I often try and say something insightful or relevant in these introductions and probably just come across as glib so I will break with tradition skip any introduction. Before you move on I do have two more recommendations from the genre that nobody chose to write about: La Jetee (1962): A French film constructed from still photographs accompanied by a haunting voiceover. It provided the inspiration for 12 Monkeys. Primer (2004): The ultra low budget (around $7,000) thriller proves great storytelling is more important than flashy CGI even in Sci-Fi.
Time Bandits (1981)
“If I were creating the world I wouldn’t mess about with butterflies and daffodils. I would have started with lasers, eight o’clock, Day One! [zaps one of his minions accidentally, minion screams] Sorry”
Time Bandits has a strong place in my heart. I fell in love with it at a young age and watching it with my Father is one of the very few good memories I have left of the now missing parent. Thirty years later and I find myself relighting the feelings and enjoyment that I once felt. I would lay in bed at home wishing that my wardrobe would be smashed open by a Black Knight. I longed to be whisked away by a band of renegade Dwarves who had discovered a map that charts all of the universes wormholes, time portals no less. They would take me on there quest for bounty and riches through time and space. Sadly this never arose and I am here stuck at my desk typing this out for you. Ah well.
Time Bandits is the brain child of Michael Palin who teamed up with his Monty Python compadre Terry Gilliam to helm his second project (after Jabberwocky). It is a dark and deranged history lesson for the kids with enough black comedy and gags to keep any Python fan happy. Beneath this strange and fantastic tale is a lovely subtext about how petty and materialistic humanity has become. It is handled with such a deft touch and subtlety that is far greater than its meagre budget ($5m). Terry Gilliam is such a visionary genius. Great characters fill this classic, John Cleese as the vague Robin Hood, Ian Holm in scene stealing form as Napoleon with ‘Napoleon’ Complex believe it or not, David Warner as Evil camping it up big time and a very easy going Ralph Richardson as the Supreme Being. Although this is still a kids film it has enough meat on the bone and some wicked gags to keep the adults laughing to the final credits. Fantastic
The Terminator (1984)
“The hardest thing is deciding what I should tell you and what not to. Well, anyway, I’ve got a while yet before you’re old enough to understand the tapes. They’re more for me at this point… to help get it all straight. Should I tell you about your father? That’s a tough one. Will it change your decision to send him here… knowing? But if you don’t send Kyle, you could never be. God, you can go crazy thinking about all this… I suppose I’ll tell you… I owe him that. And maybe it’ll be enough if you know that in the few hours we had together we loved a lifetime’s worth” Sarah Connor
A human being, Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), and a terminator suddenly appeared out of nowhere. Their presence was followed with bolt of high electric current…and they were naked. From Reese explanation we learned that only living organism can be transported by the time machine and for that reason they had to travel naked. I have seen and read some time travel stories and Terminator is the only one that let the traveler goes butt naked. For a ten years old girl in the 80s, it was quite a surprise to see that scene. The rationalization of that scene made sense at that time, I doubt it a little now. The Cyborg was mostly composed of metal, in other word dead things. It was a bit unusual for it to travel with the transporting machine even though it was covered with living tissue, wouldn’t the machine be like those machine in airport that can see through?
The time traveler in The Terminator and all terminator series can only travel one way, there was no returning home. The Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) knew perfectly well that it could never return and will do everything to eliminate the mother of the future leader who will relentlessly fight the domination of machines over human. The Leader, John Connor, knew the danger that will come to his mother in the past sent his to-be-father knowing he would never see him again.
And here comes the paradox of time traveling!
I deliberately chose the quotes from Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) to her future son because it shows how difficult a time traveling could be. The future and the past are connected in a way we can’t explain. John gave Sarah’s picture to one of his subordinates knowing that that man will become his father, but at the same time how can John be born before his father was even born? What happened to John if Reese didn’t meet Sarah in the past or somehow Reese changed the past? As we could see in Terminator 2, Sarah tried to change the future. I guess this paradox is what makes Time Travel a good story to explore.
