Science fiction film Looper is the coiner of the excellent term that this “time travel shit, fries your brain like an egg”. Well we concur. After trying to get our heads around the following film paradoxes we’re now bleeding from our ears. Enjoy.
By the way, I wrote this from the future and for your information, the Christmas Number One is not very good and it’ll rain next Tuesday. So take an umbrella.
Back To The Future (1985)
The Plot: Teenager Marty McFly, via some pissed off Libyans and Doc Brown, a senile senior with awe-inspiring hair, gets sent back to 1955 where he runs into his mother and father and prevents their union. Meeting up with younger Doc, Marty hatches a plan to get his parents together before he gets erased from existence.
The Paradox: The ending. So when Marty returns to his gaff to find his parents are now awesome cool, his dad a famous writer and his siblings crazy successful, the life that he lived up until this point should be completely new to him. Also one would imagine that the chances of ‘Awesome George’ and ‘MILF Lorraine’ procreating at exactly the same time that they did in the original timeline would be slim to none.
The Verdict: George and Lorraine getting it on at the same time is possible, and Marty’s life being led in much the same manner is also possible. However improbable. So we’re cool with this. And Back To The Future is one of the greatest films ever made so it gets a pass. Parts Two and Three, however, are far too heavy for us to try and explain in a few short sentences.
The Terminator (1984)
The Plot: John Connor sends his own father, Kyle Reece, back in time to protect his mum, Sarah, from a rather monosyllabic Terminator. In a rather unprofessional moment of lust Kyle puts off his protecting duties to enact a good foot/bad thing combo resulting in the impregnation of Sarah, with John.
The Paradox: The grand poobah of paradoxes. How can Kyle be sent back by the man who will become his father if his father was not there to sire him originally? One answer is, he isn’t. John’s original father isn’t Kyle but some random fella the happy-go-lucky Sarah picked up in Tech Noir while having a boogie and a booze.
Verdict: As long as we’re hunky-dory with alternative timelines this one works out just fine. The John Connor of the first timeline is a different John Connor of the next. It also answers why John Connor in Terminator 2 doesn’t look like Christian Bale. Now, how’s about Skynet originating from the original T-800? Oh look, it’s Arnie with a big gun…
Twelve Monkeys (1995)
The Plot: James Cole is sent from the future to gather information about an apocalypse that will wipe out most of humanity. Stuck in a mental institute in the past, Cole comes face-to-face with the leader of the Army of the Twelve Monkeys who is believed to be responsible for the outbreak. Acting and sounding as crazy as a loon, however, makes Cole persuading anyone about the forthcoming Armageddon a near impossibility.
The Paradox: The goal of Cole was never to change the past but rather collect a sample of the ‘virus’ so paradoxes should be kept to a minimum. But, thanks to some space-time continuum fudging phone calls, the presence of the ever-confusing ‘Bob’ and some coincidental air-plane seating plans there’s reason to believe the future crisis may be averted.
Verdict: One of the reasons why Twelve Monkeys is such a great flick, lies in it’s receptivity to interpretation. Therefore 17 years after its release it’s still possible to bicker over whether Cole has/had any influence on the past, present or future.
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Donnie Darko (2001)
The Plot: Teenager with a superhero name, Donnie Darko, is mentally tortured by a giant bunny with a penchant for answering perfectly reasonable questions with infuriatingly vague responses. Donnie, with the help of a book written by a mad old lady obsessed with time-travel, figures out a way to fuck with the fourth dimension.
The Paradox: A fairly clear time line, for time travel films anyway, allows Donnie to travel back to the past and sacrifice himself thus saving his future girlfriend Gretchen. By treating the entire film as Donnie’s vision his Jesus like antics save all mind-boggling paradoxes from occurring.
Verdict: Like Twelve Monkeys, the instability surrounding our heroes mental state allows for a number of different readings. A Directors Cut tried to shed more light on the more ambiguous aspects of time travel but ultimately took away some of the magic that comes from not having every single query answered.
Planet Of The Apes (2001)
The Plot: Astronaut and professional monkey hater, Leo Davidson, chases the one monkey that he does like into a space-storm-worm-hole and finds himself in the year 5021 on a planet inhabited by apes which is immediately established as DEFINITELY NOT EARTH. He fights some monkeys, frees some humans and returns to Earth to find a Monkey Lincoln Memorial.
The Paradox: With very little time to explain anything – Leo lands back on Earth to find monkeys everywhere seconds before the credits roll – the questions raised by Thade going back in time to take over our planet are numerous. For starters, did Thade train all those monkeys to revolt without the use of genetic super gas? Was the Lincoln statue there and then taken down and replaced? Is it just a coincidence? By this point, who gives a flying monkey?
Verdict: Bullshit. If we really did have a time machine we’d use it to go back to the production meeting at Fox on this bag of balls and listen in as they try to come up with an “iconic ending” for the remake. “Monkey Lincoln?” anyone.
The Plot: This little-known but very great low-budget sci-fi gem deals with two friends who accidentally invent a time-travel machine and the moral implications that such a machine holds. The only way Abe and Aaron can make their ‘box’ work is by incorporating a system of doubles and failsafes and…
The Paradox: What? Huh? How’s that? What? Look we’ll be honest, we haven’t a Scooby what is actually going on in Primer but the way it handles the invention and subsequent fallout of a machine this powerful makes it a film well worthy of watching if you have a hard-on for all things FTL.
Verdict: See it for yourself. Then explain to us what the Holy Steve Hawkings is going on.