Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Discuss: Time Travel in Films








23 comments:

R. Lloyd said...

Out of all the movies I love the Planet of the Apes most with Chuck Heston. When writer Rod Serling was looking for an ending he found it..in the delicatessen he ate in...there was the statue of liberty on on the sign and that is where he got the ending of his movie. I remember reading an article on how the original script by Rod was later changed but kept the ending. The ending of the movie is also very reminiscent of an old Twilight Zone episode about three astronauts who crash land on what they believe to be a desert planet. The surviving astronaut discovers he was home all along in a desert in California. He goes over a mountain and sees a highway, in then contemporary earth.

Colin Jones said...

I love time travel in films, novels, TV shows, comics...anywhere. Time travel and alternate universes are my favorite sci-fi themes - and I love the time travel paradox whereby if I go back in time and kill my grandfather then how was I ever born so I could go back in time and kill my grandfather. I didn't know Planet Of The Apes ripped off an episode of the Twilight Zone (sort of) but the original novel is set on another planet in orbit around Betelgeuse and avoids a lot of the problems with the film - much as I love POTA I find it rather hard to believe that Taylor never guesses he's on Earth, I would have been a bit suspicious when I heard the apes all speaking English :)

Humanbelly said...

Man, I love 'em too-- it's one of my favorite Sci-Fi tropes as well. Granted, I can't think of a one that doesn't logically unravel just a bit depending on how closely one scrutinizes and nit-picks at it-- but since it's all so wildly speculative anyhow, it's wonderfully easy to willingly suspend that ol' disbelief.

A few random memories and observations:

TIME AND AGAIN-- Jack Finney's beautiful, haunting, and brilliantly researched novel relies completely on the reader absolutely ignoring the absurd "science" (and it really doesn't even pass for that-) behind the actual time-travel method. It's really nothing more than "If you believe hard enough, it will happen!" And he wisely gets the reader past those moments very quickly without looking at them too carefully. And the rest of the book makes up for it.

QUANTUM LEAP-- the last line of the series is probably the most heartbreaking ever written. Geeze.

CITY ON THE EDGE OF FOREVER (ST:TOS)-- flat-out traumatized me when I was a little kid. Although the joy of the time-lost, barely-missing-each-other crew finally reuniting (right before said trauma) was a wonderful moment as well.

BACK TO THE FUTURE is a brilliantly fun, wonderful film, and should have won Best Picture---- but, it's a comedy (sheesh).

And, if you were to ask me what my favorite single episode of any show ever would be, it would have to be "Walking Distance" from the first season of TWILIGHT ZONE. Few things capture the innate bittersweet essence of the classic travel-to-the-past story as that one does. Myself, I came to it via Serling's own short-story adaptation, which in college I adapted into a reader's theater staged version-- and it wasn't until a few years later that I actually saw the for-real episode itself. I tell ya, that story carries across each medium. It's a masterpiece.

HB

Anonymous said...

QUANTUM LEAP-- the last line of the series is probably the most heartbreaking ever written. Geeze.

Really? I've never gotten that... Sam Beckett is so selfless, he's incapable of stopping his travels and attempts to make the world a better place. Heck, moments before, he says it himself, "I want to go home. But I can't..." Even if he doesn't believe he's in control of the leaping, he's not going to stop wanting to help others. For me, that last line is not only the perfect (albeit sad; I'll grant you) summation, but it firmly cements the fact that Sam is truly a hero.

Well, that's my interpretation anyway... :-)

J.A. Morris said...

I generally enjoy time-travel movies & tv shows. And in comics, how can you not like the Tomorrow War or Crisis on Earth Prime? Okay, Tomorrow War was silly, but it was still fun.

I love Back To The Future and the Rod Taylor Time Machine movie. My wife has every season of Quantum Leap except for the last one. If I want to get her to roll her eyes, all I have do is say the words "Evil Leaper." Speaking of QL, I'll be meeting Dean Stockwell this September at a con, so I'll be overdosing on "Sam & Al" for the next month or so. I like Doctor Who too, my favorite episodes usually involve time travel.

Time travel stories are always inconsistent, but I get frustrated when they set start making up random "rules" just for the sake of drama. For instance, you can change the past...but only sometimes. Some things are "fixed" in time or whatever and changes them simply creates alternate timelines. I think the death of Amy and Rory on Doctor Who was silly and done just to tug at heartstrings, not because it was good sci fi.

Humanbelly said...

Oh, no argument at all about Sam's nature and character and the quality of his heroism. It's just that, unlike other shows that ended before their "lost" trope was resolved (GILLIGAN'S ISLAND. . .at first; LOST IN SPACE [I think?]; TIME TUNNEL [right?]), this series ended by--

**MASSIVE SERIES SPOILER ALERT!**

--stating directly (w/ that edge-of-tears narrator that did the intro most of the time) that, nope, Dr.Samuel Beckett never got home again. So the glimmer of hope that a non-resolution can leave you with is also shot down, and old heroic Sam will never be relieved of his Sisyphean task until his remotely-placed body finally gives out, one assumes. It doesn't detract from Sam as a person at all-- but it's terribly hard on those of us who would like to see that hero get an eventual well-earned happy ending. . .