I will close this with a quote from Kyle Reese
“John Connor gave me a picture of you once. I didn’t know why at the time. It was very old – torn, faded. You were young like you are now. You seemed just a little sad. I used to always wonder what you were thinking at that moment. I memorized every line, every curve. I came across time for you Sarah. I love you; I always have”
Back to the Future (1985)
“Last night, Darth Vader came down from planet Vulcan and told me that if I didn’t take Lorraine out that he’d melt my brain“. George McFly
Teenager Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) is accidentally sent back in time from 1985 to 1955 in a DeLorean car turned it a time machine by eccentric scientist Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd). He quickly breaks the first rule of time travel by inadvertently changing the past. All he has to do is find a way to get home to 1985 before he causes any more damage, that and get his mismatched parents to fall in love to avoid a catastrophic paradox whereby he and his siblings were never born.
To make a successful time travel movie you need to create a believable setting in two different eras, if you fail to get that part right before you even displace your protagonist the battle is already lost. That is the beauty of back to the future; the 1985 section could easily be a John Hughes high school comedy while the 1955 scenes could pass for a nostalgic film like American Graffiti. To add to this the cleverer than you think story involves time travel paradox and a fish out water tale that knows exactly how far to push the boundaries of comedy and drama. Director Robert Zemeckis has a light touch knowing when to be funny and when to let the action excite the audience. The casting is perfect following a brave choice to recast the lead four weeks into production. All this comes together to create a film that is both traditional and contemporary.
Back to the Future was a huge summer hit in 1985, we didn’t get it here in the UK until Christmas. I had to wait for the video release the following year, it was worth the wait! Having seen the movie numerous times on the small screen over the last 25 years I saw it where it belongs on the big screen last year, again it was worth the wait! The movie has aged really well hand holds up as a modern classic.
Twelve Monkeys (1995)
“Telephone call? Telephone call? That’s communication with the outside world. Doctor’s *discretion*. Nuh-uh. Look, hey – all of these nuts could just make phone calls, they could spread insanity, oozing through telephone cables, oozing into the ears of all these poor sane people, infecting them. Wackos everywhere, plague of madness.”
This is a strange movie, widely revered in the Sci-Fi community that delves into time travel. Unfortunately a lot of the public has given it a bad reputation for being a movie too complicated for people to understand, and though it does lean towards the complex side it’s one the best modern films representing time travel. In it’s complexity is also a ridiculously scary and intelligent, not to mention entertaining film. Mankind has barely survived a virus that destroyed the majority of it’s population. Years into the future, criminals are sent through time travel to find the pieces of the puzzle that ended in mans demise. All signs point to something involving “Twelve Monkeys”. In order to save humanity James Cole (Bruce Willis) is a criminal sent back to find this information.
For some reason he has more tolerance to the travel and can remember more. When locked in a mental home he meet Jeffrey Goines. Brad Pitt’s performance was career defining at this point. The combination of psychotic behavior intertwined with such a reflective level of intelligence almost has you believing what he’s selling. There’s some strange logic to Jeffrey Goines crazy, which makes it entirely plausible that he had the following he did. 12 Monkey’s is a good movie, but it’s something exceptional because of Jeffrey Goines and Brad Pitt.
This movie is a whirlwind up till the climactic shooting by airport security, filmed in slow-motion, of James which is perceived through a young incarnation of himself (Joseph Melito ) watching and witnessing his own death. Talk about twisted. In this one the virus gets us even with trying to alter the time continuum.
“So you’re saying you accidentally discovered time travel?” – “No, we accidentally discovered a wormhole.”
Plot: A group of archaeological students must travel back to year 1357 to retrieve their missing professor, which happens to be the very day of the bloodiest battle between the English and the French. They must survive 14th Century France long enough before their time marker expires.
