Back to the Future Part II is a 1989 film and a sequel to the 1985 film Back to the Future. Like the previous film, it was directed by Robert Zemeckis and written by Zemeckis and Bob Gale. Part II and the third installment of the trilogy, Back to the Future Part III, were filmed back-to-back, with some of the scenes of Parts II and III filmed concurrently, and released six months apart. Although released in 1989 and 1990, both films continued to portray 1985 as the present, due to them following on directly from the first film.
Part II follows the continued adventures of Marty McFly and "Doc" Emmett Brown as they use their time-traveling DeLorean, which is now capable of flight, to travel to a retro-futuristic version of 2015, an alternate 1985 and the principal setting of the first film in 1955. The film ends with a cliffhanger that is resolved in Part III.
Before reuniting with Doc, Marty notices a sports almanac displayed in a store window, which lists sports statistics from 1950 through to 2000. He buys it, intending to take the book back to 1985 and use the data within for financial gain. Doc discovers the almanac, and sternly tells Marty that the purpose of inventing this time machine was for scientific investigation, not financial gain (especially dishonest), and pitches the almanac into a garbage can. Meanwhile, Jennifer, still tranquilized, is found by the police, who mistake her for her future self after thumbprint identification, and take her to her future home, waking her up just as they arrive. Confused, she hides in a closet, not seeing Marlene McFly, Marty's and Jennifer's daughter, letting George and Lorraine in, and witnessing the Marty of 2015 being fired from his job after his Japanese boss catches him "cooperating" in an illegal scheme (a sting operation) that his immediate boss and longtime friend, Douglas Needles, goads him into joining (again by taunting him that he is too 'chicken' to try it). Travelling to the house, Doc leaves Marty with the DeLorean, finds Jennifer and sneaks her out of the house. Along the way, she encounters her older self, with the shock causing both women to pass out. Unable to carry her himself, Doc calls Marty for help, leaving the DeLorean unguarded.
While Doc and Marty rescue Jennifer, the original Biff (age 78), having overheard Doc and Marty talking about time travel and about the folly and hazards in using it to win at gambling, recovers the discarded sports almanac, steals the DeLorean and travels back in time. He returns the car just before Marty and Doc return to it to leave for their own time, stumbles away in pain and collapses (he has the same symptoms that Marty exhibited in Back to the Future when he was beginning to be "erased"). Bonus features on the DVD allude to the fact that Biff was killed by Lorraine in 1996. Upon arrival in 1985, Marty and Doc find that Hill Valley has become a dilapidated, crime-ridden slum lorded over by a middle-aged Biff, who is now immeasurably rich and powerful thanks to decades of successful sports betting, the proceeds of which he invested in toxic waste dumps and to purchase the Hill Valley courthouse and convert it into a luxury hotel and casino. Biff has also married Marty's widowed mother, Lorraine, after secretly killing her husband George. Doc deduces that the Biff of 2015 must have given the almanac to his younger self sometime in the past. Marty confronts Biff and finds out that he received the almanac on November 12, 1955, the date of the lightning storm that Marty used to get back to the future. Biff then intends to kill Marty (telling him that it's the same gun that he used to kill Marty's real dad George) as he now knows too much. Marty again is saved by Doc when Doc knocks him out with the DeLorean's gull-wing door.
Marty and Doc travel back to 1955 to prevent Biff from getting the almanac. Marty, after a long and complicated series of events involving his multiple attempts to recover the almanac while making sure that he does not undo all the help he rendered in the previous film to his parents, eventually manages to steal the book from the 1955 Biff with the help of Doc in the flying DeLorean, and burns it, restoring history to its proper course. As Doc fights the controls (and accidentally turns on the time circuits) while attempting to land the DeLorean during the storm to pick Marty up, the car is struck by lightning, causing it to disappear, the time-travel capability having been triggered by the lightning. A few minutes later, a Western Union delivery man appears with a letter, which he explains was sent seventy years ago with the explicit instructions that it be delivered to Marty "at this exact location, at this exact minute, November 12, 1955". Marty opens the letter, which is from Doc, explaining that he is now living happily in 1885. Knowing he has only one source of help, Marty runs to the clock tower to find the Doc of 1955, just as lightning strikes to send the previous film's Marty back to the future. The shock of suddenly seeing the new Marty, whom (he thinks) he has just sent back to 1985 causes Doc to faint. The film ends as Marty bends over Doc, trying to revive him.
