thoughts on time travel in movies....

Original Poster
Joined: Aug 2016
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One of my favourite devices in movies is the idea of time travel.

Just watched a great one tonight on Netflix.

There are two basic thought paths (and several offshoots and combinations of both...) that stick out. Linear and Non-Linear.

The movie tonight that dealt with linear in a sense but twisted it to also feature non-linear.

I always love to have a good "headscratch" moment when you're watching a movie like that. Always gets your brain working.

It felt like watching Donnie Darko or Back to the Future (but less campy) again.

It's one of the classic movie staples that I always seem to enjoy, especially when it's well done!
Aug 13, 2017 8:43 AM
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There are no logically consistent closed-loop time travel stories.

Looper handled it best when Willis had that line about arguing about scribbles on napkins.
Aug 13, 2017 9:32 AM
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I absolutely loath time travel. In almost every case it's a logic-less, plot hole filled mess of a story telling device. In the best case its mechanics are largely ignored (Looper, Back To The Future, etc). In the worst cases it's used as a Deus Ex Machina to lazily make something work that should never have worked. Hell, in some cases it's inexplicably used to remove characters from a story completely and replace them with alternate versions of themselves (or not at all) making everything they did before hand meaningless (eg. What Days Of Future Past did to The Wolverine). I even hate characters that have the ability to see the future. It's only use is to convenience the plot along.

The only movie I can think of where the time travel was interesting - though, still illogical, of course - rather than just used for a spectacular setup (eg. The Terminator, Back To The Future, etc) is in the Ethan Hawk film Predestination. Someone might say Primer was good use of time travel but I think that that movie is an example of people admiring the 'smarts' or uniqueness of a film so much that they forget that the film at no point actually makes any fucking sense (eg. Mulholland Drive)
Aug 13, 2017 11:00 AM
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Wait-go back in time to when you created this thread and tell us the movie's name. Was it Primer?
Aug 13, 2017 11:00 AM
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Source Code is one of the best films I can think of, in terms of time travel.
Aug 13, 2017 12:51 PM
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I love Time Travel in movies... Timerider, Back to the Future and 11/22/63 are some of my favs.



Aug 13, 2017 2:18 PM
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Thief12Source Code is one of the best films I can think of, in terms of time travel.

I second this.
Aug 13, 2017 2:23 PM
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CatbusWait-go back in time to when you created this thread and tell us the movie's name. Was it Primer?

See below, didn't wanna put the movie in as the revealing that is kinda spoilery in itself.?

Arrival

I really time travel when it's done well, but admittedly it can also be an absolutely terrible device in a movie/story.?
Aug 13, 2017 6:57 PM
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To me, time travel movies break down into two categories: the "march to the inevitable", and the "things can change". (I'm more a fan of the latter, because in "march to the inevitable" movies you are sometimes just checking off boxes like "Oh, that's why the door handle is broken" or "Oh! That's the red shirt he was wearing!" and it's just an exercise in stage-setting).

My favorite recent time-travel movie is Predestination. It's a movie whose time-travel element serves the narrative, but the narrative itself is driven 90% by the emotional connections to and between the characters. It doesn't matter that certain "twists" are obvious, because there is enough emotional stuff happening with the characters that their reactions are the only ones you really care about. Plus the central performances from Ethan Hawke and Sarah Snook are on point, and it has a haunting, unforgettable last line of dialogue.

I know what you mean about sometimes saying the title of a movie being problematic, because even saying that it is time travel gives away a big plot point. That's how I feel about one movie that is sort of time travel and sort of paranormal (I'll put it in spoiler text here: I'm talking about a certain horror movie in which a boat, dead seagulls, and a little boy all play major roles--Triangle.)

I liked the "short hop" time-travel of Edge of Tomorrow, and I thought that the movie was very smart in the way that it showed how the characters built and learned from their previous ventures.

Timecrimes is really solid with the time-travel, but the movie itself was so depressing and misanthropic (and mildly exploitative in my opinion) that I rarely recommend it or ever want to rewatch it, despite its technical proficiency.

I think that Frequency managed a nice twist on time-travel plots. The horror-comedy Detention has some hilarious moments involving time-travel.