I know critics rip this movie to shreds, but I actually find it pretty entertaining. Based on Michael Crichton’s novel of the same name, what makes the story unique is the mix between futuristic elements and the medieval setting. As with a lot of time travel movies though, the concept is often better than the execution. Yes there are logic and consistency issues here, but as long as you’re willing to suspend your disbelief for alittle while and not over-analyze every single thing, this movie is pretty good fun.
It’s sci-fi lite, I mean, they describe their time machine as ‘3D fax machine’ so that should tell you something. I’d imagine the book goes into quantum physics stuff in much more detail, but that’d be impossible to cover in a 2-hour movie. The pace is swift enough with a good amount of chase/battle scenes to keep action fans happy, and an endearing love story thrown in for good measure. In fact, the romance between André Marek & Lady Claire is the major highlights for me.
The movie also looks pretty authentic, as Richard Donner didn’t use much CGI even on the gritty battle scenes. One major quibble I haveis with the lead actor Paul Walker, who is utterly unconvincing and weak. He’s supposed to play Billy Connolly’s son and I really just can’t picture that. But Gerry Butler as André Marek more than makes up for that, even though when I first saw this, I had no idea who Butler was. It was after I saw The Phantom of the Opera a couple of years later that I realized he’s the same actor playing the Phantom! I also like Anna Friel as Claire & Frances O’Connor as Kate, and Billy Connolly, David Thewlis, and Michael Sheen round out the cast nicely.
So yeah, it’s really not as bad as the critics make it out to be. It’s worth a rental if you like time travel sci-fis or just an action romp to watch on a Friday evening.
“He’s like your reflection. You’re looking in the mirror only this reflection shows what you were doing…”
Timecrimes goes a long way to show that the old adage of “curiosity killed the cat” is advice worth heeding. But what fun is a story when a character can’t help himself right? When Hector makes his way home from shopping one day he decides to relax and kick back in the lounge chair on the lawn of he and his wife’s new home. Doing a little nature gazing with his binoculars he sees what looks like a troubled woman in the woods. As he goes to investigate he soon finds himself chased by a strange and hostile figure. He retreats to a nearby house and to save himself is left no choice but to break in. Hector meets a man who offers to hide him from the assailant inside one of his machines. Hector emerges from the mechanical device and learns he’s become an unexpected time traveler (going back in time roughly 30 minutes) and the man who helped him is a scientist who explains the predicament. If you’ve seen Back to the Future II you’ll know what can happen if you have 2 of the same persons running around in the same time…and in Timecrimes it only gets worse and more complicated than that.
Usually most time travel films employ some elaborate device including (but not limited to) flashing lights, gee whiz mechanics and a confusing formula explaining what makes it possible. Well not here and not in the least. Almost like magic, and even just as matter of fact, the time machine doesn’t even give any clear demarcations but still falls into the trappings of other time travel films. Except for the use of night and day you’d have no clue you had even traveled at all and that’s why the less is more approach to this low budget film works so well. Beyond that Timecrimes is layered so damn well showing time travel complexities and conundrums aplenty. Telling the same 30 minute story from three points of view it becomes a lot like watching the progressive seasons of Lost as you’ll be equally amazed how many ways a situation can be spun/altered when looked at from a different angle (and by more than one person).
Actually it’s quite innovative even if there are really no answers to concepts and pseudo science presented in the plot. Hector becomes an unwilling prisoner of the time continuum which deteriorates as he tries to fix the ripple he created. As the film progresses through each act trying to tie up the loose ends gets harder and harder. Don’t feel bad if you start to feels confused and hopeless as Hector. As with anything it’s all in the details and Timecrimes really gets you to pay attention to them. Liken this to early Christopher Nolan films it really is a more interesting film on repeat viewings. If this is the first time you’re seeing it, guaranteed you’ll be blown away by the story that you’ll forget all the shortcomings.