The characters of George McFly and Jennifer Parker were played by actors different from those of the original film, requiring some previous scenes to be reshot.
In the BTTF FAQ, Gale and Zemeckis state that Glover was uninterested in doing the sequels and was asking for the same salary as Michael J. Fox, and therefore was written out of the story.
As a result, the filmmakers found inventive ways of avoiding showing the character's face in the movie, despite the fact that George McFly was in certain key scenes and dialogue. During all scenes in which the George McFly character appears in both this film and Back to the Future Part III, he is played by Jeffrey Weissman and seen wearing sunglasses, from the back, upside-down, or out of focus in the background. This was to preserve the George McFly character's continuity, despite being played by a different actor. However, producers also recycled footage from the original Back to the Future that included Crispin Glover's portrayal of George McFly. Glover sued Universal for compensation, on grounds that his contract for the first film did not allow subsequent uses of his portrayal of George McFly in new films. The day before the lawsuit went before a judge, Universal quietly settled the case, paying the actor an undisclosed sum. Glover would not reveal the amount during his Howard Stern Show appearance, but did suggest the real reason for the settlement was that Universal was reluctant to "open up their accounting books to the public" during the trial. The Screen Actors Guild later rewrote their rules regarding the derivative use of actors' works in films or TV series, requiring the studios and networks to give appropriate payment and credit to the actors.
Claudia Wells, who had played Marty McFly's girlfriend Jennifer Parker in the original Back to the Future, rejected the part due to her mother's ill health. The producers cast Elisabeth Shue instead, which required reshooting the closing scenes of Back to the Future for the beginning of Back to the Future Part II.
It was nearly 10 years before Claudia Wells returned to Hollywood, with a starring role in the 1996 independent film Still Waters Burn. She is one of the few actors not to make an appearance during the 2002 "behind the scenes" documentaries on the Back to the Future trilogy documentaries on DVD.
After the Florida Marlins beat the Cleveland Indians in the 1997 World Series, and again in 2003, when the Marlins defeated the Cubs in the NLCS, rumors circulated that the movie predicted the Series' results; however, this was not the case. In the film's future news broadcast, it is announced that the National League Chicago Cubs beat the American League team 'Miami Gators' based in Miami, which has an alligator logo, in the 2015 World Series. Aside from the incorrect year, the mascot of the team mentioned does not match that of either current Florida-based team, the Florida Marlins or Tampa Bay Rays. At the time the movie was filmed, Florida did not have a Major League Baseball team of their own, but the Miami-based Marlins played their first season in 1993. Interestingly, under contract terms of the new Marlins stadium, the Florida Marlins are scheduled to be renamed the "Miami Marlins" in 2011 coinciding with the opening of the stadium. This makes it possible for the Chicago Cubs to be able to beat a team named Miami in 2015, but as of yet, not in the World Series because both teams reside in the National League. Teams have changed leagues, most recently the Milwaukee Brewers.
Back to the Future Part II earned $27 million in its first weekend of U.S. release (November 22, 1989) and $118 million total US gross – $332 million worldwide. However, this was still short of the first film's gross, and the film experienced a drop of over 50% in its second weekend, a steep figure at the time. The same fate occurred in Part III, which Universal Studios released only six months later. On December 17, 2002 the studio released all three movies in a three disc DVD and three tape VHS boxed set which sold extremely well when it was released, despite having widely discussed widescreen framing problems, which had led to a less widely publicized product recall.
Note: The DVD features a deleted scene of Marty's brother in the alternate 1985, as a drunken bum on the streets. The scene was cut mainly because it was confusing without showing Marty's sister, who would have became a prostitute in the alternate 1985, according to the Commentary. The reason she is not present is because Wendie Jo Sperber, the actress who played Marty's sister, was pregnant during filming.
Most visual effects nominations were due to the development of a new computer-controlled camera system, called VistaGlide, which was invented specifically for this movie — it enables one actor to play two or even three characters in the same scene while the boundary between the sections of the split screen and the camera itself can be moving.