Welcome to the future! As you no doubt recall, 2015 is the year that Marty McFly traveled to in ‘Back to the Future Part II’. As forward-thinking as director Robert Zemeckis and the other filmmakers may have been, they unfortunately got one or two little things slightly inaccurate in their depiction of the year. Let’s see if we can identify where they slipped up.
As we crossed the threshold into 2015, I’m sure that you’ve seen a lot of people on the web or social media making ‘Back to the Future Part II’ jokes, but has any of them taken the time to systematically go through the Blu-ray and grab screenshots of every anachronism in the order they appear?
Let’s start at the beginning. Some of these predictions are more on-the-money than others.
Doc’s Wacky Sunglasses
The movie opens right where the original ‘Back to the Future’ ended, in 1985 as Doc Brown returns from the future to collect Marty and Jennifer. His goofy outfit and the neon-colored costumes that will be pervasive in the following scenes are very much a 1980s extrapolation of what the future might look like.
Of special note here are his seemingly solid-metal glasses that have some sort of Heads-Up Display that he uses when driving. While this might not visually look like anything that people really wear today, it’s not too far removed in concept from Google Glass, is it?
Sorry, but we don’t have personal fusion reactors (that fuel-up by recycling garbage) on our cars yet. With advances in hybrids and electric cars, however, let’s give this another couple decades and see where we’re at.
Digital License Plates
I’m not aware of any states that have switched to using shiny reflective bar codes on automobile license plates yet. Again, the movie may have just jumped the gun by a few years on this one.
Flying Cars? No So Much
Although this is a staple of countless sci-fi movies, I don’t see flying cars as ever being a practical reality. Think about it, would you want cars dropping out of the sky onto people’s heads after a fender-bender?
After a rainstorm stops exactly on cue, Doc makes a remark about the wonderful efficiency of the “Weather Service.” This seems pretty far-fetched.
Laserdiscs in the Trash
Hey, here’s one that the movie sort-of gets right! Piled up with the trash in a back alley are a huge stack of old Laserdiscs. Indeed, that obsolete format is basically worthless today. However, most people already got rid of theirs years ago (myself excepted).
Doc peels off a latex mask to reveal that he has undergone some sort of “rejuvenation” treatment to remove wrinkles, change his blood, and have his spleen and colon replaced in order to add 30 or 40 years to his life. (The joke of course is that he looks basically the same either way.) Plastic surgery may be a huge industry today, but I don’t think we’re quite as advanced as Doc implies.
Doc uses digital binoculars to spy on Marty, Jr. I suppose we could probably do this with a smartphone app.
Phone Booths Still Exist
‘Back to the Future Part II’ failed to foresee the prevalence of cell phones in modern society. Phone booths today are basically extinct.
One Size Fits All
Marty puts on a pair of sneakers with “power laces” and a jacket that automatically adjusts itself to his size. Good luck finding these at Old Navy or Foot Locker.
Doc tells Marty that the kids today all wear their jeans inside-out. I think that would actually be less ridiculous than droopy jeans that hang down below their butts, which is a sad reality.
$50 for a Pepsi?
Inflation hasn’t been quite that bad.
The Cubs Win the World Series!
Other revelations: The population of America has apparently skyrocketed to the point that USA Today has over 3 billion readers. The country also has a female President.
The references to “Queen Diana” are particularly unfortunate.
The justice system moves much faster now that all lawyers have been abolished. If only!
Fill ‘Er Up?
Gas stations in the movie’s 2015 are fully robotic. In reality, “Full Service” is mostly a thing of the past and you’re expected to get out of your car and pump your own damn gas.
The Revenge of 3D
We may not have had any more ‘Jaws’ sequels since ‘Back to the Future Part II’ was released (certainly not enough to reach a part 19), but we’ll be up to a fourth ‘Jurassic Park’ this year. Sequels and franchises are the bread-and-butter of Hollywood’s business. Zemeckis also correctly predicted the return of 3D and the dominance of the premium-screen movie theater. We may not have hologram projections yet, but our CGI quality is somewhat better than what’s seen here.
