Tuesday, December 29, 2015

You Probably Don't Need "We Don't Need Roads"

I'm the sort of person who likes "behind the scenes" looks at movies. And, of course, I love Back to the Future (a fact well documented here on the blog). So naturally, I'd be interested in a book that sits squarely at the intersection of those two things, We Don't Need Roads: The Making of the Back to the Future Trilogy.

The tricky thing is, most of the behind the scenes stories involving Back to the Future have been told, re-told, and told a few more times over the years. Any true fan knows that Eric Stoltz was originally cast as Marty McFly; that Crispin Glover's great performance as George McFly came with on-set diva antics that ultimately saw him dropped from the sequels; that a dry interview response by Robert Zemeckis convinced thousands of people that hoverboards were real; and so on. That this is well traveled ground is a fact that the book's author, Caseen Gaines, acknowledges in his introduction. Nevertheless, he hopes that his detailed interviews with most of the cast and crew behind the trilogy will lead to an authoritative collection of memories.

Well, the book is certainly complete. All those familiar stories and more are covered, with multiple viewpoints offered by different people involved. But the book isn't exactly essential. There's very little that's new. (One of the few stories I didn't know involved a near-fatal accident shooting the hoverboard sequence in Part II. But that section itself was published in a web site article promoting this very book. So even that I'd heard about before reading it.) Plus, the final chapter is little more than a virtual parade of various licensed products made for the film over the years -- almost more advertisement than exposé.

You can tell that Gaines loves this subject as much as his readers. You can appreciate all the time that writer-producer Bob Gale gave him, expressed in numerous quotes and recollections peppered all throughout the book. I did gobble it up very quickly, and I found myself enjoying it -- but I couldn't help but feel that much of that joy came from my love of the films, more so than the book itself.

I'd give We Don't Need Roads a B-. As far as a recommendation goes, the sweet spot here really would be a moderate fan of the series who's into movie making. A megafan isn't going to be impressed. A casual fan isn't going to be interested at all.

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