3/6/2007

Top 6: Time Travel Movies

Posted in Top 6 at 4:59 am by Sam

Way back in Episode 18, we talked about Movies That Play With Time but weren’t actually time travel movies. Well now we’ve gotten back to the subject, and so for Episode 23, our Top 6 list is about the best time travel movies. Chime in with your own favorites!

As always, we recommend listening to the episode before reading further.

Stephen
  1. Twelve Monkeys (1995)
  2. Groundhog Day (1995)
  3. Primer (2004)
  4. Back To the Future (1985)
  5. Terminator 2 (1991)
  6. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)
Sam
  1. Back To the Future (1985)
  2. The Terminator (1984) and Terminator 2 (1991)
  3. Groundhog Day (1993)
  4. Twelve Monkeys (1995)
  5. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) and Star Trek: First Contact (1996)
  6. The Final Countdown (1980)

33 Comments »

  1. Grishny (156) said,

    March 6, 2007 at 10:23 am

    I was pretty enthusiastic about this particular Top Six topic, so I wrote up my own list beforehand. I did it in reverse order, just like you guys do on the show. And here it is…

    6. The Blue Yonder, 1985

    This was a made-for-TV movie that aired on the Disney Channel when I was a kid that I absolutely loved. Later it was aired on network television under the name Time Flyer. It starred a child actor named Huckleberry Fox (what were his parents thinking?) who played the grandson of a 1927 pilot who died in a pre-Lindburgh attempt to cross the Atlantic. He used a time machine invented by a neighbor and former friend of his grandfather played by Art Carney to travel back in time, where he makes an attempt to change history by preventing his grandpa from making the flight.

    The time machine in this movie is sort of reminiscent of the Time Traveler’s machine in the Time Machine movies. When the machine is working, it spins around really, really fast. I don’t see how you could actually time travel in it without throwing up.

    5. The Philadelphia Experiment, 1984

    I saw this movie a year or two after it came out on video. To me it’s a shining example of a movie that awed me the first time I saw it. I remember being fascinated by the story and especially by the special effects.

    I saw it again a few years ago, and while I had to laugh at how hokey the special effects looked by today’s standards, I thought that the story held up surprisingly well. The movie is based on a real-life experiment conducted by the military during WW2, an attempt to “cloak” a naval battleship from radar. In the movie, they use some undefined process to try to bend light around the ship and make it actually become invisible to the naked eye, but the ship (and the entire town around it) ends up getting sucked into a temporal vortex instead. The film follows the story of one of the sailors who managed to escape from the ship but ended up emerging from the time warp forty years in the future.

    4. Back to the Future, 1985-1990

    If I had to pick one of this series that I liked best, it’d be the first one, but I tend to think of all three of them as one entity. The original BttF is the only movie on this list that I saw in the theater when it was new! I remember watching Marty McFly sneakily hitch rides around town on his skateboard and wishing that I could do that. I also wanted a DeLorean… those pop-hatch doors were so cool! Sadly, I must also report this movie’s negative influence on me… the year it came out I got into trouble at school for calling one of my classmates a “butthead.”

    3. Frequency, 2000

    For some reason I dragged my feet on seeing this movie until my mom informed me that it was really good. I didn’t even realize it was a time travel movie until I finally watched it. It’s not the same type of time travel that you typically think of, since it’s information rather than people that is jumping across temporal lines.

    2. Primer, 2004

    I’ll be surprised if this movie isn’t on Stephen’s list. He’s the person who told me to see it. I like this one for it’s “down-to-earth” look at how discovering that you can travel through time might change your “regular guy” life and relationships.

    1. 12 Monkeys, 1995

    I didn’t intend to put this in the number one spot on my list; it just sort of funneled into place here. If I’d written this list a year ago, it wouldn’t be on the list at all since I hadn’t seen it yet then. This one really makes me want to see other stuff directed by Terry Gilliam.

