made of rejected Doc Brown face pieces asks Marty to “Thumb a $100” to save the clock tower (which has apparently stood the test of time, so they are really doing something right). You can see a thumb sized pad on the device he’s holding, so it would stand to reason bank accounts are connected to biometric technology. This is also true for the doors in the McFly household — Jennifer can’t figure out how to leave since the doors have no knobs.
The Newspaper Lightning Round
As proof something had to be done about his kids, Doc Brown shows Marty a copy of the October 22nd, 2015 USA Today newspaper and it is chock full of future info. Why Doc didn’t just bring some sort of futuristic vasectomy ray gun to shoot Marty in the crotch with is beyond me, especially considering he had that weird knock out ray he used on Jennifer at the ready. What I’m saying is that Doc is a shady character and really shouldn’t be trusted. His kid turns into a wiener-poking weirdo like right out of the gate in the third movie so how can Doc tell anyone they have to fix their own kids? I’ve gotten off track. Let’s have a closer look at the paper:
Female President – Not yet, but Hillary Clinton might win next year.
Swiss Terrorist – A rare BTTF miss.
Queen Diana Will Visit Washington – Sad.
Thumb Bandits – If you can pay with your thumb this is akin to identity or credit card theft.
3-Minute Mile – ALMOST! Hicham El Guerrouj holds the record at 3:43.13
USA Today Having Three Billion Readers Daily – Eh, not quite.
What BTTF Got Wrong
If you look past the fantasy aspects of the film — of which there are a lot — there are only a few glaring mistakes that we’ve surpassed in our own 2015.
Couldn’t tell you the last time I saw a real working pay phone. Do they even exist? We kind of have to let this one slide though — they got payphones wrong but the sign to the right is offering breast implants on sale. The future is grand.
So. Many. Fax machines.
The major thing BTTFII didn’t, or rather couldn’t, predict was the prevalence of handheld technology and everything it can do. The movie has almost every bit of technology voice command driven. Additionally, we barely see any touch screen technology. A printed newspaper is needed to convey the goings-on of Hill Valley and faxes are used enough to warrant multiple machines in a single household. Both of these functions would be taken care of by a google search and an email on a mobile phone. Walkie Talkie’s are used later in the film and Doc doesn’t seem to mention that there might be an alternative — cell phone technology really wasn’t on anyone’s radar.
Although we only spend about 34 minutes in 2015 Hill Valley, that short amount of time has made an immense impact on the pop culture landscape and clearly my obsession with movies. Back to the Future II promised us a 2015 with amazing technological advancements. The incredibly unexpected thing is, the movie was actually pretty spot-on.
Did we leave something major out? Want to talk a bit more on how Doc is a terrible person? Let us know in the comments below!
Images: Universal Pictures
Blake Rodgers writes for Nerdist from Chicago IL where he lives happily with his Guinness World Record for High Fives and his Mattel Hoverboard. You can be his pal and send him Pepsi Perfect by following him on Twitter @TheBlakeRodgers.