Alan Silvestri’s Back To The Future Part II takes the first score and expands on it with new themes, exciting action setpieces and many a brilliantly epic reprise of the iconic main title, though it does perhaps lack a little ingenuity compared to the first and third scores.
Let’s tackle the sequels, shall we? After the frankly unbelievable score that Back To The Future was – one that currently ranks at number one on my Best Film Scores Of All Time list – Alan Silvestri happily returned for both Parts II and III, altogether making for one of the finest soundtrack trilogies ever composed. Having said that though while I do absolutely love all three scores, I have to admit that Part II‘s is perhaps a little…uninventive compared to say the big differences between the first and third. Simply put, it’s more or less an expansion and continuation of the first, as opposed to Part III which is vastly different to it both in style and tone. As such, Part II doesn’t have quite as much uniquely going for it as the other two, but it is still great, and you’ll see why as we dive into the score which, by the way – starts now.
Fleeting percussion opens Back To Back/It’s Your Kids, and almost immediately we’re back in the musical world of Back To The Future. It blows my mind every time just how recognisable even just the sound of the music is (i.e. no notes, no themes, just the style) and how it pretty much instantly gives off BTTF vibes. It isn’t long however before the iconic theme itself welcomely comes into play, first on quiet strings before then erupting later on in the cue (alongside a brief appearance of Doc’s theme) on loud, triumphant brass. This then segues rather exquisitely into the Main Title piece, and it’s here that things really get going for the theme. A rumble of drums opens the track with bold, heroic brass then bursting into view, playing the main theme as loudly and proudly as can be. Words cannot express just how much I utterly love this theme, and hearing it play here in all its epic, orchestral glory is frankly heaven, music-ified. After the theme finishes playing through, Doc’s motif then takes over on strings for a few moments of light, mischievous score, lasting for about a minute before the main theme then comes crashing back in for one last triumphant playthrough as the track then draws to a close.
A short yet wondrous rendition of the main theme opens The Future, with light strings and brass then playing a few optimistic notes from Doc’s theme before a recurring percussive motif (harkening all the way back to 85′ Twin Pines Mall from the first film’s score) then returns, intertwining with Doc’s theme and overall making for an upbeat yet cautiously ready-for-action score cue. This instrumental build-up then practically explodes into loud action-esque heroism in subsequent track Chicken/Hoverboard Chase; a three minute action setpiece that takes heavy stylistic inspiration from the similarly titled Skateboard Chase from the first score. Naturally, the main theme features heavily here, swirling and soaring in spectacular form on epic brass and tense percussion. A Flying Delorean? then opens quietly with the same worrisome percussive motif from The Future, before then becoming much brighter with a rather victorious rendition of Doc’s theme. It’s here though that the album then introduces something that not even the first iconic score had; an actual villain theme. It’s a short, ominous motif for Biff, featuring rising brass that pretty much instantly instills a sense of worry and dread, and despite it being only three notes long it actually works really, really well. The motif only appears for a few seconds here, but as you’ll see a bit later on, it’s only the beginning for this particular theme.
A flurry of upbeat percussion opens I’m In The Future/Biff Stills DeLorean, with Biff’s new theme then turning the tone rather sinister playing on several cold brass notes. This continues somewhat into Chicken Needles/Jenn Sees Jenn before things pick up a bit with a mischievous Doc’s theme cutting through the brassy tension from Biff. Here the two themes intertwine a little, combining and building until a loud crescendo is reached a few seconds later. It’s at this point though that the mood then takes a decidedly dark turn; Biff’s World/ 27th Floor opens with quietly solemn strings before brass then arrives to drive the sorrowful mood home, and pull the score further and further down into darkness and villainy. The main theme then briefly reprises on woodwinds, in a manner much akin to Lorraine’s Bedroom from the first film’s score before the cue then ends on a quietly worrisome note. My Father then brings Biff’s motif back into the fray in menacing form while also reprising the new “dark future” theme from the previous track, this time playing even more ominously than its first appearance. This solemnity continues through into Alternate 1985, with Biff’s motif also featuring rather heavily on now typically malevolent brass. A few notes from the main theme then play quite hopelessly in the final few seconds of the track before fading away.
