Hello, friends in time, and welcome to a very special edition of Time Out. When I first set out to watch at least one time travel movie every week of 2013 to offset the effects of watching Back to the Future every week of 2013, most people responded appropriately by not having sex with me. A few, however, began to question what really counts as time travel (and still refrained from sex with me). Isn’t that Shrek movie where Shrek was never born time travel? Doesn’t The Matrix jump from the nineties to the year Techno Orgy A.D.? How about that movie where John Ritter gets sucked into the TV and he’s back on the set of Three’s Company?
1) You couldn’t at least go with Pleasantville? 2) Fuck you.
I’ve already covered sci-fi prophecies and cryogenic freezing, but there’s still one more honorable mention in the cinematic temporal manipulation canon: time-stopping. It’s the absolute last moment before you actually reverse time and it doesn’t do dick for traveling to the future, but you’d think it involves similar principles of bullshit quantum mechanics/magic. Of course, it’s really more of a “press this button to age super fast” scenario, but hey, let’s save the harsh criticisms for the movies themselves.
Oh, and no need for ground rules, because I only came up with five films. Possibly four. You’ll see.
The movie: Clockstoppers (2002)
The time-freezer: A watch that puts the wearer or anything touching them (the ground? air?) into a state known as “Hypertime.”
How it’s used (literally and thematically): Evil NSA agent Henry Gates (Michael Biehn of Terminator fame) wants Hypertime all for himself, so he shuts down the project, but there’s a snag in his plan; one of the watches has already been sent to physicist Dr. George Gibbs (Robin Thomas) to be studied. The watch ends up on the wrist of his son, Zak (Jesse Bradford), who uses it for Nickelodeon-friendly teenage hi-jinks until the bad guys find out he’s got it. The rest of the movie is kids vs. spies chasing each other through frozen time, which I really can’t complain about.
Seriously, this chase scene belongs in a better movie.
Just when you start to think about the rules too hard (like the scene where Hypertime is used to help a friend in a dance-off, even though that should take days to carry out), the movie hits you with its big ol’ message, that you can’t get back time you don’t spend with your family. Aww, movie dads, when will you learn this?
“Son, I love you less than science. Facts are facts.”
The special effects (rendered not nearly as impressive in still images): They do a pretty good job of moving the camera around in Hypertime instead of just pausing the video. The CGI elements are passable, but for 2002, I’m sure they were mind-blowing.
THIS SPRINKLER IS SHATTERING MY REALITY.
My favorite effects are objects getting knocked out of the way during chase scenes, which slow to a stop in mid-air and just look cool as hell, even if they’re obviously fake. Surprisingly, this is the only film on today’s list to use this effect, and it’s a shame, because it’s really quite amazing.
Christopher Nolan, take note.
Is it used to take someone’s clothes off? Yup, Zak fires up the watch to yoink a buddy’s pants down.
And probably do ten other things we didn’t see.
The movie: Click (2006)
The time-freezer: A magic universal remote purchased in the This Joke Isn’t That Funny section of a Please Stop Thinking Your Joke Is Really Goddamn Clever store.
More like Bed Bath & Bullshit. Fuck, that isn’t funny either.
How it’s used (literally and thematically): For farting.
“I wish I could do that to my boss! He sucks!” – Every fucking idiot in the theater, out loud.
Technically, the remote does more than just pause time. Adam Sandler (Adam Sandler) also uses it to fast-forward, rewind, slo-mo, change the tint, and other poorly defined actions that allow him to make Adam Sandler noises at Adam Sandler fans. But, because every supernatural comedy needs that serious second half where the fun thing suddenly isn’t fun even though we were supposedly having lots of fun with it in the first half, Adam learns a valuable lesson when the remote adapts to his viewing patterns and starts fast-forwarding the things he never knew he treasured. This is one of the most abrupt U-turns into dead seriousness I’ve ever seen a fart comedy make, and this wildly over-the-top melodrama thankfully provides some actual laughs for a change.