It wrecked me. No question about it.

HB

William Preston said...

The most consistent (and troubling) time-travel flick I know of is Time Crimes (Spanish-language title Los cronocrimenes). I can't recommend it highly enough. I've seen it several times, and I love its tight, circular construction and narrative tension.

William said...

I too love the time-travel theme in Sci-Fi movies. (I mean, who doesn't really?) They are usually a lot of fun, and they make it so the writer can do (and undo) things that they couldn't get away with otherwise without the time-travel reset button.

But to fully enjoy the genre, you really have to be able to suspend your disbelief, because sometimes the massive paradoxes created by time-travel stories can be quite egregious. One of the biggest offenders has to be the TERMINATOR films. In the first movie, a man goes back in time, and becomes the father of the guy who sent him back in time. (huh?) And from there the paradoxes just get more confusing as the franchise goes on (and on).

Another example of a bad paradox is the movie TIME COP. I really enjoyed that film, but it had a really paradoxical ending as well. SPOILERS!! Long story short, the hero ends up going back in time and saving his murdered wife (and their unborn child). As a result, a whole new timeline is created in which he has lived a totally different life with his wife (and now 9 year old son). The problem is that when he wakes up in the new timeline, he still remembers things the way they were before he changed them. We know this because he is shocked and surprised to see his wife and son are alive and well. So, in this new reality, he has been living another life for 10 years that he has no memory of. So, basically he is going to have a 10 year gap in his memory. That would make living a normal life from then on pretty difficult I would think. It's also kind of depressing to realize that he's missed his son's entire life up to that point. So much the "happy" ending.

Anonymous said...

It's kind of a paradox that I find time travel as a concept annoying but a lot of my favorite movies involve time travel. As William pointed out, Terminator falls apart with the slightest thought. The second I hear duh-dun-dun-da-dun!, though, I'm on board. Back to the Future, Time After Time (David Warner as the ripper!), Start Trek IV, all the way to X-Men: Days of Future Past- I had a great time watching them, but they gave me a headache!

- Mike Loughlin

Karen said...

Sorry for yet another image snafu - somehow, Time After Time got zapped today. It should be fixed now.

Isn't the whole issue of time paradoxes (paradoxi?) part of the fun though? The impossibility of time travel and trying to wrap one's mind around the concept, trying to grasp all the possible iterations of a time line due to changes made...personally I find it quite challenging but that's why I enjoy it. Although I get annoyed when a film sets up certain rules and then blatantly breaks or ignores them.

I enjoyed the first two Terminator films. We saw the new one (which inspired this post) and while I got a kick out of seeing Arnold again, and enjoyed a bit of the beginning (mainly the confrontation of the two T-800s at Griffith Park), the whole thing was just a mess, and much like Jurassic World, it seemed a pale imitation of the films that preceded it in its lineage.

I love Time After Time - it has a great, clever premise and wonderful performances.And a rare turn by Malcolm McDowell as a good guy! It is often compared to the Christopher Reeve flick, Somewhere in Time, but to me, Time After Time is far superior. Although both have love stories, TAT is not over-powered by its romance, nor is it sappy. It's a thriller with a love story, and much better made all the way around.

With the Planet of the Apes series, you get time travel in two directions -in the first film, Taylor and crew have traveled far into their own future, although they don't realize it until the end of the film. In Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Zira, Cornelius, and Milo travel back to our time. The time travel elements are never a huge part of the story, other than to get characters from one place to another, and in the first film, it's actually an unknown until the very end, but still keys to the entire series when viewing the series as a whole. The series has its own paradox of Zira and Cornelius' child, Caesar, leading apes in revolution, so that the apes of the future may have created their own reality. Or perhaps they simply sped its arrival.

I'm getting the feeling maybe we should do a Quantum Leap post someday? I was a fan of the series when it was on but can't recall much about it today I'm afraid.



Anonymous said...

I just finished reading "We Don't Need Roads" about the making of the Back to the Future trilogy...it's a good book; it concentrates more on the people involved rather than on the process of filmmaking. I love the Back to the Future movies, especially watching all three in a row.

Mike Wilson

Edo Bosnar said...

Man, you've reminded me that I haven't seen Time Bandits in ages - I really want to watch that again...
Anyway, I like time travel stories; it's a good story-telling device if done properly. And the fact that headache-inducing time paradoxes were brought up reminded me of the end of this one episode of Voyager that involved time travel (Lt. Kim in an alternate future saved the ship from crash landing on a planet that killed everyone on board), in which Kim asks Capt. Janeway if his future self changed the past how is any of this possible, to which she responded with something to the effect of "it's always been too confusing for me, you're better off not thinking about it." Sage advice.

Martinex1 said...

I also like Quantum Leap. And I just watched the Back to the Future trilogy with my sons. It holds up very well. I read recently that the BTTF director had in his contract that it cannot be remade during his lifetime. That's a good thing. Let's see if the Cubs can win the series this year!

