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Back to the Future Day has finally arrived

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Posted at 6:22 AM, Oct 21, 2015
and last updated 2015-10-21 10:46:17-04

“Back to the Future” Day has finally arrived.

In “Back to the Future Part II,” Marty McFly travels to October 21, 2015, to save his children, yet to be born in “Back to the Future’s” 1985.

What did NewsChannel 3’s anchors and reporters look like in 1989?

The plot gets tangled — by fixing one thing, McFly and Doc Brown (and the villainous Biff Tannen) create a number of new messes — but what remains is the film’s vision of a year that was still more than a quarter-century away when the movie was shot and released in 1989. The entire trilogy is even being rereleased Wednesday, so you can see for yourself.

The film’s record isn’t bad, given that director Robert Zemeckis wasn’t pleased with setting part of “Back to the Future II” in 2015.

“I always hated — and I still don’t like — movies about the future,” he says in a new book, “Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History.” “I just think they’re impossible, and somebody’s always keeping score.”

In the Internet age, Zemeckis has grounds for concern. Over the past few years, Photoshopped images of “Future’s” DeLorean time machine have popped up on the Web, insisting that TODAY is “Back to the Future Day.” And now that the day has actually arrived, there have been countless articles (like, frankly, this one) and videos about what the film and its screenwriter, Bob Gale, got right about 2015.

As with other movies dealing with the future, such as “2001: A Space Odyssey” (set in the early 2000s) or “Blade Runner” (set in 2019, which will be here before you know it), the predictions of “Back to the Future II” are hit or miss: big-screen TVs, yes, Mr. Fusion, no; virtual-reality goggles, yes, “Jaws 19,” no.

Coincidentally, perhaps the most important invention in the film is one behind the scenes: the VistaGlide motion-control system, a computer-operated camera operation that enabled Michael J. Fox to seamlessly share all those scenes with himself. The software was written by an Industrial Light & Magic developer, Bill Tondreau, specifically for the movie and was a milestone in moviemaking technology.

Still, it says something about the popularity of the trilogy that here we are, 26 years after the release of “Back to the Future II” (and 30 years after “Back to the Future”), and we care enough to “keep score.” Even “Back to the Future” stars Fox and Christopher Lloyd discuss the topic in a new Toyota ad.

How did the movie do? Here are some of its hits and misses:

Big-screen televisions and video conferencing: Yes

The film features several scenes of characters watching screens very much like the oversize ones we actually use these days. That’s saying something, because most TVs of the 1980s were heavy, square appliances with bulky picture tubes. Some of them even came in wood-grain cabinets like furniture!

Also, the “BTTF II” characters talk to the screens just like we do today. Not bad, given that videophones — though long promised — barely existed in 1989.

Hoverboard: No

Despite the recent Lexus commercial showing skateboard aces skimming around a skatepark on maglev hoverboards, the technology just isn’t there yet. The Lexus hoverboard requires a special surface to ride on, as does a rival, the Hendo.

Another hoverboard, the Omni, is essentially a skateboard with helicopter rotors. Sorry, we’ll just have to wait a little longer before flying around Hill Valley is commonplace.

News drones: Yes

During a crucial scene in the film, a USA Today drone can be flying around the Hill Valley courthouse taking pictures. Major media companies, including CNN, are now looking into using the tech for news purposes.

Hands-free video games: Yes

Our intrepid time traveler, Marty McFly, plays an arcade game called “Wild Gunman” at Café 80’s in 2015. Two kids are shocked that McFly has to use his hands to play, calling it a “baby’s game.” Thanks to products like Xbox Kinect, hands-free video games are now pretty commonplace.

Fashion: Mixed

The less said about the custom of wearing two ties at the same time, the better. However, the movie did get the concept of everyday athletic apparel right.

Everyday consumer products: Yes, with an asterisk

Pepsi is still around, and the beverage company wasn’t going to miss a chance to put out a limited-edition Pepsi Perfect like the one Marty orders in the film. But the key words are “limited edition.” Similarly, in reality, “Jaws” only made it to “Jaws: The Revenge” (the fourth film in the series), but that didn’t stop Universal from putting out a fake trailer for “BTTF II’s” “Jaws 19.”

But there’s a Pizza Hut in town, and the McFly family is shown chowing down on a pie. Some things never go out of style.

Video glasses: Yes

Marty McFly’s troublesome kids wear high-tech goggles to the dinner table, which are remarkably similar in function to Google Glass, Oculus Rift and Samsung VR.

The World Champion Chicago Cubs: ?

Yet there’s one thing the film hasn’t nailed — yet. According to one of its predictions, the Chicago Cubs win the World Series in 2015 (over Miami, a city that didn’t have a baseball team in 1989).

Some futures just aren’t knowable … yet.