I’ve been waiting for a good excuse to do a Roundtable about favorite time travel movies, and this week’s theatrical release of ‘Looper’ is just the ticket. So hop in your Delorean and pop in your favorite Huey Lewis cassette, because we “Gotta get back in time, Gotta get back in time…” Whoo!
This week, we’re joined by one of High-Def Digest‘s newest staff members, Shannon Nutt. Some of you may recognize his name as a frequent commenter on this blog and in our forums. Shannon was recently brought on board to help us with Blu-ray review coverage, which he started this week with a review of ‘WarGames‘. Please give him a warm welcome.
I’d like to be creative on this one, but to me, the obvious choice is the ‘Back to the Future‘ trilogy. I adore these movies. They’re funny, they’re clever, and they basically invented the rules of time travel as we know them. They made me want one of these. They’re perfect movies. Every time I start to watch them, I’m completely pulled in by the time the dog food splatters in Einstein’s bowl.
My favorite film of all time just happens to involve time travel. 1980’s ‘Somewhere in Time‘ is loosely based on a novel by Richard Matheson. It’s the story of a playwright (Christopher Reeve) who becomes obsessed with a young actress (Jane Seymour) from the early 1900s, and becomes determined to go back in time to meet her. Granted, the time travel method here is the least scientific of virtually any other time travel movie (it’s a journey back to the past via the power of the mind), but that’s part of what makes the movie so wonderful. It’s a science-fiction film, a fantasy, a romance and a period piece all rolled into one. Directed by Jeannot Szwarc (‘Jaws 2’) with a beautiful and haunting score by John Barry (his finest work in a career of fine work) and a great performance by Christopher Reeve, ‘Somewhere in Time’ may not be the most logical movie that deals with traveling through time, but it’s the most touching. Now if only Universal would give it the Blu-ray release it deserves!
In a world where Confederate gold shipments are stolen though time in order to finance arms deals, and the 1929 stock market crash is manipulated daily to fund political campaigns, only one man has the high kicks necessary to stop unauthorized time travel in its tracks. As a time enforcement officer, Max Walker (Jean-Claude Van Damme) is entirely jaded and almost completely withdrawn from society. He spends his off time morosely wishing for his hot wife (Mia Sara) to still be alive.
While Van Damme’s role was blessed with more character depth than, say, ‘Bloodsport’ or ‘Universal Soldier’, ‘Timecop‘ wastes little time measuring characters’ reactions to different time periods, which is the thrust of most movies involving time travel. The flick is about Van Damme versus the nefarious Senator McComb (Ron Silver) in the not-too-distant-future, and it spins a yarn about secret government agencies, VR sex, suicidal time travel vehicles, coldware and the dangers of same matter. ‘Timecop’ is a B-movie, a movie for guys who like movies, an ’80s throwback and a Van Damme vehicle. By borrowing elements of various genres, this comic book adaptation, sci-fi actioner is more fun and does more with time travel and with one-liners than countless other movies even attempt.
“Stay here, Walker. In my future, you’re dead.” That’s Senator McComb not long after Van Damme has kick-shattered a bad guy’s frozen arm, causing said bad guy to stumble in agony over a railing and down into a coldware chip-producing machine.
Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)
Twelve monkeys and precisely zero half-man/half-pig creatures. Where’s the fun in that?
‘Time Bandits‘ is my favorite of Terry Gilliam’s jaunts through the past, present and future. Crafting the fabric of the universe in six days wound up being kind of a tall order, and that rush job led to a few gaping holes scattered around the space/time continuum. A few of the Supreme Being’s pint-sized contractors have gotten their mitts on a map of those rifts and are trying to use ’em for trans-dimensional high robbery. As plans go, swiping history’s most legendary treasures and ducking into a time portal before anyone can blink twice works for me. Turns out there’s kind of a learning curve when leaping through space and time, though, and the would-be bandits instead wind up in a British tyke’s bedroom. As Kevin and his new kinda-sorta friends wreak havoc through history, the embodiment of evil schemes to use them as his ticket out of an eternal prison.
A rote plot summary like that can’t really prepare you for ‘Time Bandits’, a stream-of-consciousness explosion of everything bobbing around in Terry Gilliam and Michael Palin’s imaginations. There’s no movie-logic or three act structure to get in the way. It’s a heckuva lot of fun, startlingly inventive, gently twisted and a family movie in the truest sense of the word.
I know some people think that it’s the lesser of the ‘Evil Dead’ films, but I’ve always been a big a fan of Sam Raimi’s ‘Army of Darkness‘. Continuing where we left off at the end of ‘Evil Dead 2’, our hero, the wise-cracking S-Mart employee Ash (cult fave Bruce Campbell), has been sucked through a vortex that transports him back to medieval times. Ash’s only hope in returning back to the present is to recover the Necronomicon (otherwise known as the Book of the Dead). What follows is a hilarious romp filled with slapstick comedy, quotable one-liners (“This… is my BOOMSTICK!”) and old-school special effects. It’s a delight to watch. ‘Army of Darkness’ is always one of my go-to staples every Halloween.
M. Enois Duarte
A fascinating recent movie (well, if you consider eight years ago recent) about the complexities and paradoxes involving time-traveling is ‘Primer‘. The micro-budgeted sci-fi drama (made with a total cost of only $7,000) is one of the most intricate, philosophical ruminations on the science behind time-traveling. The film’s writer, director and producer Shane Carruth is a mathematical engineer, so the guy filled his script with actual theoretical possibilities and mind-bending technical jargon. The film is the story of two friends, Aaron and Abe, who accidentally create a time-traveling machine and discover the life-altering power associated with the knowledge they gain during their experiments. This fantastic, ultra-small independent film has an incredibly complicated and challenging finale.
I went back and forth on writing about this movie, but after seeing ‘Looper‘ last week, I have to put it right up there with my favorite time travel movies. ‘Looper’ not only has a great gimmick (really, who can say no to a time travel/hitman movie?), but also doesn’t have to rely on that gimmick to remain interesting. The key here is that all of the characters that Rian Johnson has created are interesting on their own. The fact that they exist in a great story simply adds to the entertainment. It’s a time travel movie that isn’t obsessed with explaining how everything works. Instead, the movie is focused on its characters, their lives and relationships. It’s one of the best movies of 2012 so far.
‘The Terminator’. Duh.
OK, that one’s perhaps too obvious. In fact, I asked the staff to shy away from really obvious titles like ‘The Terminator’ and ’12 Monkeys’ (though I apparently forgot ‘Back to the Future’, grrr…). My off-the-beaten path pick is director Brad Anderson’s ‘Happy Accidents‘, in which Marisa Tomei finds herself falling for an eccentric guy (Vincent D’Onofrio) who may be a time traveler from 400 years in the future or may just be nuts. She isn’t sure and neither are we. The movie is both a rom-com and a sci-fi flick rolled up in one. It has a little something for both women and men. Unfortunately, due to the studio’s inability to market it, the film fell through the cracks back in 2000 and is virtually unknown today. However, of everyone who has seen it, I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like it.
I know that we’ve missed plenty of good time travel films here. (Where are Bill and Ted, dude?) Tell us your favorites in the Comments.