  2. jaime (13) said,

    March 6, 2007 at 10:31 am

    My Top 6:

    1. Donnie Darko (2001)
    2. Back to the Future (1985)
    3. Groundhog Day (1995)
    4. Terminator 2 (1991)
    5. Army of Darkness (1993)
    6. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) and Planet of the Apes (1968)

    Donnie Darko is one of my favorite movies, and it`s about time travel, it`s complicated the way the movie talks about it, but when you understand it you say :”Wow, that was the time travel they were talking about” Frank is a legend.

    Back to the Future it`s a classic, I`ve watched it like a thousand times and everytime I watch something different and I laugh at the same jokes.

    Groundhog Day it`s a classic also, the way the man changed his manners, I would do the same things if I would be trapped in one day, I`d read, try to get smarter, that kind of things.

    Terminator 2 it`s one of the movies that I don`t understand fully, so I won`t talk about it. I know it`s fantastic.

    The Day I watched Army of Darkness was the day that I thought about being a director to do some movies like this one, comic, time travel, etc.

    As a Harry Potter fan I had to put the third movie of the series, one of the bests, and one with the best story, especially for the Time Travel. Planet of the Apes was like a Bonus Track, because it is the major point in the movie, that it was just time travel.

    I haven`t watched 12 Monkeys, but I`ll do, whn I rent it.

  3. Stephen (221) said,

    March 6, 2007 at 10:41 am

    I don’t get the time travel in Harry Potter 3. It’s kind of interesting in and of itself, but if the wizards have time travel, how come they never use it for anything else??

  4. jaime (13) said,

    March 6, 2007 at 11:42 am

    They never use it because it`s prohibited by the Ministry of Magic, only few, respondible and controlled people could use it, like Hermione, here`s something:
    The Time-Turner is a small silver hourglass worn on a chain around the neck. It’s a very powerful and dangerous magical item which literally turns back time for the user, one hour per inversion of the glass.
    There`s a rule for it,you can`t change past events, though, Hermione did, but the changes were already there, if you`ve seen the movie you`ll understand.

  5. Sam (405) said,

    March 6, 2007 at 11:54 am

    I dunno. I share Stephen’s problems with it. If Voldemort is going to destroy the universe and all, that strikes me as a great enough need that a couple of bureaucratic rules aren’t going to stand in the way of someone attempting to stop him with time travel. That’s certainly a greater need than Hermione had. And for that matter, however responsible Hermione might be, she’s still a kid, after all. Roughly 14 at that time? I don’t buy it.

    The strength of Rowling’s writing, though, is she can get away with dubious plot points like this because the world and its characters are so incredibly well defined, and the story is just so fun and forward-moving, you don’t get hung up on any logistical problems like this.

    The downside is that there are precious few logistical problems in her stories at all, so a big one like this kind of sticks out. Even so, I don’t say any of this as a criticism. The Prisoner of Azkaban is one of my favorite books and my favorite of the movies so far — in large part *because* of that time travelling sequence.

  6. wintermute (157) said,

    March 6, 2007 at 12:51 pm

    Actually, I get the impression that time in the Potterverse is entirely deterministic within a single timeline; that if you will ever go back in time to today and do something, then your future self has already come back and done that. This has implications for free will - were they capable of choosing not to throw the rock that warned their past-selves to leave?

    But the main point is that time travel cannot change anything; it can only ensure that actions already taken get to happen, so I can’t see any reason why time travel should be banned.

    Of course, this interpretation may be wrong, but it’s consistent with the way it’s shown in the movie.

  7. Sam (405) said,

    March 6, 2007 at 2:09 pm

    No, I get that. However, Hermione wasn’t allowed to go back in time just to fulfill her destiny: she was allowed to go back so that she could accomplish something and save the day. The fact that she had “already done so” and was apparently fated to do so, did not change the fact that the motivation of the *characters* was to attempt to steer history. And sure enough, had they not attempted to save the day with time travel, the day would not have been saved. It’s not any different than a non-time-travelling story. Hero saves the day. But if he *hadn’t* saved the day, he wouldn’t have saved the day. Not a great revelation, but sensible reasoning all the same.

