Books can be better than the movie, but MAN the movie is so much better than this book (in general, obvs, but in this scene in particular)! This whole action bit which lasts for minutes in the movie gets disposed of in a couple of paragraphs. DISAPPOINTING.
So we’re back with Marty and the stalled DeLorean, which won’t start, and then he tries it again and then it starts, so - that was easy? This “it didn’t start but then it did” solution sidesteps the “Marty slamming his head on the steering wheel and then it starts” gag in the movie which was nice and baffling and cute.
Marty drives towards the wire but doesn’t notice Doc messing with it (Gipe again pretends he’s from medieval times when he writes this as “So intent was he that he failed to see the figure of Doc Brown as he raced towards the lamp post”) which means we don’t get Marty anxiously whispering “Doc…” as he speeds towards him: another nice character moment.
And here’s the craziest part: in the movie, just as the lightning strikes, Doc reaches the wire and connects it and gets blasted backwards by the shock (that is how electricity works in movies, did you know that?)
Clearly they had that in the scene description for the script! And CLEARLY GIPE DIDN’T UNDERSTAND WHAT HE WAS READING AT ALL:
Less than a second before the spectacular bolt of lightning struck, Doc plugged the cable in, spin around, and fell backwards. Glancing at his speedometer, Marty saw that the car was moving at eighty-eight miles per hour.
Then there was a terrific crash of simultaneous lightning and thunder.
Yep. In Gipe’s version - which presumably he thought made perfect sense - Doc plugs the cable in and then JUST SPINS AROUND AND FALLS OVER FOR LITERALLY NO REASON AT ALL.
Inside the DeLorean Marty thinks “My God, I’ve been nuked” which makes exactly this much sense: none, and then “the DeLorean kicked forward as if it had been thrust into orbit, and blackness descended.”
We’re left with Doc who just saw the car disappear, “seemingly enveloped by a yellow mist” (guess they hadn’t quite nailed down the time travel effect yet) the sight of which “made him leap to his feet and let out an Indian war whoop.” He shouts “We did it! It was impossible but we did it!” and Gipe confirms that for us by saying “It was true. As if swallowed up by the earth or a giant hand from above, the DeLorean was gone.” and yes every time the narrator confirms what a character we have no reason to doubt just said, an angel gets its wings.
“Good luck,” Doc Brown breathed. ”I’ll see you soon enough… I hope.”
And that’s it for the chapter!
So what makes the movie version better? Besides the action being better realized and more exciting (so exciting that the movie cheats and has Marty flooring it in the DeLorean… twice) and the lack of the crappy lines (after the DeLorean disappears, Doc doesn’t say anything, he just cheers and runs quietly down the street), it’s a terrificly put-together scene. The music builds and builds until the lightning reaches the car, and then the car’s gone and the music’s gone and all we hear is burst of the time-travel sound effects and the ambient noise of the wind (suddenly much more still) and the Doc’s footsteps as he runs down the road. It’s a terrific, quiet ending and the contrast works really well with the thunder and lightning and temporal explosions we just had.
And then that last shot! The music comes up again, quietly, and Doc smiles and looks up to the clock tower with his crazy happy grin, and we get a POV shot of the clock tower seen from where he’s standing! We assume we’re seeing what Doc’s seeing, but then a second later a helicopter flies into the frame, over the tower, and out again, and we realize we’re back in 1985. It’s a terrific cut that takes us out of 1955 and into 1985 so smoothly you barely even notice it.
Great work, movie peeps!
Pull up your socks, book peeps!!