“I see now that life is about more than the fart I ripped in a guy’s mouth less than an hour ago…”
The special effects (rendered not nearly as impressive in still images): You’d think having the highest budget on my time-stopping list would lend itself to some truly jaw-dropping effects, but surprisingly, the camera usually stays in one place and part of the video just pauses. I’m guessing the typical Sandler crowd isn’t here for imagery so much as ideas.
Ideas like: “I wish I could make that hot chick shut up while I grope her sex parts.”
Also, the rules of this little demon remote are very confusing. Sometimes he remembers things he fast-forwards, sometimes he doesn’t, sometimes just one person is affected by the remote, sometimes the whole world is. Hell, I grabbed the following image to demonstrate the split screen effects and then wondered, “Wait a minute, why can he see himself now?”
Follow-up: why can any of us see Adam Sandler?
Is it used to take someone’s clothes off? Affirmative. Sandler pulls down Future Sean Astin’s pants just because the buttface had the nerve to marry the wife he treated so shitty. Best of all, this must-see gag happens in the middle of Sandler’s “sad reflection” period and at his own son’s wedding, but come on, if some guy is taking better care of the woman you used to own, you just gotta fuck with that guy, right, guy?
“Fuckin’ right, bub!” – All the idiots. All of them. Everywhere.
The movie: Cashback (2006)
The time-freezer: A crippling case of insomnia resulting from an emotional break-up.
Yeah, it’s one of those movies.
How it’s used (literally and thematically): Ben Ellis (Sean Biggerstaff) is a still-life artist (get it?) and uses his newfound time-stopping ability to be all deep and stuff about how he sees the true beauty in life, a fancy way of saying, “He uses it for nasty revenge and sexually violating strangers.”
“Yeah, fuck this guy’s soft, fragile face!”
For all its intellectualizing, this movie’s protagonist may be worse than Click‘s, except he never seems to be judged on it at any point in the story. If you couldn’t tell from the poster, Ben freezes time in the supermarket so he can take women’s clothes off. “And draw them! He draws them! It’s okay because he’s just drawing them!” I’m sure the movie would shout if it could. As Ben was narrating about how consumed he is by the perfection of the female form, I started to get the message. What are the limits of fantasizing? If this is all in his head, we’re probably guilty of imagining strangers naked too. (We all do that, right?) But if he’s really stopping time and stripping them down, he’s committing sexual assault, plain and simple, and sickly justifying his behavior because women are so pretty that he just can’t help himself. You know, like a rapist might.
“But she’ll never even know.” – Both sensitive artists and frat boys circling around an intoxicated woman.
The problem with this message on the nature of fantasy? The movie isn’t the one telling it. Any social commentary I found while watching was coming from my own head. All in all, the movie just moves on from Ben’s terrible habits and proceeds with being a sub-par indie comedy. What’s worse, Ben meets a woman he’d like to start a relationship with (Emilia Fox) and draws her with her clothes on. This seems like a full acknowledgement that he sees the other women as objects, but this one is a real person, so come on, he’s totally a nice guy.
“I only need consent from the ones I love!”
I could talk about this movie for days, but I really don’t think it deserves it.
The special effects (rendered not nearly as impressive in still images): A lot of the effects appear to be practical and the camera swoops all around to remind you of this fact.
The director was crushed by the striking beauty of oranges at an early age, no doubt.
Even the CGI is handled in a way that’s so artful you almost forget it’s a sex criminal.
This permanent mark in a field of snowflakes is like the indelible stain on your soul.
Is it used to take someone’s clothes off? Um. Yes.
That’s sort of the logline for this movie.
The movie: Suspension (2008)
The time-freezer: A video camera that seems to be imbued with magical time-pausing abilities via severe emotional trauma? It’s never fully explained and I am completely okay with that.
You will rarely hear me say that in regards to magic, so good job, movie.