    The time-travelling issue in Harry Potter’s world is not “Well, Voldemort killed Harry’s parents, so there’s no sense in going back in time to save them.” It’s “WHY doesn’t anybody attempt to go back in time and save Harry’s parents?”

    In a world where time-travel exists and is readily accessible to at least some people, the fact that something bad happens (pick any bad thing you like) means that nobody used time travel to stop it (or at least was successful in the attempt). That doesn’t make sense to me.

    There are probably reasonable answers to these questions. I’m not really interested in exploring them, but others should feel free to pursue that discussion here, if they wish. My point is that I don’t think Rowling or the filmmakers have answered these questions in the books or the movies. Probably that’s for the better, since I can’t imagine Harry Potter improved by a lot of examination of time travel paradoxes. Still.

  8. wintermute (157) said,

    March 6, 2007 at 2:56 pm

    The time-travelling issue in Harry Potter’s world is not “Well, Voldemort killed Harry’s parents, so there’s no sense in going back in time to save them.” It’s “WHY doesn’t anybody attempt to go back in time and save Harry’s parents?”

    In a world where time-travel exists and is readily accessible to at least some people, the fact that something bad happens (pick any bad thing you like) means that nobody used time travel to stop it (or at least was successful in the attempt). That doesn’t make sense to me.

    I believe that in Harry Potter, it’s physically impossible to change that past, because what you will do when you travel back in time is already part of that past. The rock got thrown.

    But yeah, you’d expect a fair few of those future actions to have been successful, purely because they’d be based on a position of perfect knowledge. But, I suppose the bad guys can go back in time, too.

    Now there’s a story that would be hard to write…

    A better question than “why doesn’t Harry go back and stop Voldermort from killing his parents?” might be “why didn’t Voldermort have to fight a version (or 20 versions, come to that) of Harry when he killed his parents?”, because if Harry travels back in time to prevent his parent’s death, then the existing history would have had Future Harry present at the death of his parents, and (while I can’t be absolutely sure), I’m pretty confident that that wasn’t the case.

    There may be information in the books that contradicts this interpretation, but it’s the only way I can make sense of the time travel in the movie.

  9. wintermute (157) said,

    March 6, 2007 at 3:13 pm

    Time travel in the Star Trek universe was always insanely easy to achieve. In The Voyage Home, all they needed to do was fly around the sun. In the episode Assignment: Earth, the Enterprise is on an apparently routine and unremarkable mission to the 20th Century - no alien doorway, temportal sub-space rift, omnipotent trickster alien, or chronoton flux field, just “here we are in the 1960’s, as ordered”. It almost seems as though you need to take special precautions not to travel through time.

    And then, by the time of The Next Generation, deliberate time travel seems non-existent. There are still plenty of ways to accidentally travel through time (enough that StarFleet has an Office of Temporal Investigations), but reliable time travel technology won’t be established until the 26th Century, and seems to remain in very limited use until the 29th Century (though we have little data where the Enterprise or Voyager isn’t directly involved). In First Contact,they had to ride on a Borg ship’s temporal wake (and the fact that Borg can travel through time means that they get to choose whether to assimilate a species at the height of their technological prowess, or when they’re easy to fight). All of this makes me wonder what happened to the Universe to make Kirk’s easy and reliable method of time travel stop working…

  10. WarpNacelle (48) said,

    March 6, 2007 at 4:45 pm

    How about time travel without the actual travel in “Minority Report”?

    I love the paradoxical issues they bring up in that by stopping a future event before it happens - did it ever happen, even though “seen” to have existed? Does that time line actually exist?

    Since I’m a Sci-Fi junkie I love time travel and it is especially hard to find good stories about it.

