In Review: We Don’t Need Roads: The Making of The Back to the Future Trilogy

An invaluable resource for hard-core fans or those curious about the Back to the Future trilogy. Highest possible recommendation.

We Don’t Need Roads: The Making of The Back to the Future Trilogy by Caseen Gaines

Published by Plume, an imprint of Penguin Random House, on June 3, 2015. Paperback of 263 pages, with 16 pages of black and white and color photographs, at $16.00. Also available as an E-Book.

The cover: A blurb from co-creator of the trilogy Bob Gale is at the top of the cover, with the title taking up over two-thirds of the space. The bottom of the book shows Doc’s DeLorean rocketing off, leaving a trail of flames as it enters its electrical portal. This cover perfectly captures the feeling of the films with the title font, making the car at the bottom the cherry on top. Overall grade: A

The premise: From the back cover, “A behind-the-scenes look at the making of the wildly successful and beloved Back to the Future trilogy, just in time for the thirtieth anniversary. Long before Marty McFly and Doc Brown traveled through time in a flying DeLorean, director Robert Zemeckis and his friend and writing partner Bob Gale worked tirelessly to break into the film industry with a hit. During their journey to realize this dream, they encountered unprecedented challenges and regularly took the difficult way out. For the first time ever, the story of how these two young filmmakers struck lightning is being told by those who witnessed it. We Don’t Need Roads includes original interviews with Zemeckis, Gale, Christopher Lloyd, Lea ThompsonHuey Lewis, and more than fifty others who contributed to one of the most popular and profitable film trilogies of all time. With a focus not only on the movies, but also the lasting impact of the franchise and its fandom, We Don’t Need Roads is the ultimate read for anyone who has ever wanted to ride a hoverboard, hang from the top of a clock tower, travel through the space-time continuum, or find out what really happened to Eric Stoltz after the first six weeks of filming. So, why don’t you make like a tree and get outta here — and start reading! We Don’t Need Roads is your density.”

I’m old enough to remember seeing all three Back to the Future films in the theater, multiple times. I thrilled to Marty and Doc’s adventures and was amazed by the stories and their special effects. I bought them when they were on VHS, Laserdisc, and BluRay, and devoured every bonus feature on all of these formats. I thought I knew everything there was to know about the films. I was so wonderfully wrong.

Caseen Gaines has written an informative and entertaining history of the films directly from those involved. I knew of the decision to replace Eric Stoltz with Michael J. Fox, but had never heard others’ commentary on it. Gaines has gotten the director, the co-writer, the producer, and the actors’ take on this firing and rehiring. I also knew of the Crispin Glover controversy around Part II, but I had never heard anything from the actor that took his place, nor how it snowballed into the infamous lawsuit. I learned how Steven Spielberg got involved with the films, the creation of the time traveling car and the problems with the DeLoreans, Huey Lewis’ involvement in the film, how the sequels were supposed to be one film, the accident on the second film told from the stuntwoman’s perspective, and how the films continue to thrive. I learned things from those that were there that I’d never heard, or hoped to hear from.

The access to those involved with the creation of these films is a testament to Gaines’ love of them, and I’m glad he wrote this book. It made me appreciate what it took to make this trilogy happen, and left me wanting to rewatch them again.

The final line: An invaluable resource for hard-core fans or those curious about the Back to the Future trilogy. As I read this book I had a constant smile on my face because it took me back in time to one of my favorite film series. Don’t be a slacker, Mr. Gaines is gonna school you right. Highest possible recommendation. Overall grade: A+ 

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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