Movies that involve the use of time-travel have always been an art that I appreciate because they walk a fine line of being approachable for a broad audience while also attempting to bring something new to the science fiction genre. Most of the time, I am able to suspend my disbelief and let little continuity errors go because of the degree of difficulty involved, however there are a few movies that I will take exception with. Here are a few movies that I deem a failure in their respective use of time travel.
As much as I wanted to like Rian Johnson’s time-traveling crime thriller starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis, it was the kind of movie that seemed smarter than it was. It felt good when you watched it and it was fairly enjoyable, however the more you thought about the rules of the game, the more things didn’t seem to add up. The plot is that in 2074, when the mob wants to get rid of someone, the target is sent into the past, where a hired gun awaits – someone like Joe – who one day learns the mob wants to ‘close the loop’ by sending back Joe’s future self for assassination. It then turns into a cat and mouse game between young Joe trying to find and kill old Joe. *SPOILERS* The ending is the part that doesn’t quite fit for me. Young Joe kills himself to prevent the evil child from growing up to become the Rainmaker. First of all, one could argue that if Young Joe kills himself, wouldn’t that mean that Old Joe wouldn’t exist anymore? Secondly, how was he reading into the future to see how the child turns bad? Did he suddenly develop mind-reading powers? Finally, Young Joe’s death did nothing to prevent the child from going on about his business unless Emily Blunt is just an awesome mother and will raise the boy right.
Back to the Future (1985)
There is no question that this is a classic film that will always be a must-see for any film fan, however the time-travel logic is questionable at best. Granted, the film is a comedy and not a scientific look at worm holes or multiple paradoxes, however there are some missteps here that are outrageous. *SPOILERS* Most of these complaints don’t have much to do with the actual film but more with what would happen years after the film. For instance, take the whole Calvin Klein thing. Nice, quick thinking on Marty’s part when he is asked by his future mother what his name is he obviously can’t say his real name because that will cause problems in the future which Doc Brown said is a big no-no. However, don’t you think when the Calvin Klein brand becomes big in the ‘80s she isn’t going to remember a certain boy in high school with the same name? Oh, and he looked an awful lot like my son and…oh no I’ve gone cross-eyed. There are too many other things along those lines like the Chuck Barry song joke, to name one, but overall this is a movie that is meant for the laughs and the light nature of it rather than the clinical study of time-travel.
Shane Carruth’s $7,000 film about two engineers who accidentally discover a way to make a time travel machine. They abuse the power, of course, and things get very complicated as multiple versions of themselves are created and the two begin to backstab each other and it’s a question of who can trust who? The problem with this film is that it is so scientifically accurate and clinically executed that it becomes mind-bending and hard to follow. Even after multiple viewings, the attempts to figure out just what is going on at certain points is tedious and overall the low budget just makes things harder and less entertaining.
The good news for movie fans and fans of science fiction is that there are many more movies that get time-travel right and do interesting and innovative things with the genre. Therefore, this isn’t a warning to stay away from these types of movies, or even to stay away from these particular movies because your experience may be different from mine.
What are your favorite time travel films? Do they make sense? Chime in below!