An ambitious sequel that doesn't quite match the fun and magic of the original picture, "Back to the Future II" opens where the prior picture left off. Doc Brown shows up once again, asking Marty to join him in a journey to 2015, where his son is about to be sent off to jail. While he's successful is getting his son out of trouble, he also makes some incredibly bad judgement in buying a sports alminac that tells all of the World Series winners from the years up until that point. Although Marty thinks that he can't lose, he certainly can: Biff, the bully from his past, steals both the book and the time-traveling De Lorean in an attempt to give it to his past self.
Although all of the jumping back and forth may seem a bit confusing on paper, writer Bob Gale and director Robert Zemeckis keep things clear and streamlined. The sequel doesn't quite have the charm or good nature of the original, but it's a little faster and a little more action-heavy. The special effects are also improved this time around, with the future sequences offering some effects that are fairly seamless for 1989. Fox and Lloyd once again make a fine pair of heroes, while Elisabeth Shue doesn't have a lot to do as Marty's girlfriend.
VIDEO: The second film in the trilogy is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. There has been much discussion about mis-framing on this release and this appears to be true, if not consistently bothersome. As I mentioned in my review of the original film, I do not have the widescreen laserdiscs to compare to. Even so, the mis-framing is apparent on a series of scenes throughout the movie where elements that should be on-screen are slightly off, or scenes where a bit too much space on top was noticed. However, there are many scenes throughout the movie where the mis-framing was not noticable and even when mis-framing was noticable, it was not major.
As for the video quality of this release, the picture quality is a little bit better than the very nice presentation of the first film. Sharpness and detail seemed a bit more consistent, while the image remained bright and vivid. Grain still was apparent throughout this film, especially in a couple of effects shots. Edge enhancement was seen too, but only minor amounts. No pixelation, marks, scratches or wear were noticed.
The second film's somewhat more vivid color palette looked bright and well-saturated, with no smearing or other faults. Black level was solid, while flesh tones looked accurate. A nice presentation in terms of general image quality, but the framing issue (while not major) is unfortunate.
SOUND: The second film is also presented with a remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. The soundtrack seemed fairly similar to the soundtrack for the first film, although there were a few more action scenes here that provided for a slightly more aggressive audio experience. Other than that, the surrounds still don't provide a whole lot of information and only occasionally reinforce Alan Silvestri's score. General audio quality is very enjoyable again here, as sound effects are crisp, the score remained bold and warm, while dialogue came through clearly.
Commentaries: Once again, the DVD for the second feature offers both a feature-length audio commentary from producers Neil Canton and Bob Gale, along with a recorded Q & A session with director Robert Zemeckis and Gale. Once again, the Q & A is more informative than the audio commentary, although both are worthy of a listen. The Q & A provides a great deal of information from Zemeckis and Gale, who chat about the process of coming up with the concepts for the sequel (originally, a large part of the film took place in the 60's) and the issues that revolved around trying to create a bigger film after the success of the original (and trying to recapture the spirit of the first film, which was largely impossible). Also interesting is the director's discussion of doing both films (parts two and three were shot at the same time) at the same time and the problems he had while trying to helm both. The commentary with Canton and Gale is informative, but a bit less energetic and consistent, as there are a few patches of silence scattered throughout and some areas where the two simply narrate the plot.
Outtakes: Once again, the DVD for two offers a couple of minutes of outtakes. These are actually a bit funnier than the ones on the first DVD.
Deleted Scenes: Seven deleted scenes are offered, all with commentary from producer Bob Gale. These seemed to be mostly unnecessary material, with a couple being extended versions of scenes that are in the picture.
Featurettes: Once again, both the original "Making Of" (about 6 1/2 minutes) and a new "Making Of" (about 15 minutes) are offered. Although parts of the newly-produced piece once again do seem a bit clip-heavy, interviews with Gale, Fox and others do provide some pretty enjoyable tidbits that aren't offered elsewhere on this disc. Smaller featurettes (a couple of minutes each) are also included: "Production Design", "Storyboarding", "Designing the DeLorean" and "Designing Time Travel".
Also: "Did You Know That?" subtitle fact track, short "hoverboard test" clip, "Evolution of Visual Effects" featurette, production archive, trailer, bios, "Power of Love" music video, production notes and DVD-ROM features.
Final Thoughts: The second feature is not quite what the first one was, but still manages to be an enjoyable effort with fine effects and plot twists. The second DVD in this set does suffer from subtle framing problems that I found noticable in some scenes and not in others. Otherwise, general video and audio quality is fine and the supplements for the second film are the same as the first in terms of quality and quantity.
The Film ***