Saturday, January 14, 2017

Timestalkers (1987)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

WARNING:  I’m going to be picking apart this movie.  This includes giving away major details, including the ending.  If you’re not into that sort of stuff, you may want to watch the movie before reading the review.

I tend to remember the movies of my childhood as being better.  I seem to recall the graphics and style as being somewhat decent compared to what I’ve seen as of late.  Yes, some movies do get remastered.  Yes, we do tend to be selective about things we like.  Yes, there were a lot of crappy movies made in any era.  When I saw Timestalkers, I knew it had a certain made-for-TV feel to it.  I later found out that it was actually a made-for-TV movie.  This explains why the film quality and script weren’t particularly that good.

Don’t get me wrong.  We do have some talent here.  The movie stars William Devane as Scott McKenzie.  He’s a father that loses his wife and children early in the movie.  This leads him to stay at home mostly when he’s not at work.  This leads his friend, General Joe Brodsky, to take him to an auction of Old West items.  (The General is played by John Ratzenberger.)  The two of them bid on a single lot, each taking a chest of items.  Joe finds some spurs he like, but Scott gets an interesting photo.  In it, a man is seen with a .357 Magnum, which hadn’t been introduced when the picture was taken.  (He has the picture tested, of course, and it really is that old.)

What does Scott do?  He writes a paper that looks like it came from the 80s, all right, asking his class how such a modern gun could have wound up in a photo that old.  The class is saved by the bell, which allows Georga Crawford to introduce herself.  (Georgia Crawford is played by Lauren Hutton.)  She’s very interested in the photo.  In fact, she’s the only person, other than Scott, to have more than a passing interest in it.

The two of them manage to find the spot where the picture was taken.  (Apparently, it’s not that far from where Scott lives.)  Well, as it happens, Georgia is from the future and she has a little diamond thingy that lets her go back to about when the picture was taken.  There, she finds out that this evil-looking guy is in town and he was asking questions.  Georgia is able to find him.  He sees her and chases her back to town, where she returns to the present.  He’s able to track her and follow her back to just after when she returns.  Georgia and Scott drive off just in time to not even notice that he’s shooting a gun at her.

To make a long story short, Georgia tells Scott that she’s from the future.  The evil-looking guy is Dr. Joseph Cole.  He worked with her father to create a time-travel device.  The two get into an argument.  Georgia and Scott figure out that Cole is in the past to kill Georgia’s great-great-(x23)-great-great-grandfather means no Georgia’s father to stand in his way.

Several things bother me about the ending, and yes, I am going to give away more details about the ending.  First, why go back so far to kill someone’s ancestor?  I suppose you might say that if you can travel in time effortlessly, going back a few generations is as easy as going back a few centuries, but it does present a few problems.  First, how do you know that this really is the right great-great-(x23)-great-great-grandfather?  For all you know, someone was adopted along the way.  Heck.  Several people could have been adopted along the way.

Also, how do you know that the ancestor in question isn’t also the ancestor or someone else?  You could share a common distant great-great-grandparent somewhere.  For all you know, you’d also be eliminating yourself.  Going that far back would probably influence a good deal of the population.  I’ve noticed that a lot of movies, non-sci-fi included, tend to have lineages that don’t branch.  Someone has one child, who goes on to have one child, who goes on to have one child and so on down the generations.  The truth is that someone along the line is bound to have several children and not necessarily boys.  Someone that far back in Georgia’s family tree is actually much more likely to have a different last name, which brings me back to my original point:  Going that far back in her family tree makes it harder to trace with any degree of certainty.

Another thing I noticed was that at the end, one of the time-travel diamonds was thrown to the ground.  Several horses walked over it until it was buried, which gave me the impression that it was supposed to be lost to the ages.  You’d think that Georgia would be certain to pick it up so as not to risk someone from the past altering history.  Scott seemed somewhat motivated to go to the future with her, so she knows that at least one person would want it and know where to look for it.  (It was never stated one way or the other, so it’s entirely possible that she did pick it up.)

This is what I had to put up with as a child.  Granted, it is on the low-budget end, but I do remember seeing things like this. I could see liking this when it first came out, but wondering why as I got older.  The graphics aren’t particularly good, which you might expect from a made-for-TV movie.  When someone is holding the diamond, you can tell that a static image was laid over the footage,  (There are one or two scenes where it’s obvious.  Also notice that you never see a close-up of someone operating the device.)

This is one of those movies that I’m glad I didn’t buy.  I was able to get it streaming on Netflix.  If you can get it streaming, I’d say give it a shot.  It’s only 100 minutes.  If you see it in the remainder bin at a Wal-Mart, you might want to think twice about buying it unless it’s part of some 50-movie set or something.  At the end of the movie, I was left wondering. Was it all a dream?  Will Scott ever see Georgia again?  Why did I sit through the entire thing, anyway? 

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