I'm also a big fan of the low-key sci-fi/romance Happy Accidents.
Aug 13, 2017 9:01 PM
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Takoma1To me, time travel movies break down into two categories: the "march to the inevitable", and the "things can change". (I'm more a fan of the latter, because in "march to the inevitable" movies you are sometimes just checking off boxes like "Oh, that's why the door handle is broken" or "Oh! That's the red shirt he was wearing!" and it's just an exercise in stage-setting).

My favorite recent time-travel movie is Predestination. It's a movie whose time-travel element serves the narrative, but the narrative itself is driven 90% by the emotional connections to and between the characters. It doesn't matter that certain "twists" are obvious, because there is enough emotional stuff happening with the characters that their reactions are the only ones you really care about. Plus the central performances from Ethan Hawke and Sarah Snook are on point, and it has a haunting, unforgettable last line of dialogue.

I know what you mean about sometimes saying the title of a movie being problematic, because even saying that it is time travel gives away a big plot point. That's how I feel about one movie that is sort of time travel and sort of paranormal (I'll put it in spoiler text here: I'm talking about a certain horror movie in which a boat, dead seagulls, and a little boy all play major roles--Triangle.)

I liked the "short hop" time-travel of Edge of Tomorrow, and I thought that the movie was very smart in the way that it showed how the characters built and learned from their previous ventures.

Timecrimes is really solid with the time-travel, but the movie itself was so depressing and misanthropic (and mildly exploitative in my opinion) that I rarely recommend it or ever want to rewatch it, despite its technical proficiency.

I think that Frequency managed a nice twist on time-travel plots. The horror-comedy Detention has some hilarious moments involving time-travel.

I'm also a big fan of the low-key sci-fi/romance Happy Accidents.

Edge of Tomorrow is EASILY one of my favourite time travel movies!!! Very well done!

It's a narrative devise that can make or break a movie. I find if it's done well it works well and regardless to whether is the march to the inevitable (my thought is linear...) or the things can change (non-linear) it can work, but it has to be done well. I suppose that's a pretty silly caveat, as the same can be said about essentially any type of plot devise.?
Aug 13, 2017 9:07 PM
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James MacKinnon
Takoma1To me, time travel movies break down into two categories: the "march to the inevitable", and the "things can change". (I'm more a fan of the latter, because in "march to the inevitable" movies you are sometimes just checking off boxes like "Oh, that's why the door handle is broken" or "Oh! That's the red shirt he was wearing!" and it's just an exercise in stage-setting).

My favorite recent time-travel movie is Predestination. It's a movie whose time-travel element serves the narrative, but the narrative itself is driven 90% by the emotional connections to and between the characters. It doesn't matter that certain "twists" are obvious, because there is enough emotional stuff happening with the characters that their reactions are the only ones you really care about. Plus the central performances from Ethan Hawke and Sarah Snook are on point, and it has a haunting, unforgettable last line of dialogue.

I know what you mean about sometimes saying the title of a movie being problematic, because even saying that it is time travel gives away a big plot point. That's how I feel about one movie that is sort of time travel and sort of paranormal (I'll put it in spoiler text here: I'm talking about a certain horror movie in which a boat, dead seagulls, and a little boy all play major roles--Triangle.)

I liked the "short hop" time-travel of Edge of Tomorrow, and I thought that the movie was very smart in the way that it showed how the characters built and learned from their previous ventures.

Timecrimes is really solid with the time-travel, but the movie itself was so depressing and misanthropic (and mildly exploitative in my opinion) that I rarely recommend it or ever want to rewatch it, despite its technical proficiency.

I think that Frequency managed a nice twist on time-travel plots. The horror-comedy Detention has some hilarious moments involving time-travel.

I'm also a big fan of the low-key sci-fi/romance Happy Accidents.

Edge of Tomorrow is EASILY one of my favourite time travel movies!!! Very well done!

It's a narrative devise that can make or break a movie. I find if it's done well it works well and regardless to whether is the march to the inevitable (my thought is linear...) or the things can change (non-linear) it can work, but it has to be done well. I suppose that's a pretty silly caveat, as the same can be said about essentially any type of plot devise.?