For a more serious tone, I liked "Looper" and "Twelve Monkeys". The French short film La Jatee that Twelve Monkeys was based on is truly excellent. It plays with time itself using the film medium and photography.

This may seem strange, but even though I clearly know POTA involves time travel, I never really consider it a time travel movie. I guess that goes toward how complex and layered the message and film is.

As far as time travel/ paradox goes in comics, I really liked the Exiles series. Many stories therein were complex and compelling.

I wonder if they will bring time travel and the time gem and Kang and Rama Tut to the Marvel cinematic universe.


Edo Bosnar said...

Oh, man, I love 12 Monkeys - good call, Martinex! There's another movie I really need to watch again some time soon...

Ozone said...

I've loved Somewhere in Time, starring Christopher Reeve, since the first time I saw it. Although the Terminator will always be my favorite time flick, nothing in that genre touched my heart like Somewhere in Time. -JJ

William Preston said...

I fondly recall when the officers from Temporal Investigations arrive at DS9 to discuss Kirk:

"Seventeen separate temporal violations – the biggest file on record."
"The man was a menace."

Edo Bosnar said...

William P. re: "The man was a menace." No kidding, especially when you consider his countless violations of the Prime Directive (it should have been clear to everyone when he cheated on the Kobayashi Maru). :P

The Prowler said...

If we look back to our past, the early instances of oracles/prophets seeing visions of events to come could be constructed as "time travel". Dicken's A Christmas Carol has Scrooge viewing his past, present and future. Though unable to interact, he still travelled in some form.

Side note: Planet of the Apes and Beneath the Planet of the Apes were on TMC today. In that series and the Terminator series, you are presented with the time travel being the "spark" that sets the events of the future in motion. Though, in the POTA franchise, you have that one instance where an ape speaks that was not part of the original group. Does that mean that apes always had the ability or that the going back in time already altered the time line thereby setting in motion an alternate plane of existence (the one where man and ape coexist)? And with the Terminator franchise, the cyborg going back in time was the impetus to take robotics in a wholly different direction that leads to SkyNet!!!! (There's the exclamation marks)

Same with Days of Future Past. Logan wakes up in 1986, and as we view the movie, has no memory of the past 13 years. Yet, Charles Xavier recognizes what Logan it is.... great, now I'm getting a head ache.

And since we've brought up the small screen, would shows such as Sliders, Stitchers and Lost in Austen. Sliders dealt more with parallel dimensions, Stitchers I've yet to see but Lost In Austen was a true time travel show.

Side note: For those who like Time Travel, Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series is a good read. The first book is Lost In A Good Book?

Side note: (almost made a circle!!!) Karen, would the anti-time travel trope deserve a topic? For example, Groundhog Day, where a person repeats the same day over and over and over and over............and over again!?!

Anonymous said...

Time travel stories in movies tread a fine line between good cinema and just plain confusing. I saw Terminator Genisys at the cinema and while it was a blast to see Arnold in the role again, wrinkles and all, the time paradoxes in this movie had my head spinning.

I much prefer my time travel stories to be much simpler, such as in the original Planet of the Apes; while it dealt with time travel, you never felt as if all the different time paradoxes or parallel universes would be a factor, it was just there as part of the narrative. Viewing some other movies makes you feel like calling Stephen Hawking to explain all the intricacies of time travel.


- Mike 'fashion sense like Einstein ' from Trinidad & Tobago.

William Preston said...

Edo, the problem in Star Trek, however, was that the other captains in the fleet were even less stable. How many in the original three-year run (and in TNG) were incompetent or crazy? By default, they had to keep Kirk in the captain's chair. He was one of the few competent people they had.

Karen said...

Sure Kirk broke some rules, but he never surrendered his ship, and unless you were wearing a red shirt, you had an excellent chance of surviving anything you encountered, from Klingons to AI to godlike aliens. Remember what Uhura said in ST:TMP when Kirk took command from Decker: "Our chances of coming back from this mission in one piece may have just doubled!"

Edo Bosnar said...

Oh, hey, William, no arguments from me. He may have been a menace, but, well, he's *my* menace. In fact, my two favorite ST captains are the ones who most often violated both the Prime Directive and the temporal Prime Directive: Kirk and Janeway.
And Karen, that's my favorite line in that movie, and one of my favorite lines in any Trek feature...

Humanbelly said...

Boy this thread was reeeeeeeally trying to splinter into a whole bunch of great show/movie-specific threads, wasn't it? Ya got yer Terminator, yer Quantum Leap, yer Star Trek collective, yer Dr Who (I feel ya, J.A.!), and yer Back to the Future among many potential others!

Prowl, your observation of Christmas Carol as a time travel story is perfect. It would be easy to overlook, 'cause the mode is supernatural rather than SF-based-- but the whole parallel-future element is, of course, the final crux of Scrooge's transformation. The other, subtler time-manipulation element is that the spirits were able to condense a lengthy sequence of events "all in one night", as opposed to taking up three successive nights as originally planned and laid out by Marley's Ghost. . .

HB (already thinking about Christmas!)

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