Hello, friends in time, and welcome to the final month of Time Out, a regular feature on Cinema 52 where I put my weekly viewing of Back to the Future on hold and watch another movie featuring time travel for comparison. I’ve seen a whole hell of a lot of time travel movies this year, but even watching one or two a week isn’t enough to knock ‘em all out. So, in the last month of 2013, I’m watching at least 31 movies and giving each one a quick paragraph on what I thought of it. How did these specific flicks end up on the bottom of the pile? By fitting at least one of the following criteria: 1) There’s time travel in them, but only in one or two scenes. 2) They were not favorably reviewed by critics and fell into obscurity. 3) They were made for TV, which I haven’t been counting until now. 4) Their legitimacy as time travel stories is questionable. 5) It’s my list and I’ve still seen more time travel movies than you, so ha. Anyway, here’s Week 3.
THE TIME TRAVELERS (1964)
You know, I tend to assume that older time travel movies are just one-way trips without any of the more cerebral aspects of temporal tinkering, but damn, The Time Travelers actually has a pretty cool sequence about intersecting your own timeline that’s well-edited and wonderfully overdramatic. Still, it’s mostly about a group of scientists punching through a time window and ending up trapped 107 years in the future. You guessed it, “man’s folly,” ie. nukes, have rendered the Earth a wasteland, and the survivors are planning to launch a space expedition to look for inhabitable planets. Will our time travelers be on that craft? I dare not tell you, because I actually enjoyed the shit out of this movie and think it’s worth checking out. Enjoy the goofy world of future dating, the many magic tricks passed off as special effects, and the creepy robots that I’m pretty sure are for sex.
Tell me I’m wrong.
MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE (1987)
Hey, fuuuuuuuuck this movie. (Even if it has James “Strickland” Tolkan in it.) I had to sit through 100 minutes of mindless Saturday morning cartoon bullshit (no, I don’t know anything about He-Man) all for one quick charitable Jumanji-esque time jump that doesn’t really have anything to do with the battle between, you know, the actual characters from the show. Which is just begging the question: why aren’t the Eternians using their time travel abilities to defeat Skeletor (Frank Langella)? Also, when they give the humans a chance to change their past as thanks for all the help, the movie just… ends there. Enjoy reliving all that time again, Courteney Cox and Tom Paris!
Including the unbearably trite events of Masters of the Universe!
JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF TIME (1967)
Okay, wow, so Journey to the Center of Time is a truly shameless rip-off of The Time Travelers, which you may recognize as the movie I just told you about two paragraphs ago. You may also notice that 1964 and 1967 are just three years apart, so holy hell, even if some sources claim this as a remake since the two share a writer, that’s too soon. Yes, while it blatantly steals the former’s story points and awesome ending, there are a few differences. This version has more hopping around in time, including some lizards masquerading as dinosaurs. There are aliens in the future. There’s a bad guy threatening to shut down the project (Scott Brady) that admittedly gets an interesting temporal comeuppance. Also, to really drive the original movie’s message of “man’s folly” into the ground, when they get whipped back through time, a war is going on at every point in history they see.
That or they’ve dialed into a royalty-free film library.
GALAXY QUEST (1999)
ACTIVATE THE SPOILER THINGY. Okay, this one’s just a quick plot point, so if you haven’t seen Galaxy Quest, check it out now and meet me back here. All set? Okay, so the Omega 13 device. There are so many reasons why Tim Allen shouldn’t trigger it, and here are some of them. 1) It was built by aliens based on their understanding of an old sci-fi show. I know, suspension of disbelief, and everything they’ve built so far miraculously works, but still, this is the big ba-da boom weapon, the final resort, may our children forgive us. It’s gonna suck even more if it’s faulty. 2) It either creates “a 13-second time jump to the past,” or it destroys the entire universe. Don’t fucking roll those dice. 3) It’s claimed to be a “matter rearranger,” so it’s recreating the universe exactly as it was 13 seconds ago… shouldn’t that affect your mind, too? And even if you retain your memories, are you sure the bad guy currently aboard your ship won’t also?
But whatever, Star Trek fun time, whee!
THE TIME GUARDIAN (1987)
*sigh* I’m getting so tired of half-assed time travel action movies, but they’re even worse when they complicate what should be a fairly straightforward story. So The Time Guardian is about a future war between humans and robots and how they use time travel to outsmart each other… hmm. While a better franchise might keep this story as simple as possible, this movie has a time-traveling city and some giant marble that needs to be destroyed before the cyborgs get it and guns that shoot time or something??? Ugh. Carrie Fisher’s character gets injured instantly, probably so she could film all of her scenes in a tent and go home, and Dean Stockwell formulating a plan of action back at the time travel base manages to be nowhere near as fun as it is on Quantum Leap.
HERCULES IN NEW YORK (1969)
Alright, I’m calling it; even though it shows up on multiple lists of time travel movies, Hercules in New York is not a time travel movie. Sure, maybe I coughed over the one time Zeus (Ernest Graves) said “space-time continuum,” but I think the real reason for the confusion is bad writing. Hercules (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is banished to Earth and does the Fish Out of Water act all over New York, but why wouldn’t Greek gods be aware of advancements in human history? Maybe they just don’t give a shit about mortals? Actually, damn, somebody needs to write a movie about what the gods have been up to all these years. But, until that day comes, we have Arnold’s thick accent trying its best to form the words, “No man is superior to Hercules,” and that’s the movie we deserve.
“Pec dance. I’m out.”
TIME RUNNER (1993)
Oh, good, more forgettable time travel action schlock featuring a cast member from Star Wars. This time it’s a future war with aliens instead of robots, and Mark Hamill falls into a random time-hole to the past and tries to figure out how he can prevent the war. Oh, and sometimes he has these weird psychic flashes of the future, but he can change them, so how are they psychic visions? Worst of all, bystanders can peek in on these visions, including bad guys who know where to go because they saw themselves in the vision, which should create a paradox because they gave themselves the information based on an unaltered vision, agggghhhh, fuck this movie.
Getting a vision of Harrison Ford’s career? It’s because he never did a time travel movie.
31 Days of Time Travel – Week 4
Want more time travel? Head on over to the Time Out archive.