• Film reviews

    #493 – Back to the Siam (2013)

    Back to the Siam (2013)

    Film review #493

    Director: Gonzalo Rodan

    SYNOPSIS: Marty visits his friend Doc Brown and finds that he has invented a time machine…made from a fridge. A bunch of men in suits appear and try to catch Marty and the Doc, leading to Marty accidentally being transported back in time to the year 1986. There, he has to find Doc Brown again to help him fix the time machine to get back home…

    THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Back to the Siam is a 2013 science-fiction film, based on…well, you can probably guess. The film centres around Marty Fox, who visits his pal Doc Brown to find he has completed work on a time machine that he has constructed himself out of a fridge. However, some men in suits come to put a stop to the Doc’s experiments, and Marty is accidentally sent back in time to 1986, damaging the time machine in the process. Marty goes to the Doc Brown in 1986 to get help in fixing the time machine and sending him home. The film is essentially made as an Argentinian Back to the Future, so while the essential plot is more or less the same, a lot of the settings, people, and scenarios are replaced by things which are more common to Argentina. For example, instead of the lightning storm which takes Marty back to the future in BttF, here it is the electricity generated when footballer Maradona scores a goal at the 1986 world cup. This is obviously a low-budget, somewhat satire of the films, so you can’t penalise it for accuracy, but the changes it has made to the film mostly fit the story well, and give the story a bit of a twist. Obviously it is based on the foundations of an already well written film in BttF, so I don’t want to give Back to the Siam too much credit for that. I could not find any English subtitles for this film, but I don’t think it really matters if you know Back to the Future like nearly everyone does, but does mean I can’t really comment on the jokes or humour. The physical humour is mostly entertaining though.

    The biggest change from Back to the Future is that the “past” in this film is 1986, which is about the same time that the “present” was in BttF (1985, to be exact). This could have been a pretty interesting thing for the film to play with, but as mentioned, it’s aim is to make an Argentinian take on the original, rather than try anything too new. The main characters too are basically the same, just tweaked to reflect their locale. The character of Biff Tannen doesn’t have a counterpart in this film though, and instead the antagonists are just men in suits. The main focus of the story is the first Back to the Future film, but there’s some nods to the second and third film, so it definitely feels like a take on the franchise as a whole, which is nice, and means that the film won’t set up a sequel it will never get.

    This should not come as a surprise, but this film is completely unlicensed, and has no permission to use any of the names, characters, or anything. It reminds me of the films of the 60s and 70s that would simply make films based on entire franchises without permission, typically in countries where they would not be found out and sued into oblivion. Back to the Siam doesn’t use any Back to the Future footage, but it does use a lot of the music, which it definitely doesn’t have the licence for: if you were going to argue this was simply a fan-made parody, then that might be the thing that tips it over the edge into plagiarism territory. Despite being a low budget “parody,” there’s obviously a lot of thought and effort gone into certain aspects of the film: the fridge being the time machine instead of the DeLorean (obviously there would have been no way to afford one) genuinely works and looks cool, as well as providing some fun gags. The camera work is also surprisingly good, and shows competency when switching between different angles in scenes. The biggest production issue is the audio: it constantly peaks and distorts, and voices in the same scene can often have completely different volume levels. Even doing something basic like having a limiter would have helped immensely; it’s quite odd that there’s such a disparity between the camera and audio work.

    Overall, Back to the Siam is what you would expect from a low-budget parody/re-make/bootleg…whatever you want to describe it as. It uses the successful formula and story of what it is based on, and adds it’s own flair. While keeping fairly close to that original, it also sometimes decides to just go ahead and do what it wants. At one point it decides to just through in a version of “A whole new world” from Disney’s Aladdin for no reason. I appreciate the randomness though, and also the effort taken to give the source material a different flair. It’s not going to offer you anything that Back to the Future doesn’t, and a lot of the Argentinian cultural references may not offer anything if you’re not familiar with them, but it definitely could have been a lot worse.