Time is the movies in which we burn (#SFWApro)

I remembered the TV movie PRINCE CHARMING (2001) as a passable though routine fantasy rom-com in which an enchanted prince trapped as an immortal frog has to find true love so he can turn back to normal. As several references list this as time-travel, I started watching, but found my own memory was right: the hero makes it to the 20th century because he’s cursed to stay a frog forever until he finds love, not because of any magic. So I stopped watching, but I did want to mention it.

THE DEVIL’S PASS (2013) is a found-footage film that reminded me more than most such of genre founder The Blair Witch Project. A group of kids explore a Russian mountain pass to learn why a party of hikers died there in 1959, but the compass goes crazy, the maps are wrong, the GPS acts up and then people start dying … What follows makes no sense, even by the standards of Found Footage movies (I’m beginning to think part of the reason for them is that they let the filmmaker skip over narrative logic and coherence) but clearly involves time-travel: at the climax, the two survivors are hurled back to the original 1959 tragedy (there are also references to the mythical Philadelphia Experiment). Mediocre “If it was legal in the state of Oregon to marry my camera, I’d do it in a heartbeat.”

The said Philadelphia Experiment was a supposed 1943 attempt to make the US Eldridge either invisible or to teleport it (depending which version you read), a myth that got a big boost from THE PHILADELPHIA EXPERIMENT (1984). This has a humbler test than the legend (turning the Eldridge into a radar-proof stealth boat) but more spectacular results, as the use of the same tech in the present pulls sailor Michael Paré across time where he meets and falls for modern-day Nancy Allen. The script has some nice touches (like Paré being baffled by an automatic clutch) but too much stock run-from-the-military stuff, and Paré and Allen are such stiff actors, this sinks like a scuttled battleship. “According to the testimony of the survivors, you were the one who shut off the generators.”

THE PHILADELPHIA EXPERIMENT II (1993) has Brad Johnson in the Paré role, now nine years older and a widowed father, increasingly alienated as a man out of time. Then scientist Gerritt Graham’s reuse of the Philadelphia tech unwittingly triggers a time change that drops Johnson into an alt.history where the Nazis conquered America. This has better acting (marginally) but a stock script and the Nazis are surprisingly generic: from what we see, they could be any evil dictatorship, not even wearing swastikas. But as The World Hitler Never Made points out, the focus isn’t really the Nazi tyranny, it’s about Johnson coming to make peace with his life (the ending is getting to see his son hit a home run back in the real world). “It’s a nightmare here because here was never meant to be.”

Terry Gilliam’s TIME BANDITS (1981) are a group of would-be thieves moving through time with a divine map to the weak points in the cosmos, thereby enabling them—and a British boy swept up in their wake—to burgle a height-obsessed Napoleon (Ian Holm), Robin Hood, Katherine Helmond’s Mrs. Ogre and Sean Connery’s Agamemnon, all the while watched by Evil (David Warner) whose rapture about technology now looks amusingly quaint (“Speak to me of … car phones!”). This didn’t work half as well as I remembered (admittedly I was out of sorts when I watched it), feeling more like a disconnected set of Monty Python skits, and the ending is really incoherent. Not without its charms, though, even when I’m grumpy.“If I were creating the universe, I wouldn’t mess around with butterflies—I’d start out with lasers, 8 o’clock, day one!”


Filed under Movies, Now and Then We Time Travel

8 responses to “Time is the movies in which we burn (#SFWApro)

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