    If I may make a nod to a TV show - the first season finale of “Eureka” on the Sci-Fi channel (if anyone saw it or watches that show) was one of the few perfect sci-fi stories AND had time time travel to boot.

  11. Sam (405) said,

    March 6, 2007 at 4:56 pm

    I believe that in Harry Potter, it’s physically impossible to change that past, because what you will do when you travel back in time is already part of that past. The rock got thrown.

    I said already that I get that. My problem stands. If something bad happens, it only happens because nobody used time-travel to — maybe “prevent” is a clearer word than “change” — it. So why not? Again, I’m sure there are explanations (though I’m at a loss for one that doesn’t turn Hermione’s adventure into an inconsistency), but, again, my point is the books do not have an explanation at all. That’s technically a flaw in the storytelling, in my opinion, even if it’s one that doesn’t particularly diminish the work at all.

    As for Star Trek, I suspect the ultimate force in the universe that puts the kibosh on Kirk’s time travel is the race of mystical beings known as “screenwriters.” Someone should write a movie where Kirk faces a screenwriter man-to-man…and wins. That would rule.

  12. Grishny (156) said,

    March 6, 2007 at 5:29 pm

    Time travel in the Star Trek universe was always insanely easy to achieve. In The Voyage Home, all they needed to do was fly around the sun. In the episode Assignment: Earth, the Enterprise is on an apparently routine and unremarkable mission to the 20th Century - no alien doorway, temportal sub-space rift, omnipotent trickster alien, or chronoton flux field, just “here we are in the 1960’s, as ordered”. It almost seems as though you need to take special precautions not to travel through time.

    The “fly around the sun” or Slingshot method of time travel that you refer to wasn’t as easy as you make it sound. The first time it took place by accident in the original series episode “Tomorrow Is Yesterday,” and resulted in damage to the Enterprise that had to be repaired before they could make the return trip home. In “Assignment: Earth,” they’d presumably been ordered by Starfleet to use the same method to monitor mysterious activities by an alien race that had been detected (how, I don’t know) in Earth’s past. That episode was originally intended to start a spin-off series involving Gary Seven’s clandestine activities as an alien operative on present-day (then the 1960’s) Earth, but it never made it off the ground. (See this article about it.)

    In STIV:TVH, they once again used the slingshot method on purpose, and almost lost the ship. As it was, the ordeal pushed their ships dilithium crystals beyond endurance limits, which was the impetus for the whole sub-plot mission by Uhura and Chekov trying to steal energy from the “nuclear wessels.”

    The slingshot method or “fly-around-the-sun” method was as far as I know the only reproducable form of time travel known to Starfleet, and was inherently dangerous enough to the ship and crew that it’s no wonder they didn’t make a regular practice of it. (One of the reasons that many fans were so down on the “Assignment: Earth” episode was it’s making time travel in the Federation seem commonplace.) Any other examples of time travel in the Trek Universe has always been accidental or via some alien artifact such as the Guardian of Forever.

    I certainly wouldn’t call it “insanely easy to achieve.”

  13. jaime (13) said,

    March 6, 2007 at 8:30 pm

    Maybe there`s a secret reason Rowling hadn`t revealed yet why you can`t stop the murder of Harry`s Parents.

  14. Sam (405) said,

    March 7, 2007 at 10:22 am

    As wintermute says, the murders can’t be stopped, because they happened, and you can’t change the past. The real question is, why did they happen at all? Shouldn’t someone have prevented them?

    I’d be very surprised if the existence of time travel is even acknowledged in book 7. It was a fun diversion for book 3, but it has no place in the larger world.

  15. SplishFish (29) said,

    March 7, 2007 at 12:09 pm

    Regarding Groundhog Day: A good measure of how influential a movie is is how often is it copied or parodied. There have been a lot of TV shows that used the repeating day premise in an episode. Everything from Stargate SG1 to Early Edition to Xena.

