A certain type of time travel movies

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It seems to fit in with that category of movie plot devices sometimes referred to as Macguffins. Nobody has any idea in the real world, how to do this, but if you could, you could write a plot about it....a time machine. Alternate time lines, events that are NOT fated to happen, or also events that ARE fated to happen all revolve around the whole time travel thing.

What would have happened if I could travel back and keep Gavrilo Princip from shooting Archduke Ferdinand? No WW I, no Nazis, no WW II? There are many plot lines you can concoct with a device like that. The cool thing about time travel as a device is that, since it's already acknowledged to be fictional, nobody can say the outcome is wrong or that you got the history incorrect.

Once you can time travel, virtually anything can happen since you just upended the basic operation of the universe anyway.



I'll have to have a rewatch.
Sorry, I edited my previous post to add a bit more.
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Hard disagree on Looper! We can discuss it or not, just throwing that out there in case that dissuades the OP from skipping a movie that I really enjoyed.
No worries, I’ve seen Looper, and though I’m not in love with it, it’s definitely very good. With the added bonus of Gordon-Levitt, who can resist?



Although it's fairly popular, I'd say that Looper is one of my least favorite of the recent ones. Just dumb, imo. Seems like organized crime in the future has little imagination for how to use time travel profitably. Or seems some teenager's half-written comic book draft. Either way, laughably incoherent.
That’s true. The only good example of using time travel for profit is Primer. And Coherence - for the character’s benefit, if not quite profit. I’m aware that the same applies to Palm Springs, but the loop concept with Roy just didn’t flow for me.



It seems to fit in with that category of movie plot devices sometimes referred to as Macguffins. Nobody has any idea in the real world, how to do this, but if you could, you could write a plot about it....a time machine. Alternate time lines, events that are NOT fated to happen, or also events that ARE fated to happen all revolve around the whole time travel thing.

What would have happened if I could travel back and keep Gavrilo Princip from shooting Archduke Ferdinand? No WW I, no Nazis, no WW II? There are many plot lines you can concoct with a device like that. The cool thing about time travel as a device is that, since it's already acknowledged to be fictional, nobody can say the outcome is wrong or that you got the history incorrect.

Once you can time travel, virtually anything can happen since you just upended the basic operation of the universe anyway.
It is often a Macguffin, most obviously in Tenet, but I was getting at something slightly different - though I like where the conversation is going. Macguffin or not, films like Premonition leave an unfulfilling aftertaste because no matter how the director spins it, you already know that ‘John dies in the end’, therefore, no matter how good the ‘whydunit’ is, you are still not as invested as you would be if you didn’t know. That’s how I feel at least. The fundamental surprise element is surely completely removed?

Relatively few films go for the straight-up shattering of the space-time continuum, like
WARNING: spoilers below
Coherence does. Even after the comet has passed, the effects remain, there are two women left (this isn’t even quite time travel, but same sort of issue)
.

Whereas in so many others, with the exception of good old Back to the Future, we tend to know in advance that, regardless of the sequence of events preceding it, the end result/starting point would be as we know it.
WARNING: spoilers below
Tenet is a good example, because we know Neil dies/has died/will die, which to me certainly devalues whatever “wonderful adventures” he and the Protagonist would embark on together, because I’ll be thinking, And then he died. I’m aware that this is deliberate on Nolan’s part
. But to me this is the case where Nolan, for all the hype, is not being original at all - on the contrary.

It would be one thing if there was at least an attempt to conceal what is going on, as with Cronocrimes. This is more or less a genuine whodunnit until it is revealed
WARNING: spoilers below
that all the ‘doing’ is being perpetrated by the protagonist himself
. Triangle at least is
WARNING: spoilers below
a loop
, so we don’t end up with the sense of, ‘Now I see how the opening act came about!’

But things like Donnie Darko, even, much as I love it, tell you from the get-go who dies and then they usually do, so as to restore/preserve the space-time continuum. I find there’s a certain annoying simplicity and predictability to that. I don’t know if I’m making much sense, but I find this sort of thing to be a big letdown. Lake House, which is largely rubbish,
WARNING: spoilers below
at least avoided that trope by having both protagonists survive via an internal logic that I can’t recall.



Source Code. Even though it isn't inherently time travel, it does work in a similar way, and I'm always fascinated by it.
That one is great, yes indeed.



"How tall is King Kong ?"
This is a pretty perfect example of time travel just being introduced into a film to solve problems. This at least has the benefit of being hilariously stupid though.
Alas, it's less stupid than in looks like. As a kid, I assumed superman was going so fast that his own inertia (his own gravity pull) would make the Earth turn the other way round and "therefore" make clocks turn backwards, which was joyfully dumb. Then I learnt that it was just Superman going faster than light, with the Earth's rotation being just an indication of time reversal, not a cause of it. He could have flown away in a straight line, to the same effect, but with no visual cue.