Grays Sports Almanac/ If They Ever Did opens rather ominously, with a hint towards the dark future theme before loud percussion and worrisome brass then leap into action a few seconds later. Tension builds over the course of the next minute or two, with Biff’s motif making sporadic, threatening appearances until the main Back To The Future theme then erupts in delightfully victorious form to close off the action. The recurring percussive motif from ’85 Twin Pines Mall then reprises once again in the short Something Inconspicious, before things turn slow and solemn again in You’ll Never Lose/ Old New DeLorean. Quiet, sombre strings accompanied by the occasional note of worried brass open the piece before Biff’s villainous theme and the recurring percussive piece from earlier then start playing, intertwining and mixing at various intervals and overall making for a decidedly tense track. The percussion continues into the first few seconds of Pair O’ Docs, where light woodwinds and upbeat strings then take over for a minute or so of gently optimistic orchestra featuring a few short renditions of the main theme. This doesn’t last for long though before high-pitched, anxious strings then arrive in The Book – these continue for a few nerve-wracking minutes together with increasingly nervous brass until the main theme then bursts through the tension on triumphant strings. It’s here that the pace then starts to quicken with percussion rumbling threateningly in the background, hinting toward the arrival of the score’s next major action setpiece; Nobody/Tunnel Chase.
An ominous rumble of drums opens the track, with a few short stabs of brass playing before Biff’s motif then interrupts in typically menacing style. Here the pace starts to quicken, with percussion and brass building tension for several minutes of nail-bitingly worrisome score. This all then comes to a head a bit later on with a particularly dramatic crescendo arriving at the four minute mark, and Biff’s motif making another brief appearance before the main theme then practically bursts into the fray a few seconds later for a happily victorious performance. This plays through two full renditions before the track then comes to a triumphantly loud close. Another motif from the first film’s score reprises in Burn The Book; the gently optimistic build-up piece from the opening few minutes of It’s Been Educational/Clocktower, which plays here in naturally hopeful style until a burst of frantic brass brings up the tension tenfold just as the track is about to end, seguing into He’s Gone on an eerie sense of dread. This is then pretty well reinforced by said track, with solemn, funeral-esque strings playing quietly and mournfully for just under a minute.
Thankfully however this melancholy doesn’t last for long, as the main theme then returns on loudly heroic brass at the end of Western Union, after an opening minute of hopeful strings. To close out the score proper, Alan Silvestri then gives us a trinity of absolutely superb Back To The Future setpieces, starting with I’m Back/End Logo that reprises the main theme on proudly emphatic brass and thunderous percussion. The West then gives us a big teaser for the third and final score in the trilogy, introducing the upbeat, lighthearted and rather heroic Wild West motif that will go on to play a pretty significant part in said album. To finish up we then get a rather exquisitely-crafted end credits suite, consisting of several reprises from both Biff and Doc’s respective motifs as well as the hopeful percussive piece from It’s Been Educational, which are then bookended by two happily lengthy and utterly breathtaking renditions of the main theme.
Overall, Alan Silvestri’s epic score for Back To The Future Part II is pretty damned great, expanding on the first in many ways while also staying firmly rooted in the same iconic musical style – though this was also perhaps a little detrimental at times. Considering the difference between this score and Back To The Future Part III in terms of style and themes as well, I can’t help but wonder how Part II would have sounded if Silvestri had maybe tried to differentiate it a bit more from the first score – more futuristic, maybe some Blade Runner-y synthesizers perhaps? Still, what we do get here is nothing to be sniffed at either; including many emphatically heroic reprises of the main theme including the standout Main Title piece, as well as Biff’s simply but brilliantly malevolent new motif not to mention several standout new action sequences to boot. All-in, Part II is one hell of an enjoyable score, and while it might not be as outreaching and different as Part III (more on that next time!) it’s certainly one of the greats just all on its own.
Standout Cue: 22. End Title
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