By the time you finish reading this, it’ll be the future.
(Okay, technically, it’ll be the present—but it’ll be the future too.)
As anyone who has a Facebook account knows by now, October 21st, 2015 at 4:29pm is the scheduled moment that Marty McFly arrives in the future in Back To The Future Part II.
While this may seem like a somewhat insignificant point (although it has been a lot of fun over the internet), it is interesting to consider that this isn’t the first ‘movie future’ to meet the present. Films such as Terminator 2: Judgment Day, 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Scanner Darkly, 1984 and even Conquest of the Planet of the Apes have all set specific dates in the future that have come and gone with the passage of time. In almost every case, the vision of the future portrayed in film has been dark, oppressive and terrifying; a grim vision of things to come.
But Back to the Future was different.
In this film, even the year 2015 carried with is a sense of nostalgia and familiarity. It was the future but it was recognizable. It was our future. In fact, as Marty stepped out of that alley to see the new world around him, Zemekis deliberately draws comparisons to the scene where he arrives in 1955. There’s a sense of wonder in the midst of the confusion. Marty stumbles into the Clock Tower square because he is awestruck. Things are different—and yet, they aren’t. Jaws movies? Check. Gas stations? For flying cars… but yes. Video games? Still there—even if Elijah Wood thinks its a ‘baby’s toy’. Even Pepsi exists… and it’s Perfect! Despite the fact that he’s a stranger in a strange land, there’s warmth in the moment that connects with his “present” reality.
There’s an innocence to the future. A purity.
More than this though, BTTF stands apart in that it reveals a future with hope. There are problems in the future, for sure. Marty loses his job after corporate espionage. Griff is a hooligan. However, these all seem to be the result of poor decisions of a few individuals. As a whole, this vision of the future seems vibrant and exciting. It’s a place that you want to be. While other visions of the future usually come across as cold, dark places where humanity has come to the end of itself, BTTF depicts it as an upgrade to our world.
And, it’s for this reason that I believe it’s become such a big deal.
Although today is really nothing more than a silly excuse for cross-promotions and internet memes, the excitement truly taps into something within the heart of our culture. There is a passion that we should see our world become something great. Our hearts have yearned to see what the future held because we wanted to believe that something wonderful was coming.
Our culture can change.
We know it.
We can feel it.
As a Christian, I live in this expectation of God’s Kingdom as it breaks through into our world. True hope for our world doesn’t lie in our own initiative but in the hope of Jesus Christ’s promise to restore the broken in His timing. Still, I also recognize that, even though it may feel like the future, this reality is not far from us. We see in Scripture that Christ has established His Kingdom today and that His hope is breaking into our world. Because of His love for us, we are made new and invited to signal that hope for the world. His reality is both the Now and Not-Yet of our world.
In Christ, we can feel the hope of the future at this moment.
So now, here we are. Marty has come and gone (well, technically, he’ll leave at 7:28 tonight but that’s besides the point) and we’re left in the present future. While we move forward to the unknown, we recognize that, while our decisions often determine our own future, the hope of humanity lies in Someone much bigger than ourselves. In Him, we can experience the new life of the future in the present.
And that news—dare I say it?—is better than a hoverboard…