Monday, October 05, 2020

The History of Time Travel (2014)

Many works of fiction have dealt with time travel. Back to the Future comes to mind, as does The Time Machine. There are even shows like Quantum Leap and Doctor Who. There are even some really bad entries, like Future War. Have you wondered what it might actually look like? The History of Time Travel is a mock documentary about a scientist who may have made that breakthrough.

It starts off innocently enough. Dr. Edward Page heads up a government research group called The Indiana Project. It’s the tail end of World War II and the U.S. Government thinks that time travel may be a necessary tool to help win the war. When the Allied forces actually win, the project is sidelined. After Page’s death, his son is able to complete the work and build a functioning prototype.

This is where things go a little sideways. If you pay attention to the details, you’ll notice that history changes every time someone goes back. It might be minor, like an alteration to a picture, or major, like someone being replaced. (It took me a moment to realize that some things were deliberate changes.)

The movie works in its simplicity. It’s presented as that cheesy low-grade documentary you might catch one afternoon. All of the interviewees have that slightly stilted mannerism, but it’s exactly the right way to play it. The actors can’t be in on it for a second.

It’s not high cinema, but it is worth watching. My only complaint is that it was a little long at 70 minutes. It could have been pared down to maybe 45-50 minutes. There were a few repetitive segments where details were repeated. These scenes could have probably been left out with a little more ingenuity with the script.

The mechanics of time travel are dealt with briefly, which the movie does do correctly. There’s a segment in the beginning that explains how it’s possible, if at all. We may live in a universe that doesn’t allow for it or that requires some sort of self-consistency. (If you’re allowed to go back, it’s to make changes that were meant to happen.)

The joke works mostly by not acknowledging it. We’re not saddled with heavy science or long narratives. Some of the repetitiveness might be necessary, I’ll admit. But the movie doesn’t make a mess of it. Part of the problem is that the joke runs its course early on. The movie can’t really make a narrative out of it for over an hour. I think this would have been a good rough draft. It doesn’t work perfectly as a finished product, though.

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