It disappointed me. Sometimes, gloriously dumb has its own value.

Especially as time travel is at its best when it's at its dumbest. I love the recurring theme in time travel stories that we have to "catch up" to a time altering baddie to prevent him from changing the past before it's too late. I mean :

- Oh no he stole the time machine and he will change the course of prehistory.
- He only stole it five minutes ago, he can't have done too much damage yet, hurry up, let's hop into my own time machine and go stop him before he does anything serious.


The most delightful example of this logic being the progressive fade of slowly disappearing timelines on Back To The Future pictures. It's also a standard in Doctor Who. Their paradoxes have more paradoxes than the paradoxes. But they're fun.

So, I'm easily pleased with whatever interpretation of time travel is thrown at me. The only ones that annoy me are rubber-band cop out (the universe's randomness forcing a same macro event to take place through other micro events because "the future cannot be changed"), and, after a while, self-generating loops ("we're saved because our future selves came back to save us" or "we discovered time machines because we came back in time to give ourselves the time machine blueprints").

Time travels make for very amusingly complex plots. But they oven require to overthink an aspect while not even trying to think about another.



Registered User
There are no logically consistent time travel movies. Moving backwards in time results in grandfather paradoxes, uncaused causes. Even the most tightly plotted closed-loop time travel tale suffers from this problem.



I think that the worst tendencies in the time-travel/time-bending/multiple-universes are to reduce the time-travel element to a simple mechanism that puts the viewer on a quick-hit system of "Oh, if she locks the locker before she leaves then the kid doesn't get the ball out and he doesn't get hit by the car!!". It reduces the film to something like watching someone repeatedly try to beat the same video game level, and the emphasis becomes just the mechanics of what happens, usually leaving character development in the dust.

But . . .
I rarely think of time travel in films as a gimmick. I've definitely seen it used as a cheap trick to undo narrative elements the audience probably would like to see undone (ie. character deaths), but when it is the central element of the story, I look at its use more as a philosophical lens, where we get to contemplate the inter-connectedness of past/present/future, or challenge/enhance the notion of fate. This, of course, doesn't get into all of the logical fallacies which come as a result of employing time travel in a films story. Those are almost always unavoidable. But if you put that to the side and don't kill yourself with all of the inconsistencies you are bound to find, I think it is a great device to confront many of the inherent paradoxes of existence, or cast an interesting light on how we are hopelessly stuck in a barely existent present that is composed almost exclusively of looking back at what we can't change, or looking forward to what we can't know.
I think that time-travel can be a great mechanism to explore all of the things listed above. A reveal that someone is trapped in a loop no matter what they do is a great allegorical way to explore how many people feel: no matter what I do, my life doesn't change and I'm stuck in the same cycle.

And some of my favorite movies employ time-travel (or time-travel adjacent) plots:

The previously mentioned Triangle, Primer, etc.

I would also add Predestination (I think more highly of it than most people, but I think that Hawke and Snook are perfect and the intertwined character arcs give me goosenumps. It has the most perfect final line of dialogue).

Happy Accidents, Palm Springs and About Time both do a great job of integrating time-travel and romantic comedy.

Another Earth isn't strictly time-travel, but has some of those dynamics. Underseen and highly recommended.

Arrival powerfully incorporates time-travel into its sci-fi plot.

Edge of Tomorrow is pretty close to that "video game level" thing I described, but strong momentum and well-staged action carry it through.

La Jetee is of course a classic.

Detention is a weird (but delightfully so) horror that incorporates time-travel.

In all of these, the time travel elements contribute to character development and go beyond being a mere gimmick.



minds his own damn business
Arrival powerfully incorporates time-travel into its sci-fi plot.
Stetches the definition of "travel", but I see what you mean.
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the butterfly effect



minds his own damn business
the universe's randomness forcing a same macro event to take place through other micro events because "the future cannot be changed"
Since Thief is here, I suppose I can revisit my long-standing peeve with Terminator 3 where it completely perverts the theme of the first two films ("the future is not set") with the more nihilistic "it had to happen", rendering the efforts of the first two films completely irrelevant. Even 2 showed a machine realizing free will, but all for naught. Other franchise sequels have been worse, but few as insulting.


As for the temporal conundrum regarding the conception of John Conner, well...



Since Thief is here, I suppose I can revisit my long-standing peeve with Terminator 3 where it completely perverts the theme of the first two films ("the future is not set") with the more nihilistic "it had to happen", rendering the efforts of the first two films completely irrelevant. Even 2 showed a machine realizing free will, but all for naught. Other franchise sequels have been worse, but few as insulting.


As for the temporal conundrum regarding the conception of John Conner, well...