How it’s used (literally and thematically): Daniel Bennett (Scott Cordes) crashes into a truck and his wife and son are killed, and yet the accident is frozen in time. Still in shock, Daniel takes his son’s video camera home from the scene and fixes it up, because it’s something to do. When he discovers that the camera can pause time, he spends a good while experimenting with his new power.
Start small. Good. On to step two: fart in your boss’s mouth.
What makes this story so effective is that we’re simply watching a man trying to cope with crippling loss. He could be learning to whittle or play the piano or one of hundreds of mindless activities, but instead he’s been given a godlike gift to pass the, uh, time. Of all the movies on the list, this one has the most grounded approach to using the ability because the protagonist acts much like he would if he didn’t have it… initially. Things take a dark turn as he shifts his attention to Sarah Caine (Annie Tedesco), the woman on the phone with the now deceased man that crashed into his family. He wants to blame her, but he knows that isn’t fair, yet his friendly attitude towards her ends up being far worse.
Whoa, buddy, “watching her sleep” is definitely on the Nice Guy No-Nos list.
And if this psychological, emotional story weren’t gripping enough already, there’s a twist I don’t dare give away.
Gaze into the eyes of madness.
The special effects (rendered not nearly as impressive in still images): This was clearly shot with some lower quality cameras than a big budget Hollywood production, but that almost makes the effects more eerie. Some of the freezing is so good, it’s hard to tell which shots are paused video and which were painstakingly suspended in real life.
Seriously, top notch work, everybody.
Also, while most of the other movies have a big triumphant button-pushing or a whiny introductory monologue before the pausing, this movie just lets it sneak up on you. Characters will be in mid-sentence, everything stops, you think your DVD might have a scratch… and then a figure steps into the frame. That. Is. Creepy. Shit.
So creepy I can forgive the fact that that plate shouldn’t be blurred.
Is it used to take someone’s clothes off? While Daniel never deliberately disrobes anyone, there are several moments in which he accidentally sees someone in a state of undress. Every time, he leaves at a speed which he personally would not consider to be lingering…
Oh God, it’s a full linger, isn’t it? We have a CONFIRMED LINGER.
The movie: The Adjustment Bureau (2011)
The time-freezer: Whatever the fuck these things are.
Leftover props from a fifties sci-fi movie?
How it’s used (literally and thematically): Okay, so I don’t know if this movie counts as true time-stopping or if everybody is just hypnotized, but either way, the whole premise is entirely stupid. So the Adjustment Bureau are a bunch of shady guys that influence human progress for reasons that you don’t need to know about, but my suspicion is because screenwriting is hard. There’s a single scene where senator David Norris (Matt Damon) walks into a conference room to find his colleagues frozen in place and a bunch of weirdos scanning their foreheads.
If they were just standing in place, that guy would drop that portfolio, right? Hmm.
This never happens again, but regardless, I have so many questions. Supposedly they are “influencing” these guys, because they can’t outright program them to do something, but what happens when everybody realizes they’ve just lost two minutes of time? Whether their watches change or not, something has to give it away, right? And the freezing must be localized to this room, or Matt Damon couldn’t walk in and catch them in the first place, but can’t anyone else walk in as well? Oh, and when Matt runs away, why don’t you use your time-stopper on him? Fuck, why don’t you use it on everything forever? Let me reiterate; they only use this in the movie once, yet it seems like the most powerful weapon in their arsenal. That and being able to erase memories, wait, what the goddamn fucknugget, why aren’t you erasing and influencing Matt’s brain all day long?!
The Adjustment Bureau: More powerful than God. Until we’re not.
The special effects (almost as impressive in still images): It’s just the one stupid scene, guys.
I’m just glad I’m strictly here to talk about the time-stopping, because this movie is also about how magical fedoras give you teleporting door powers.
I wish I was kidding.
Is it used to take someone’s clothes off? Finally, a resounding “no.” Oh, wait, that’s probably the biggest indicator that this doesn’t really count. It’s not true temporal manipulation unless you use it to see somebody naked.
SO, WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED?
Time-stopping is for dicks.
31 Days of Time Travel – Week 1
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