Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Poll - What's The Best Time Travel Movie?

It's often a source of speculation, when you ask or are asked, if you could go back in history, who would you most like to meet? Or even, if you could go back in time and change events, would you? Would you assassinate Hitler before he came to power? It's an endless source of fascination to us humans as we try and project ourselves out of our own timelines.

But there's a logical paradox at the heart of such speculation. If you did indeed travel back and kill Hitler thus averting World War 2, then there would be no future in which World War 2 had happened and therefore no need for you to travel back from any such future to kill Hitler.

My novel "Time After Time" tries to deal with theses paradoxes of time travel in a humorous way. And the inspiration behind it? The "Terminator" movie, in which Arnie Schwarzenegger's Cyborg travels back to the past to prevent the future leader of the resistance against the machines from being born...

So in honour of my veneration of all time travel movies, I'd love to find out which are your favourites of all time. Please vote in the poll in the sidebar to the right and let's see if we can see which is the most popular. If your favourite isn't in the list, please leave it in the comments box.

If you're interested in my thoughts on each of the movies listed in the poll, here they are:

For me the Daddy of them all, although the time travel aspect isn't always the first thing that comes to people's mind when they talk about it. I love this movie, logical flaws and all. Brilliantly plotted, slyly about our own times rather than anything futuristic, although it's clear that were we to stay on our current course, we would end up in the dystopia shown at the start of the film. Arnie is of course perfect as the emotionless machine.

The first of the real historical figures travelling out of time movies in this list, instead of someone in the present travelling back to meet real historical people, this projects that sci-fi author HG Wells actually built his time machine, but Jack the Ripper uses it to escape the forces of law and order and lands up in the future - our present - which he finds most conducive to his murderous predilections. Wells travels forward in time to bring him back to justice. a good little film which I saw on its release as a teen and just remember how gory it was. I bet if I saw it now it would seem really tame, a mixture of my being older and our own thresholds having been pushed into accepting more.

This was an unexpected little gem of a movie I had no expectations of but turned out to be really rather good. A man is projected back for a very limited time to try and discover who planted a catastrophic bomb on a commuter train in order to get him back in time one final occasion to prevent it. Each time he eliminates another suspect, only partly diverted by his attraction to a woman, who like everyone else will die if he doesn't find the bomber.

One of those films about returning to the same moment each time and trying to alter its outcome, of which there are several

Terry Gilliam has possibly the best visual imagination of any film-maker, but he lacks the restraint always to harness it completely. This film being early in his career meant he was reasonably reined in and it's a cracking film, visually beautiful, funny and endearing as a schoolboy travels back to various historical eras and meets denizens like Napoleon, Agamemnon and Robin Hood (John Cleese playing himself playing Robin Hood, very funny). Utterly charming. I haven't seen it in an age, I need to watch it again methinks.

Early on in the movie, a character tells us not to even try and work out the logical paradoxes of time travel and the film accordingly makes no effort to justify its own internal logic. Thus it becomes an empty exercise in style to my mind. It does look great, but is completely unsatisfying and forgettable the moment your cinema seat tips upright and you stand up on the spilled popcorn.

Do you know I've never seen any of the films in the BTTF franchise? Must be the only person in the Western World. No particular reason, just never sat down to watch them even on TV. Don't know, may be a bit too Oedipal for me!

This is one great movie, (oh look it's Terry Gilliam again) splitting between two epochs, as Bruce Willis' character from a dystopian future is sent back to try and secure a sample of the deadly virus that forces mankind underground in his own time. But then I saw the original French short film "La Jetée" on which "12 Monkeys" is based and it just blew me away. it has more profound things to say about time travel and meeting yourself in the past and future than most films. And it's a silent film largely told in stills. Amazing.

On first viewing, a clever film about being utterly stuck in time, forced to repeat the same day over and over again. But on second watching it didn't stand up quite so well. I guess it only worked when you didn't know what was coming next, but once seen through, wasn't worth a return visit. Bit like a Ghost Train ride, or "Being John Malcovich"

Woody Allen hadn't made a decent film in years (in this humble critic's opinion). But this evidenced a return to form as Owen Wilson's character travels back temporally but not spatially to the Paris of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Cocteau, Toklas and the giants of Modernism who inhabited Paris in the 1920s. One of those speculative films about what it might be like meeting great historical figures, this time artists rather than politicians in power. It was so engaging, one could even forgive the unfortunate self-indulgences of the self-involved middling writing that Wilson's character was made to be by Allen.

I hadn't read the book of this, so when I finally saw it recently on TV for the first time, I don't know how far it sticks or deviates from the novel. But I thought the film at least was terrible. The logic of him appearing and disappearing and turning up in different times seemed completely unanchored, while its build up was merely to a great big (little) fizzle of an ending. It's curious that as with "Terminator" time travel doesn't have an effect on flesh (or metal), but you can't take your clothes with you so end up naked at the end of the journey through time.

How can you not love a film that takes liberties with everything it touches, plus has Joss Ackland as the baddie? Not a serious contender for one of the great time travelling movies, but good fun all the same. Whatever happened to Alex Winter?


DJ Young said...

I'd like to add a couple to your list, if you've not seen:

- Primer and

- The Navigator

The first is a more recent indie film that takes a 'realistic' look at how time travel might come about and the consequences on the scientists who discover it (on accident, in a garage).

The second is a New Zealand film from the 80s about a group of villagers from the 14th century traveling through a cave into the 20th century.

Both films are smart and haunting and take a unique look at time travel.

Sulci Collective said...

excellent, thanks DJ, I shall track both films down for a viewing

Tony Noland said...

I'd second Primer. Convoluted, but gripping.

Sulci Collective said...

I'd really not heard of it before.

I don't think you can have a time travel movie that attempts to deal with the paradoxes that isn't convoluted?

Thanks for dropping by to vote Tony

Hawksword said...

No Time Machine? The original, obviously...Can still remember the horror of the Morloks...

Beverly Fox said...

Back to The Future- hands down, absolutely no comparison.

Tim VanSant Writes said...

Well, I like Groundhog Day a lot more than you did, but I voted for 12 Monkeys. I'll have to look for La Jetée now.

One more to add to your list: Millennium from 1989 stars Cheryl Ladd and Kris Kristofferson. The dying civilization of the future travels back and steals doomed passengers from jets that are about to crash so they can repopulate the world. Totally believable. ;-)

Sulci Collective said...

cool thanks Tim. loving this, got loads of films to catch up on

Katherine Hajer said...

This is a fabulous list! A lot of my favourite films, period, are here. And I second the nomination of The Navigator.

Ultimately I have to vote for 12 Monkeys.

But I'd like to give La Jetée which it was based on and Looper honourable mentions.

Katherine Hajer said...

Oh! And Time Traveler's Wife the book is brilliant SF. But the film, yes, tried to turn the story into a women's weepy and totally missed the point. It's a pity, because Eric Bana at least was smart casting.