    The most touching Groundhog Day scenes for me were his trying and failing to save the homeless man. He could change every other event to create the “perfect day” except that one. I don’t know if the film makers were trying to say that there was some cosmic balance that needed to be maintained or that there were some things that are fated to happen and the actions of one person could never alter them or to teach the character humility. Whatever the reasoning, those scenes stayed with me the most. Well, that and the scene where he steals the groundhog and has it driving. :)

    Regarding Back to the Future: I really love some of the details they put in about how Marty changed things while in 1955. For example, in the beginning when he first meets up with Doc Brown in the mall parking lot, the name of the mall is Twin Pines mall. Just after he goes back in time, he runs over one of the two pine trees that are next to the farmer’s mail box. When he returns to 1985, the name of the mall has changed to Lone Pine mall.

    Another movie worth mentioning is Millennium. Maybe not a great movie, but it is one of the few that deals with the problems of causing a paradox. Lots of movies and TV shows will throw in the “grandfather paradox” explanation of why changing events is dangerous and then everyone is careful to not alter anything. This movie posits what could happen to the future if history is changed. It also has the interesting conceit that you can only go back to a specific point in time once.

  16. Grishny (156) said,

    March 7, 2007 at 12:28 pm

    I’d be very surprised if the existence of time travel is even acknowledged in book 7. It was a fun diversion for book 3, but it has no place in the larger world.

    *** I suppose anyone reading this thread is already aware that it has some spoilers in but I’ll throw in this warning anyway. Don’t read on if you’ve not read HP 5 yet***

    My memories of the time travel stuff in Book 3 are somewhat vague, but it would seem that by the time book 5 took place, and probably predating that, the entire supply of time turners was under the control of the Ministry. During the climactic confrontation between Potter’s Group and the Death Eaters in the Ministry of Magic at the end of Order of the Phoenix, a description was given of a cabinet in one of the rooms of the Ministry that apparently contained the entire stock of time turners. The cabinet got smashed during the course of the battle and all of the time turners were destroyed. I suspect that little detail was put in by Rowling to preclude any possibility of time travel being used in later books to attempt to change things.

    Another movie worth mentioning is Millennium. Maybe not a great movie, but it is one of the few that deals with the problems of causing a paradox. Lots of movies and TV shows will throw in the “grandfather paradox” explanation of why changing events is dangerous and then everyone is careful to not alter anything. This movie posits what could happen to the future if history is changed. It also has the interesting conceit that you can only go back to a specific point in time once.

    Another movie that this brings to mind is The Butterfly Effect. Say what you will about Ashton Kutcher’s acting ability; I really enjoyed this movie. Specifically, the DVD version with the director’s preferred ending, not the theatrical version. A very powerful story about what can happen when you go tinkering around in your own past.

  17. Ferrick (140) said,

    March 7, 2007 at 6:02 pm

    I still don’t buy that Groundhog day is a time travel movie. It would mean that he isn’t physically travelling through time, just psychologically or spiritually or something. Otherwise, there would be an infinite number of weathermen running around Punxatawny.

    Of course, this movie does not need to explain itself. But are there any other examples of time travel that we’ve seen that use the same concept but explain it better.

    Minority Report might not be a time travel movie but Philip Dick did a pretty good job writing about Time Travel in Paycheck. The movie was decent, too.

  18. Andy (13) said,

    March 8, 2007 at 1:30 am

    I would probably normally end up similar picks to everyone else but i’ll try to come up with some different ones and maybe an obscure one.

    let’s see…

    6. How about any one of the many versions of A Christmas Carol?
    5. It might not technically be time travel (time travel via cryogenics), but sort of….Austin Powers
    4. This would fall into the same category as Austin Powers…..Idiocracy!
    3. Time Bandits

    Funny story about this movie - I watched it recently for what I believed to be the first time, however, when I reached the end, I recognized the final scene (where the parents disappear) as a scene that I had seen on television when I was very young that scared the living crap out of me, gave me nightmares, and scarred me for atleast 5 years.

