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'There's Something Very Familiar About All This': Time Machines, Cultural Tangents, and Mastering Time in H.G Wells's The Time Machine and the Back to the Future trilogy

Ní Fhlainn, S (2015) 'There's Something Very Familiar About All This': Time Machines, Cultural Tangents, and Mastering Time in H.G Wells's The Time Machine and the Back to the Future trilogy. Adaptation. ISSN 1755-0645

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Abstract

Time travel cinema criticism frequently cites H.G. Wells’s fin-de-siècle novella The Time Machine (1895) as a master template for popular time travel narratives. Following the 30th anniversary of Back to the Future, a film still regarded in popular culture today as a landmark in time travel cinema and 1980s culture, this article positions the Back to the Future trilogy alongside Wells’s novella and its most successful film adaptation, The Time Machine (Pal, 1960), in order to explore the varied and cultural preoccupations that each of these time travel narratives articulate, alongside Back to the Future’s adaptation and intertextual references to Wells’s time travel tale. In particular, the article explores the depiction of time machines in both The Time Machine and the Back to the Future trilogy, its specific cultural anxieties regarding evolution and paradoxical erasure, and how these texts explore, both visually and narratively, the concept of mastering time. This article therefore contends that the Back to the Future trilogy is an adaptation and reimagining of Wells’s novella and Pal’s film for the 1980s generation.

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