I want to use this opportunity to kvetch yet again about how my dislike for Avengers Endgame has grown exponentially. Especially after having just finished The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Marvel/Disney is still finding a way to milk the time travel premise, only this time by basically admitting how stupid and irresponsible a plot device it was.
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A system of cells interlinked
Stetches the definition of "travel", but I see what you mean.

I think Arrival does so in the same way as Donnie Darko, but without explicitly talking about the mechanic on screen, which does happen in the latter. If I recall, the conceit was that if you have a definite foreknowledge of the future, that you have in essence been to the future and traveled back to the present, allowing you to change events, or not. At least, I think that is what Donnie and Noah Wiley's character were suggesting in DD.
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I want to use this opportunity to kvetch yet again about how my dislike for Avengers Endgame has grown exponentially. Especially after having just finished The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Marvel/Disney is still finding a way to milk the time travel premise, only this time by basically admitting how stupid and irresponsible a plot device it was.
I don’t blame you. They SUCK.



Since Thief is here, I suppose I can revisit my long-standing peeve with Terminator 3 where it completely perverts the theme of the first two films ("the future is not set") with the more nihilistic "it had to happen", rendering the efforts of the first two films completely irrelevant. Even 2 showed a machine realizing free will, but all for naught. Other franchise sequels have been worse, but few as insulting.

As for the temporal conundrum regarding the conception of John Conner, well...
You wanna dance? Let's dance... *cracks knuckles for weeks of continuous back-and-forth*

1. The theme of free will is not the theme of the original, which focuses mostly on plain survival. The message from John that "the future is not set" is meant more as a warning to Sarah that despite him "existing" in the future, she can still die and therefore so can he/humanity. He even closes it with "You must survive, or I will never exist". If anything, it is more deterministic since every single action of every character puts them in the same route that leads to Judgment Day (i.e. Kyle and Sarah conceiving John, the destroyed Terminator leading to the design/construction of, well, the Terminators). In the end, the future hasn't changed (see the picture). The only difference is that Sarah, and therefore John, will be more prepared now.

2. If we're talking about "perverting" themes, it's the second one the one that explicitly goes against what the first one has established by espousing the idea of free will. And I don't mean that as a statement of whether it's good or bad for the story, but just that it's pretty much the whole point of Sarah/John's actions, to go against the "established future" to prevent Judgment Day. However, in order to tie it with the original, Cameron plays a bit of sleigh of hand with John's message to fit this new theme and adds the line of "there's no fate but what we make for ourselves".

3. My argument has always been that the third one is closer to the themes of the original cause it reroutes the "unknown future" back to its "established course". Sure, it does so in a more fatalistic way (i.e. Judgment Day is inevitable), but it goes back to what was established at the end of the original. The "storm is coming" and you have to be prepared, all those years of Sarah "training" John for his future role were not in vain. My cynical self really digs that bleakness; that humanity is ultimately doomed because of their own actions, that the woman that beat the machines and Judgment Day eventually succumbed to leukemia, that the same actions and preparations that John has taken to be "ready" have turned him into an alcoholic bum... that still manages to step up, and acknowledge/embrace his fate at the right moment.



minds his own damn business
The theme of free will is not the theme of the original, which focuses mostly on plain survival.
Again, "The future is not set" speaks for itself. Survival happens to depend on the will to survive. Those who wish to resign to the inevitabilities of nature are the ones most likely to succumb to nature. Survival requires a great deal of will, initiative, ingenuity, persistent effort and largely a denial of a fate that one cannot overcome.


In the end, the future hasn't changed (see the picture).
We don't know what the future is at the end of the first film. That's the point, and why she even repeats the line about the future not being set (like a theme). The storm is ambiguous, allegorical. Whatever the future brings, it will require vigilance and perseverance, things that require will power, taking responsibility in one's own hands and out of fate's.


Cameron plays a bit of sleigh of hand with John's message to fit this new theme and adds the line of "there's no fate but what we make for ourselves".
No sleight of hand. It's substantially the exact same message.


My cynical self really digs that bleakness; that humanity is ultimately doomed because of their own actions, that the woman that beat the machines and Judgment Day eventually succumbed to leukemia, that the same actions and preparations that John has taken to be "ready" have turned him into an alcoholic bum...
I'm afraid that a large portion of late-capitalist America agrees with you. We've collectively given up and embraced fantasies about fate instead. I think that each film is a reflection of its time in this sense. The first one is a product of Reagon-era nuclear anxiety, but an era in which society had largely still not resigned to an apocalyptic fate. People were still hoping to avoid armaggedon. The second film reflects something of a triumph, as by 1991, the nuclear threat was subsiding as the cold war crumbled. The third one was launched in the first orgasms of the Iraq invasion. I don't think that's a coincidence. America became a death cult.