    I can’t think of anymore that weren’t already mentioned so my 2 personal faves…

    2. Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure - one of my favorite quotable movies ever - this list says it all “Dave Beethoven, Maxine of Arc, Herman the Kid, Bob Ghengis Khan, Socrates Johnson, Dennis Freudm and uh…Abraham Lincoln”

    It’s so cheesy but so fun

    “Strange things are afoot at the circle-K”

    and my easy #1

    1. 12 Monkeys

    to be fair (think of me what you will but I have to come clean) I have never seen any of the Back to the Future movies in their entirety

  19. MatrixMan (2) said,

    March 8, 2007 at 5:15 pm

    I liked Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Of course, if your three sheets to the wind on a Saturday night, it makes the bad movie moments bearable. Here is a real gem or should reel => Time Cop. This movie made me want to staple Bologna to my face and stick it in a bowl of Piranhas! Jean-Claude Van Damme went in the past and should have stayed there in this movie! If you watch it… grab a barf bag!

    DeWayne(FilmFreak)

  20. Grishny (156) said,

    March 23, 2007 at 8:58 am

    I need to make an amendment to my Top Six Time Travel Movies list. Last night I finally saw Donnie Darko, and I’m going to have to put in the #3 slot, bumping everything else up and my previous #6 off the list.

    I like movies that make you think. Hard. A lot. And dream about if you watch them right before bed.

  21. Sam (405) said,

    March 23, 2007 at 10:24 am

    Did you see the director’s cut or the regular cut? I am told the director’s cut is much better, so maybe there is hope. But people loved the theatrical cut, too. I absolutely hated Donnie Darko, and I can’t figure out why I’m the only one. I just can’t figure out what there is to like about it. I can’t figure out what I’m missing.

  22. Grishny (156) said,

    March 23, 2007 at 11:31 am

    I saw the director’s cut. And I liked it because, well, it really made my head spin. In a good way.

    I mentioned earlier in this comment thread that I liked The Butterfly Effect. I don’t know your opinion on that movie, but I think I liked this one for much the same reason… it tackles a frequent difficulty that a lot of time travel movies seem to just blithely ignore; the paradox. (spoilers ahead)

    Specifically, Donnie Darko deals with what it calls a “tangent universe,” an alternate timeline that was created because Donnie was supposed to die when that plane engine crashed into his house and didn’t. I think the movie’s strength is also its weakness– it doesn’t explain that key fact (despite hinting at it several times) until the end of the movie, and so if you’re watching it for the first time, you have no idea what’s going on or why anything is happening. It’s not until the reveal at the end that it made sense, and even then I had to mull it over in my head and the process is still going on. Donnie’s in an unstable tangent universe because he didn’t die, so he goes back in time, or somehow sends a warning to his past self, and does die, putting the time stream back on it’s natural course… but it’s a paradox, because if he dies, how can he come back from the non-existent tangent universe and tell himself to die? We obviously only get a part of the whole story, and that’s why I enjoyed the movie, because I’m just having a tremendous amount of fun trying to think through and figure out how it could be resolved.

    I think I need to watch this one again.

  23. SplishFish (29) said,

    March 23, 2007 at 1:10 pm

    I only have the theatrical version of Donnie Darko, but it has director/writer commentary and excerpts from The Philosophy of Time Travel. They really explain the whole underlying logic of the movie.

    My 5 word explanation of the movie is “Time travel and divine intervention.”

    What I like about the movie is how every action is part of a chain that leads to an ultimate goal. You really need to watch it several times to get all the connections.

    Spoilers ahoy! Don’t read if you want to draw your own conclusions.

