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 4.
TRANCERS II (1991)
I was planning on skipping any shoddily produced time travel action sequels (sorry, Philadelphia Experiment II and Timecop: The Berlin Decision), but I was surprised to learn that Trancers II was theatrically released and that Leonard Maltin gave it two out of four stars, so I had to include it. It’s got some fun moments that hearken back to the B-movie gold of the original, but they over-complicated the already complicated rules and eat up screentime trying to explain them. Still, I give it a lot of respect for one very creative plotline that I’ve never seen in any other movie: rescuing the protagonist’s dead wife via time travel… and bringing her to a point when he’s already remarried. How will Jack Deth (Tim Thomerson) solve this bigamy bungle??
Spoiler alert: not in the sexy fun way you were hoping.
THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM (2008)
More like The Forgettable Kingdom. Can I go now? Okay, fine, this is a paint-by-numbers “kid gets whisked away to a magical world” story that proves adding a couple of wire stunt fights to A Kid in King Arthur’s Court wouldn’t have made it any more watchable. Some generic modern day TeenNick-lookin’ kid (Michael Angarano) is obsessed with kung fu movies and finds a magic rod that transports him back to ancient China, which was apparently just full of magic all the damn time. Blah blah blah, he has to return the rod to the Temple of Whatever, you know the drill. He’s befriended by a drunk named Lu Yan (Jackie Chan) and the Silent Monk (Jet Li), who pretty much do all of the ass-kicking while the white kid is just kind of… there.
“Hurrr, I got this.”
SOUND OF MY VOICE (2011)
Wow. This is a cool little movie, the kind I feel bad saying too much about. And yet, here I go. Peter (Christopher Denham) and Lorna (Nicole Vicius) are on a mission to infiltrate a cult. The film opens with them going through an insane amount of steps just to be taken to their leader, Maggie (Brit Marling). You’re already intrigued and want to watch it right away, I hope, but if not, Maggie claims to be from the year 2054. Much like with Safety Not Guaranteed and Happy Accidents, I’ve included this film on my time travel list regardless of the answer to the temporal mystery, but it’s one I highly recommend you find out for yourself. Sound of My Voice was supposedly intended to be the first installment in a trilogy, and while it might be interesting to learn more about this cult’s reach and influence, the film still shines on its own as a look at how easy it is to lose your grip on reality.
“Would anyone like to watch Back to the Future 52 times?”
Yes, of course, Superman is a great movie and everybody knows it, but the ending (spoilers) makes no goddamn sense, and once again, everybody knows it. It’s been debated so many times by so many people that I don’t know what else to add. I shall simply tell you my goals for today’s viewing: 1) try to make sense of the climactic “turning back time” scene from a sci-fi perspective rather than defaulting to a “Superman (Christopher Reeve) is Alien Jesus and uses his supermagic to do whatever the superfuck he wants” explanation, and 2) avoid rewinding the film at any point. I failed the first part hard; even if you try to claim that he’s not turning the Earth and is simply exceeding the speed of light (also, ???), there should either be two of him, one to save Lois (Margot Kidder) and one to continue saving shit, or he’s traveled back in his own body and needs to go save shit still, because Lois mentions the gas station explosion in the new timeline, which means the fault line still cracked. Was the Double Shit Save cut for overlength?? DAMMIT, I HAD TO REWIND THIS CRAP THREE TIMES–
THE NAVIGATOR: A MEDIEVAL ODYSSEY (1988)
This may be one of the most critically acclaimed films in the 31 Days of Time Travel pile, and perhaps it deserves its own article, but to that I say… oops. The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey begins in the 14th century in the midst of the Black Death. A young boy named Griffin (Hamish McFarlane) has visions of tunneling to a place where a cross can be forged to help ward off the disease, but little does he know that the tunnel actually leads to the year 1988. While parts of the film are solemn and almost jarringly grim, a good amount of the adventure is played for Fish Out of Water laughs, which aren’t as grating as similar films because the focus remains on the travelers’ point of view. Every aspect of the production makes the audience just as scared of vehicles and televisions as they are, and it’s done so well that you could almost believe this really is a very old, strangely accurate folk tale.
I have seen Hell, and its true name is Samsung.
LOLA RENNT (1998)
And now we come to the first major point of dispute in the Not Really Time Travel debate. Is Lola (Franka Potente) a time traveler? Is she aware of the outcome of each of her actions? Is she psychic? What’s going on when everything turns red? Could Sliding Doors have used more techno music? The answer to all of these questions is: “It doesn’t matter, this movie is so cool.” For my money, no, there’s no time travel in Lola rennt (known to non-snobs as Run Lola Run). There is only Lola, attempting to save the man she loves (Moritz Bleibtreu) any way she can, and what results is a better demonstration of the butterfly effect than just about any time travel movie. (And Jurassic Park.) You can try to look past the thrill ride and nitpick about what’s really happening, but all you need know is this: The ball is round. The game last 90 minutes. That’s a fact. Everything else is pure theory.
Hey, this isn’t Stand Around Lola Stand Around.
IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946)
Sweet Christmas, if you thought Lola rennt was a topic of debate, I never heard the end of it in regards to It’s a Wonderful Life. (Merry spoilers, movie house!) “Of course it’s a time travel story! History is changed and George Bailey (James Stewart) wasn’t born any more! That’s the plot of, like, a bunch of movies! At least one other one!” I can certainly agree that, like Lola rennt, it’s a fine meditation on the nature of time, but time travel? Alright, since we’re at the bottom of the Time Out barrel, sure, let’s talk about it. (But in exchange for my flexibility with the rules, no Shrek 4. Fuck that.) Basically, because Clarence the angel (Henry Travers) is using pure God magic, we don’t know exactly how George comes to un-be. The cut on George’s lip disappears when he’s taken to Georgeless Land, but as much as you might want to give the filmmakers props for representing a ripple effect in a mutable timeline, George is still alive, so it’s really little more than some holy first aid. (That God puts back, because He’s a dick.) We must conclude that George is seeing a world without him in it in one of three ways: 1) It’s all an illusion. 2) God has dropped him off in an alternate universe where George was never born, à la Sliders. 3) God went back in time, reached into Peter Bailey’s scrotum mid-coitus, and went on a wild sperm-crushing spree.
31 Days of Time Travel – Week 5
Want more time travel? Head on over to the Time Out archive.