Remake vs. original: Four time-travel films (#SFWApro)

Rewatching LA JETEE (1963) I found I appreciated the wistful, romantic mood better than I did the first time as a post WW III government forces the protagonist to test an experimental time-travel method. He finds himself drawn to a woman he saw years ago at the Orly Airport, falls in love, but runs up against a last-minute twist which still seems to be me too Twilight Zone. “To wake up in another time is to be born again as an adult.”

That French short inspired 12 MONKEYS (1995) in which the apocalypse is a 1997 pandemic. A few decades later, the technocratic government of what remains of humanity sends Bruce Willis into the past in the hopes of recovering a sample fo the original bioweapon used by the “Army of the 12 Monkeys”—not to change history but so that the scientists can develop a vaccine. This Terry Gilliam film is interesting, but I can’t say it’s enjoyable: Bruce Willis is a good actor, but Willis playing crazy for 90 minutes of the film just isn’t entertaining. Another problem is that instead of the gentle romance of the original, this has Willis kidnap psychiatrist Madeleine Stowe, who then falls madly in love with him—something that seems more Stockholm Syndrome than romantic. With Christopher Plummer and David Morse as virologists and Brad Pitt as another loonie; some version of this will appear on SyFy as a TV series (next year, I believe). “Science isn’t an exact science with these clowns.”

IL MARE (2000) is a Korean time-travel fantasy in which two young people discover that despite living two years apart, the mailbox at their mutual waterfront home manages to transmit letters back and forth (an interesting example of how logic works in time travel films). Very charming, even though the ending, as I mentioned this week, doesn’t make sense. “The fact that I cannot be close to you even now must mean we are not meant to be.”

Despite being the same length, THE LAKE HOUSE (2006) squeezes in considerably more subplot, such as Keanu Reaves’ awkward relationship with his genius father (Christopher Plummer again) and Sandra Bullock’s fear of commitment (which we’re told explains her interest in Reaves rather than here-and-now boyfriend Dylan Walsh). The time-travel plot diverges from the original quite a bit: while both films have a tragic fate for the male lead (at least in one timeline), this has it happen at the start; there’s also a prolonged romantic encounter thanks to Reaves contriving to meet Bullock before (from her perspective) they’ve begun their correspondence). On the whole, I don’t think the changes add much (I’d definitely have dropped the meeting) and more generally the young lovers of the Korean original just seem to fit the tone better than the two fortysomethings here. “Did you eat a clown this morning?”

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7 responses to “Remake vs. original: Four time-travel films (#SFWApro)

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