Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Going Back And Forth

Does time travel truly exist? And if so, can someone explain it to me please. The movies have it all wrong. Or at least I think they do. Shit, I don't know.

A friend of mine recently e-mailed me to clear up a debate he and another guy were having about the time travel of The Terminator. According to the official rules and regulations of basic time travel (don't go looking for that) there exist three time lines. The past, present and future. Easy enough. But unfortunately it's not that easy. At least not in the movies.

In Ray Bradbury's short story A Sound Of Thunder, hunters go in the past to hunt dinosaurs. Things are set up to make sure that the hunters don't disturb the natural evolution of time. Special paths are set for them to walk on and they are only allowed to shoot and kill dinosaurs that were set to die of natural causes around the time of the hunt. Of course, a hunter strays from the path and steps on a butterfly and that sends a ripple through time changing the future forever. I would say that the Bradbury story is probably the most accurate and most diligent as it relates to time travel. And I'm not sure that's saying anything. It seems for the most part, movies get kinda lazy when it comes to time travel. Or over-think it. I guess if time travel plot lines all followed the basic rules, there wouldn't be any need for movies like Time Cop and wouldn't that be a crime.

It's an interesting concept and makes for some good sci-fi, but it's like the writers in an effort to make time travel so important and so epic, they make it so complicated that no one can understand it. But maybe that's the point. If you don't understand it, you won't question it.

For example, the movie Primer, which I love, still confounds me. It's fascinating and there's a lot of talk about how time travel works in the movie, but I still don't comprehend it. I think I should get it because they talk about it throughout the whole movie, but still I'm at a loss. I think I understand the Back To The Future time travel. I know that when Marty changes the past, his future is better. But it was dicey there for a moment. But what if Marty went to the future and screwed that up so bad that he changed the past. I mean so bad that Marty no longer existed? Would he still exist in the future? And come to think of it, how did the monkey suddenly become Abraham Lincoln at the end of the Planet Of The Apes? Sure it makes for good drama, but does it make sense? And good gawd, please don't ask me about Donnie Darko. Time Bandits, now that works for me. Midgets go back in time and run into John Cleese as Robin Hood. I can dig that.

So back to The Terminator. For the longest time I didn't even question or care about the time travel issue for fear that I would get a headache. To me, it's like a very complicated math equation and while I was in advanced math in second grade, I've sucked ever since. So when I got this e-mail from my friend, I thought about it for a bit and then I decided it makes no sense. No sense at all. According to the plot of The Terminator Kyle Reese was sent back in time by John Connor to protect his mother Sarah Connor. And in protecting Sarah Connor, Reese falls in love with her and they have sex and make a baby. That baby is John Connor. So how does that happen? If Reese didn't know about Sarah Connor without John Connor telling him about her, how does John Connor exist because (oh, oh here come the dizzies) he was the one who in effect introduced the two, yet Reese is John Connor's father. Wouldn't John already know that? And so then wouldn't Reese also?

Who knows. All I know is that I'm going to set my watch ahead 15 minutes and see how it goes. If I don't write anything else after this post, then you'll know it went bad.


sir jorge said...

Einstein had a theory, that was explained in the movie "paycheck" which people seem to hate...

there is also the explanation that superman is controlling time by flying around the earth....

or there's the chuck norris theory

Damian said...

All of the things you bring up, Piper, made me realize a long time ago that time travel will never happen. It's a neat idea, and makes for some great sci-fi stories, but (with all due respet to Mr. Einstein) it's impossible. Primarily because time itself doesn't really exist. It's a concept, something that we humans created as a means for measuring events. It's not a "thing" that we can move through through. Traversing time makes about as much sense as traversing length. You can't travel through "length." You can travel through space (which is measured by length) but you can't travel length itself. Just doesn't happen.

Incidentally, my favorite time travel movies are the 1960 Time Machine, Back to the Future, Terminator, 12 Monkeys, Time After Time and just for fun Time Bandits and Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.

Jeremy Fuksa: Creative Generalist said...

The monkey became Abe Lincoln because that was a parallel universe which is different from time travel altogether... I think.

Ray said...

Essentially, time travel to a point in the past that occurs before the invention of the time machine itself is impossible. Similarly, the John Connor thing you bring up in Terminator is impossible also. Sure, it makes for a fun "what if" situation, but logically it's impossible.

Piper said...


You're right. It's funny how we live our lives by the watch. What if while we all slept someone set our watches ahead or behind an hour? Or two?

The idea of it is pretty primitive.