    It wasn’t so much that Donnie had to die, but that when the jet engine got dislodged from normal time/space and made the tangent universe, Donnie was the poor bastard that got elected (by God or some higher power) as the “Living Receiver”. The Living Receiver’s has to correct the anomaly (i.e., get that jet engine back into it’s proper place/time). To do this he is granted the powers necessary to complete the task, such as time travel. The people who die in the tangent universe are the “Manipulated Dead” –Gretchen and Frank. They don’t want to be dead, so they create an “Ensurance Trap” to make sure that Donnie does his job. If successful, all the events that take place in the tangent universe are undone and they are no longer dead. My take is that by Frank killing Gretchen and then Donnie killing Frank, they ensured that Donnie would literally move heaven and earth to undo all these tragedies. The other people around Donnie are the “Manipulated Living.” They serve as guidance to Donnie correcting the tangent universe.

    So, it seems to me that the tangent universe would have been created in any case, but Frank as manipulated dead drew Donnie out of his room at the critical moment so that Donnie could survive and set things right. It’s possible that Donnie could have escaped alive.

    Whoa. Totally geeked out there.

  24. Sam (405) said,

    March 23, 2007 at 3:48 pm

    Ok, now that helps me understand the movie’s appeal. It’s perhaps a movie that’s fun to deconstruct and figure out where all the pieces go. I enjoy that aspect of many movies, so that makes sense to me. I’m glad this discussion is happening, because I think I finally understand something about that movie’s reception that was confusing to me before.

    For me, though, it’s all moot if I absolutely hate the characters and can barely stand to endure individual scenes. Now that I think about it, it’s the same problem I had with Fight Club, another (popular) movie with a lot of content to think about, although you aren’t presented with the information you need to even *start* putting the puzzle until the very end. I hated the characters, I hated their scenes, and if I have to endure two hours of that nonsense before I can even start in on the intellectual challenge, my interest has already moved on.

    I acknowledge the fact that if I rewatched Fight Club and Donnie Darko (I’ve only seen them once), I might like them the second time through, because obviously the viewing experience is going to be dramatically different if you know the outcome. So I may very well be coming down too hard on both these movies. But I maintain that even if I *loved* them the second time through, there is a very fundamental problem if the first viewing doesn’t give me anything but crap.

    For me, the best puzzle movies are the ones that are fun the first time through *and* offer new insights on successive viewings. Primer is a perfect example of one of those: multiple viewings is almost a requirement if you’re going to figure it all out, but it’s enthralling well before there is a puzzle to solve, and you’re allowed to start working on it before the very end.

  25. Grishny (156) said,

    March 25, 2007 at 9:14 pm

    For me, the best puzzle movies are the ones that are fun the first time through *and* offer new insights on successive viewings. Primer is a perfect example of one of those: multiple viewings is almost a requirement if you’re going to figure it all out, but it’s enthralling well before there is a puzzle to solve, and you’re allowed to start working on it before the very end.

    I’m totally with you there. I liked Primer for much the same reason… and I liked Donnie Darko the first time through; I liked the characters, I liked the story and I liked the movie’s style. All good for me.

  26. siochembio (82) said,

    April 3, 2007 at 7:15 pm

    I was re-listening to this top 6 list today, and I remembered something I had WANTED to say but forgotten about since. And that is that “12 Monkeys,” which I agree with both S&S is a great movie, is based on an earlier, experimental film from the sixties called “La Jetee / The Pier.” It’s a short movie, only about 30 minutes or so, and it’s the basic plot kernel of 12 Monkeys. It’s composed entirely of still photographs which makes it verrrrry interesting visually.

    Obviously, both movies are extremely different, and I like 12 Monkeys more, but La Jetee was really pretty cool, especially knowing 12 Monkeys. Considering both Sam and Stephen like it so much, I highly recommend checking it out.

    Turner Classic occasionally airs it (and that’s where I caught it), and I know it had a VHS release awhile ago. Criterion, though, is coming out with a remastered DVD edition of it in June 2007, which will probably be anyone’s best opportunity to see it. God bless Criterion.