I guess nothing screams “the future” like holograms. (See also: ‘Minority Report’.) Holographic billboards may not be a real thing, but we do have plenty of video billboards that will talk at you.
The movie hits the nail on the head with this one. ’80s nostalgia is huge today.
There are so many fun things to look at in the window of this antiques shop. I used to have that ‘Jaws’ NES cartridge. How many items seen here did you own?
The Café 80s has robot waiters that will respond to voice commands and take your order. I’d expect to see something like this in Japan, but not in a novelty theme restaurant that’s supposed to evoke the past.
The CRT monitor screens look terribly clunky and old-fashioned, but I suppose that part ties in with the ’80s theme.
Here’s that $50 Pepsi mentioned earlier.
“Pepsi Perfect,” not real. Instead we got Pepsi Max, Pepsi Next, Pepsi ONE, Pepsi Blue and Pepsi Generation. Huh.
After Marty shows off his skills playing an old-school light gun arcade game (which subtly sets up his skill at gunfighting in the next sequel), a kid watching him remarks, “You mean you have to use your hands? That’s like a baby’s toy.” He must have a Wii or Kinect at home.
The bully Griff supposedly has “bionic implants.” Every time he moves, we can hear the sound of whirring gears or servos. Real prostethic limbs can indeed have some bionic elements these days, but they’re reserved for people who need major reconstructive surgery, not a cosmetic enhancement. Give it a few years, though.
Telescoping Baseball Bat
Griff threatens Marty with a baseball bat that telescopes out to extend its length. I’m not sure what the point of that would be.
Maybe soon. Maybe soon.
What the hell are these kids wearing?
“Now this has an interesting feature. It has a dust jacket. Books used to have these to protect the covers. Of course, that was before they had dust-repellant paper.”
An e-reader seems a little more useful.
Suspended Animation for Pets
“I left him in a suspended animation kennel. Einstein never knew I was gone.”
When exactly did Doc put the dog in suspended animation? In the 1980s? Such a thing wouldn’t have existed then (not that it exists now either). Did he bring Einstein with him to the future, then put him in suspended animation until he went back to the past and returned again? Why bother? From the dog’s point of view, Doc would have been back the next day anyway.
USA Today sends a drone to record the news immediately after it happens. We’re not too far off from this, I think.
This could be a cousin to the Roomba.
Flat Screen TVs
Other than the aspect ratio being wrong, this is otherwise pretty close.
Later, we see another screen that looks like it’s 16:9. The split-screen display mode isn’t very common, though.
More hover technology. When George throws his back out, he has to hang upside down from this contraption.
Biff pays for his taxi by scanning his thumbprint. This may very well be the next upgrade for Apple Pay.
When middle-aged Marty enters the house, he’s greeted by a computer voice that welcomes him and adjusts the lighting. Yeah, we have stuff like this now, though Marty’s house and neighborhood seem a little shabby for this type of tech to be common.
Dog Walking Drones
Young Marty spots another drone out walking a dog. I’m sure something like this is inevitable.
Also notable in this scene is the obnoxious neon lighting on the curbs.
Lorraine prepares an instant freeze-dried pizza for dinner. After a couple seconds in the Black & Decker Hydrator, the contents of the little bag come out a full-size steaming pie. For what it’s worth, the result looks better than real Pizza Hut takeout.
Are Marty Jr. and his sister Marlene wearing Oculus Rift headsets?
This is a fashion trend I’m fairly confident will never happen.
Marty takes a video call on his TV. The quality is a little better than the pixelated mess I usually get out of Skype.
Just the Fax, Ma’am
Fax machines are very popular in the world of ‘Back to the Future Part II’. Marty’s house even has one in the closet. Such a waste of paper. The movie failed to predict email.
This Is Heavy
After this point, the movie leaves 2015 and transitions to a dystopic alternate-timeline version of 1985, and then from there back to 1955 again. Although I’m sure the 1950s scenes have their own share of anachronisms and inaccuracies, I’ll leave those for someone more familiar with the decade to suss out.
Keep in mind that the first section of the movie technically takes place in late October of 2015, so we still have about ten months for some of these world-changing developments to occur and become ubiquitous.