Have you seen Predestination? I would so highly recommend it if you haven't. Maybe it helps that I went in expecting it to be merely okay, but I think it's really something special. And it's one of those movies that gets better each time I watch it, both for the solid construction of the plot, the little moments of nuance from Hawke and Snook, and the sheer willingness of the movie to prioritize an emotional story arc over the usual "moving pawns into place" that you get from time-travel movies sometimes.
Aug 13, 2017 9:34 PM
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BTTF I try not think about it much, & yet I merely have fun with it when I do.

A common angle mentioned is BTTF II 1955 Doc's letter from 1855 - him hiding the DeLorean in the cave.
Ppl wonder why it's not there when Marty goes back.
And yet, driving 88mph into the f'n drive-in theatre screen, which is desert in 1855, I don't see the same cave environ from which they dug up/tnt'd the DeLorean in 1955... it's the f'n cemetery where they find Doc's tombstone yes? Funny, I didn't see that cemetery when we go back to 1855.
Marty merely sees a hole in the ground & yelps 'It's the cave!' well, no it's a cave.

Prisoner of Azkaban is another ppl nitpick, to which I respond it's a trinket from Dumbledore for Hermione, also - they live in a f'n Wizarding World... stop digging up. They never misuse it as a weapon, & nor are we shown alternate realities - we're simply shown 2 povs. Besides, Hermione & Harry disappear in front of Ron (& back), so there's obvious magic & no awkward double selves.



Aug 14, 2017 12:18 AM
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My issue with time travel is that it's a very complex idea and unless a screenwriter has a firm grasp of what they're doing it can easily become incomprehensible or just plain dumb. I hate-watched season 1 of Legends of Tomorrow, which is entirely about traveling to a different time every episode, and if you give any thought to what they're doing at any given time the whole thing unravels, and occasionally gave me a headache to boot. Characters interacting with their past selves, their spouses (before they actually met), their parents (before they were born), their future offspring, leaving behind "future" technology in the Old West, warning people in the past of future events, etc. Any one of these slip-ups would cause the universe to collapse, and yet they're committing like two of them per episode. In order to maintain my sanity I had to keep reminding myself that 1/ time travel isn't real and 2/ this is a superhero show aimed at tweens. Otherwise it's pretty frustrating and an example of a writer(s) that bit off more than they could chew.

Time-travel is not a topic that I seek out in movies, partially because I get so stressed out about examples like that. Could also be that I'm just dense, but I have a low threshold for nonsense before I check out mentally. I enjoy the McAvoy X-Men movies, but don't ever ask me to outline all the events that did or didn't really happen up to now. No idea, and thinking about it hurts. Is there anyone that completely understands the Terminator timeline at this point? When it's done well I'm on board (loved Arrival), but the good ones are so outnumbered by the sloppy ones that for the most part my interest in a film does not increase when I learn that it's about time-travelling.
Aug 14, 2017 1:03 AM
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TeamCanada
Prisoner of Azkaban is another ppl nitpick, to which I respond it's a trinket from Dumbledore for Hermione, also - they live in a f'n Wizarding World... stop digging up. They never misuse it as a weapon, & nor are we shown alternate realities - we're simply shown 2 povs. Besides, Hermione & Harry disappear in front of Ron (& back), so there's obvious magic & no awkward double selves.


My main complaint about the time travel device is the fact that multiple problems from the first two movies could have easily been solved using it. "Boy, if only we knew what had happened in that corridor when no one was looking!" . . . and so why doesn't Dumbledore simply travel back and either in person or via magic bear witness?

I get that it's a fun magical gimmick for the narrative, but it retroactively makes it seem as if people (and specifically children!) were seriously endangered earlier by problems that could have easily been solved using this device. I'll admit that I kind of breezed through the books over ten years ago, so maybe this point was addressed in the texts.
Aug 14, 2017 1:03 AM
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Takoma1
TeamCanada
Prisoner of Azkaban is another ppl nitpick, to which I respond it's a trinket from Dumbledore for Hermione, also - they live in a f'n Wizarding World... stop digging up. They never misuse it as a weapon, & nor are we shown alternate realities - we're simply shown 2 povs. Besides, Hermione & Harry disappear in front of Ron (& back), so there's obvious magic & no awkward double selves.