  27. Rifty (64) said,

    July 24, 2007 at 8:13 pm

    So, I just got finished with my new movie regimen (first segment consisting of Primer, Barton Fink and Hudsucker Proxy- more on those other two in a different post) and I just had (like, I suppose everyone does) a few questions about Primer.

    Mostly what I had trouble with was that, as I understood it, you had to be able to grasp the physics of their machine in order to understand what was going on in the movie.

    And while I’m a fairly smart guy, I had some trouble with the physics, to the point where it became hard to follow. I mean, I liked it, and I think that if I watched it again (I don’t have time due to when the movies are due back, but I wish I did) I would enjoy it better, and so I suppose I should do that.

    Anyway, if anyone could offer a quick layman’s explanation of the physics for me, I’d appreciate it.

    But it was a good movie, and I’m glad Stephen recommended it.

    -Rifty

  28. Grishny (156) said,

    July 25, 2007 at 9:37 am

    Rifty, it’s been some time since I saw Primer, but I’ll take a quick stab at it. Stephen could probably do it better… maybe he can add to this if I leave anything out.

    EVERYTHING AFTER THIS SENTENCE CONTAINS MOVIE SPOILERS, FYI!

    As I understand it, their machine caused whatever was inside it to “move” backwards in time while still experiencing real-time inside the containing box. I’m still not sure I grasp how or why this caused inanimate objects placed inside to “age” faster (i.e., the accelerated mold growth observed in the initial discovery of the phenomenon) — perhaps those objects looped through time over and over again until removed, since one definite “rule” of their machine is that nothing can emerge from the container any earlier than the point in time at which it was first switched on.

    For observers outside the machine, an inanimate object can’t be removed from the box before it was put in, but they surmised that a person could, under their own power, enter the box, wait the required amount of subjective time inside it takes to “rewind” to the point when they first switched on the machine, and then exit to find themselves back at that point.

    They can then re-live that same day, using their foreknowledge of events to profit in various ways. However, because the physics or “rules” of time in this movie allow for paradoxes apparently without any resolution or consequence, it does become confusing, especially since it would seem the characters can through meddling with their own previous selves create unlimited duplicates, temporal clones if you will, of themselves.

  29. Rifty (64) said,

    July 25, 2007 at 9:48 am

    MORE SPOILERS ABOUND, SO WATCH YOUR EYES

    Part of what threw me, was that what I understood, was that they put an object in the machine, and no matter how long it was in there (in what I’ve loosely termed “Observer Time”), it was processing in the machine for ±1300 minutes, or close to 22 hours, I think is what they said.

    So they put a watch in, and then pulled it immediately out, and it was 22 hours ahead.

    Anyway. They deduced from that the explanation about the parabolas, about how the object travels from entrance point A to Exit point B, but that if the object is not pulled out, it simply repeats back around to Entrance point A and repeats the process.

    And then there was the whole bit about the party, and the guy with the shotgun, and the earpiece that recorded, and played back, and I had trouble following that as well.

    As I said, though, I’ll probably sit down and rewatch it at some point in the near future just to see if it makes any more sense.

    Thanks Grishny.

    -Rifty

  30. Ferrick (140) said,

    July 25, 2007 at 6:21 pm

    Here is a timeline that might help.

    http://neuwanstein.fw.hu/primer_timeline.html

  31. Rifty (64) said,

    July 25, 2007 at 7:53 pm

    Wow. Thanks for that Ferrick.

    It did help a little bit. I had no idea it was THAT complicated. Good lord.

    -Rifty

  32. wintermute (157) said,

    July 26, 2007 at 10:41 am

    Yes, watch it again. Several times.

    It does make sense on the 4th or 5th viewing.

    The physics is relatively simple, but keeping track of which timeline you’re in, and who knows what is almost impossible.

  33. joem18b (231) said,

    July 29, 2007 at 2:03 am

    Printed out the timeline on 12 pages and taped them together, and then watched Primer again with them in hand. It all made sense this time. Cool movie. And fun commentary tracks.

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