Friday, August 15, 2008

Time Travel Just Ain't Easy

I was watching Timecop on my pirated copy of every Van Damme film ever made the other day and could not help but wince at the hoard of time travel no-no's. This is a movie that has some great action, and arguably the best intro scene to a Van Damme film ever, but makes almost no attempt to account for the issues associated with traveling to and from the past. It is just horrible.

So has there ever been a movie that does a good job with time travel? The answer is of course, yes. Back to the Future was genius and I'm a huge fan of Primer. But neither of these is without its flaws. Not by a long shot. Rephrase the question; has there ever been a good action movie that does a good job with time travel? Well, again, the answer is yes. So here they are, my top five action movies that involve time travel
  1. The Terminator (1984) - Need I say anything about the Terminator? The basic premise is this, the rise of the machines is inevitable. But in the future, John Connor leads the resistance against the machines. One machine is sent back in time to terminate John Connor's mother, Sarah. A human is sent back to protect her and impregnates her along the way. The resulting child grows up to be John Connor. Yes!

  2. The Terminator 2 (1991) - Similar to the first, except this time the machines send back a more sophisticated machine to kill John Connor while he is a kid. The humans rise to the challenge by sending back their own machine, although one of lesser technology, to protect young John.

  3. 12 Monkeys (1995) - A virus has forced the human population underground, supposedly by a secret army called the 12 Monkeys. In the future, scientists use a crude and inexact form of time travel to send back convicts on reconnaissance missions. One time traveler, James Cole, is particularly successful at unearthing clues about the 12 Monkeys. Inadvertently, Cole winds up enabling the spread of the killer virus, and the cycle starts all over.

  4. Flight of the Navigator (1986) - Okay, admittedly, not an action movie. And also not your traditional time travel story. David Scott Freeman falls in a ravine and wakes up 8 years later having maintained his youth while the rest of the world aged on. Scientific experiments reveal the blueprints to an unidentified aircraft which the military recently discovered. David and the craft are eventually reunited and proceed to fly all over the universe together. In the end, David opts to return to 1978 rather than live a life of a NASA guinea pig.

  5. The Butterfly Effect (2004) - Also not an action movie, really. But definitely a surprisingly good thriller. From a young age, the Kutch suffers from blackouts. A doctor advises him to keep journals which seems to solve the problem. When he revisits his notebooks as a college student, he finds that he is able to relive those moments in which he blacked out as a child and change the past. Each time he does so, he changes the future in ways that he doesn't anticipate, ultimately affecting those around him. Eventually, Kutcher is forced to go back to the beginning and take himself out of the lives of those that he loves most to protect them. One of the cool things about this movie is the alternate ending where the Kutch goes back to when he's still a babe in his mother's womb and strangles himself with his umbilical cord, thereby ending the pain.
All right, not a comprehensive list, I'll agree. But a good one. 


Matt said...

Don't you need a flux capacitor for time travel?

Casey said...

I thought about this. True that Back to the Future has more action that both the Butterfly Effect and Flight of the Navigator. I was just trying to think outside of the box here. The thing about the back to the futures is that they were all family movies. But, I think the last time I saw Flight of the Navigator was on Lifetime. So, maybe it doesn't belong either.

How about the Jacket?

trish said...

I will always and forever stand by the first Back to the Future. Butterfly Effect, Schmutterfly Schmeffect.

Also, wasn't there a Jet Li time travel movie? Or was it dimension travel? I liked it when he fought himself. Jet Li is dope.