My main complaint about the time travel device is the fact that multiple problems from the first two movies could have easily been solved using it. "Boy, if only we knew what had happened in that corridor when no one was looking!" . . . and so why doesn't Dumbledore simply travel back and either in person or via magic bear witness?

I get that it's a fun magical gimmick for the narrative, but it retroactively makes it seem as if people (and specifically children!) were seriously endangered earlier by problems that could have easily been solved using this device. I'll admit that I kind of breezed through the books over ten years ago, so maybe this point was addressed in the texts.

HP, I think they're afraid of using the time turner in lieu of contemporary magic. Maybe JK has a time turner history up her sleeve, maybe used to kill families or something.
As it is, we only witnessed it in action with intent for Hermione to attend more classes & to save Sirius from Azkaban.

btw MacGonagall gave it to her, though Dumbledore would've known instantly. http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Time-Turner Apparently the Ministry of Magic had to give the okay based on Hermione's academic resume to date.
3yrs later according to that site, all time turners became obsolete trapped in time loops. Sure it's just JK making it up to reconcile, it is what it is.
I didn't read the 2020 stuff, doesn't concern me.
Aug 14, 2017 1:26 AM
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Thief12Source Code is one of the best films I can think of, in terms of time travel.

Source Code doesn't technically use time travel.
Aug 14, 2017 5:04 AM
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I've learned about four different types of time travel:

1. Linear (Millennium)
2. Cyclical (Twelve Monkeys)
3. Lateral (Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure)
4. Dimensional (?)

... as well as two states...

1. Physical (The Time Traveller's Wife)
2. Mental/Spiritual (Days of Future Past)

... possibly a third...

3. Emotional (Somewhere in Time)

Some movies delve with mixtures of the four types (Back to the Future is part linear/lateral), but I have yet to know one that uses all four types and three states at once (coughRICKANDMORTYcoughGETONTHATALREADYcough). Such a film would make 2001 look like The Barney Movie.

I'm still trying to figure out which ones The Lake House and Frequency are.
Aug 14, 2017 3:41 PM
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Stu
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It's a classic story concept, but one that needs to be used carefully, especially when it comes to recurring franchises. For example, the original Terminator is a great movie, of course, but Kyle mentions during his police interrogation that John had lead the humans to completely destroy Skynet in the future, and them sending the T-800 back in time in order to assassinate the future leader of the resistance was a final, LAST-ditch effort to win the war... but then in T2, Skynet sends another, more advanced Terminator back later in the past for another shot, giving us an excuse for another movie. So what happened to them being defeated already?

Don't get me wrong, T2 is another great movie, but if the nature of the time travel allows the machines to keep learning about their latest failed attempt, and let them develop some new Terminator to try again later (or whenever), then destroying the Terminators never really advances the overall plot, and the next director to come along in the series can just use the time travelling as an excuse to reset the situation back to square one constantly. I know James Cameron deserves a ton of credit for creating the series in the first place, but he did also start the trend of pointless sequel resets in the first place, though.
Aug 14, 2017 5:22 PM
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StuIt's a classic story concept, but one that needs to be used carefully, especially when it comes to recurring franchises. For example, the original Terminator is a great movie, of course, but Kyle mentions during his police interrogation that John had lead the humans to completely destroy Skynet in the future, and them sending the T-800 back in time in order to assassinate the future leader of the resistance was a final, LAST-ditch effort to win the war... but then in T2--

I'ma stop you there and say... yep.

There's the notion of the chip and arm, but that presupposes that Skynet has enough respect for a timeline to re-send a T-800 for Sarah's sake (reprogrammed by John after sending Kyle??), when they had a T-1000 raring to go. I'm far more interested in what JimCam has in store for reinvnting time travel in the reboots over Avatar 2: A Tale of Blue Kitties.
Aug 14, 2017 5:42 PM
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I think The Time Machine deserves some mention, particularly the fifties film.

An intelligent movie, making fun observations at least for its first couple acts. No complicated mental tricks or double backs.
It makes on fairly simple observation. In one dimensional space you don't move, in two dimensions you move forward and bad,
in the third dimension up and down. And time is the fourth dimension we could want to move in, and he believes he has created a
machine to solve that problem.
He's going forward to a destination, then he comes back to pick up some stuff and then goes back to the future.
Aug 14, 2017 5:50 PM
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