Temporal Anomalies

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Quick Jumps

Time After Time
Time Bandits
The Langoliers
Time Cop
Clockstoppers
The Time Machine
Groundhog Day
12:01
The Philadelphia Experiment
Disney's The Kid
Black Knight
Just Visiting
My Science Project
Run, Lola, Run
La Jetée
Primer
Butterfly Effect
Lake House
Premonition
Next
Timeline
Bender's Big Score
The Last Mimzy
TimeRider:  The Adventure of Lyle Swann
Land of the Lost
2046
More Movies

Movies Analyzed
in order examined

Terminator
    Addendum to Terminator
    Terminator 3:  Rise of the Machines
Back To The Future
Back To The Future II
Back To The Future III
Millennium
Star Trek Introduction
    Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
    Star Trek: Generations
    Star Trek: First Contact
12 Monkeys
    Addendum to 12 Monkeys
Flight Of The Navigator
Army of Darkness
Lost In Space
Peggy Sue Got Married
Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure
Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey
Frequency
Planet of the Apes
Kate and Leopold
Somewhere In Time
The Time Machine
Minority Report
Happy Accidents
The Final Countdown
Donnie Darko
Harry Potter and
    the Prisoner of Azkaban

Deja Vu

Copyright Information

The temporal anomaly terminology used here is drawn from Appendix 11:  Temporal Anomalies of Multiverser from Valdron Inc, and is illustrated on the home page of this web site.  This site is part of M. J. Young Net.

Books by the Author.

Temporal Anomalies in Time Travel Movies
unravels
Other Time Travel Films

There are more time travel movies than appear on this site.  Sometimes this is because of an oversight on my part, that I did not realize a film involved time travel or it slipped my mind.  Some films are not here because, frankly, they are such disasters that I don't want to begin to discuss them.  Others are absent because there is precious little to say about them.  Still others are on my must-see list, and will probably appear once I've managed to procure a copy and view it sufficiently to actually comment on it.  But every week someone asks me about some film or other, so here are a few of those, and some preliminary thoughts.

Also, discussions of time travel films by the author are now appearing in serialized form at The Examiner, as part of the national desk entertainment channel.  The author's profile there provides access to articles posted, and the new page on this site, The Examiner Connection, provides an orderly indexing of all the pages published to date, with a bit of a peek ahead.


Time After Time

I have analyzed this, and am looking forward to adding it through The Examiner Connection; check there for updates on publication.

There are two films which bear this title; the one that is of interest here is the time travel film in which H. G. Wells creates a time machine and Jack the Ripper uses it to escape to the twentieth century.

Of particular interest in this film is the treatment of the time machine, which is seen as existing in every moment of time at once.  The traveler gets into it, and moves through time; but if someone physically moves the time machine, the traveler arrives in the place to which the machine has been moved.  This seems most consistent with Wells' original story (note that it is a problem for the film The Time Machine precisely because it seems that the machine should exist in every second through which it passes).  However, time within the machine is confusing, and can't withstand much scrutiny.

There is an inherent problem with Wells being in the future; that is that his presence in the future temporarily removes him from the past.  On his journey forward, there will be no H. G. Wells museum, no books he wrote, no history about him, as he has not done any of those things before leaving the past.  He goes back, in the end, to do them, which would restore his place in history in the CD timeline, but the AB timeline is very difficult to reconstruct due to his absence from it.

The hop forward to read the paper about the death of the girl is a nice touch.  We accept that it was never the girl, and always her friend, who was the victim.  This is doubly clear, given that when she moved forward a day she removed herself entirely from history for that day and could not have been killed in her absence.  Had she returned and prevented the death of her friend (or become the victim) this would have caused a serious anomaly.

It has been quite some time since I saw the film (I've got a copy here somewhere, though, so I should be able to get to it eventually); I vaguely remember the girl going back to the past with Wells.  If that's so, it creates another sort of anomaly; but we'll deal with that if we get around to doing this page.

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Time Bandits

This earlier Gilliam foray into time travel (before 12 Monkeys) is a bit of magical fantasy.  The travels of the dwarfs are problematic, because they do not have a moment of origin in time--they are supernatural beings coming from outside space and time and using the "holes in time" to get around.  This makes their effects on time rather difficult to interpret.  However, once they pick up the boy, his movements through time will have specific traceable effects.  Again, I haven't seen this film in too many years, and can't address details at this time.

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The Langoliers

I've never seen this film.  I'm given to understand that a group of travelers somehow lands fifteen minutes behind normal time, and discovers that the past is being consumed by creatures of some sort.  I guess I'll have to see it, because it seems silly to me.  Meanwhile, I don't consider this to be time travel--if it were true, time travel would be impossible.  It does fit with our intuitions about time, in that if it is true then the future does not exist yet and the past does not exist anymore; but the way this is achieved makes no sense to me temporally, as it seems to say that the past does exist, but is completely different from our experience.

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Time Cop

I have raved and ranted about this film (including the text below), but have finally decided to give it a review.  I am in the process of analyzing it even now.  Keep an eye on The Examiner Connection for updates.

As to the film itself, don't get me started.  Right from its core premise, this film is a disaster; and rather than attempt to mitigate it, it pushes the envelope into the worst possible interpretations of its premise.

The central problem lies in the idea that it is possible to go back to "fix" the past based on some knowledge of what it should have been.  Throughout the film, our hero becomes aware that someone has traveled back in time to change it, and armed with the knowledge of what should have happened he goes back to prevent the change.  There are two problems with this that are insurmountable.

The first is, when we detect that someone has traveled through time, what are we detecting?  There seem to be three possibilities here:

  1. We are detecting the arrival of someone in the past.
  2. We are detecting the movement of someone from the future through our present.
  3. We are detecting the departure of someone from our present.
Now, note that none of these gives us any useful information.  Consider each of them.

If we are detecting an arrival in the past, then at the moment we have the capacity to do so, we must detect all arrivals to any point in time before the present.  This is an oversimplification.  Under replacement theory, in the original history you would detect no arrivals (because there cannot be any), but with each time trip, the number of such arrivals would increase.  There would be no way to identify which came "first", that is, from what point in time the travelers left.  All you could know is that there are arrivals in the past--some of which are bound to be your own police, moving from the future, so you'll wind up investigating yourself.

If you detect the motion of someone traveling through time as they pass through the present moment, you have the same problem, only slightly mitigated:  Anyone who will ever leave from the future for the past will pass through this moment, in some sense "at the same time"; and all such time travel events will be detectable from the moment the detector is operational until the moment of departure.  You might in theory be able to measure something about the temporal trajectory (this is extremely speculative) that would tell you the point of origin and the destination, but there is still insufficient information to determine anything useful.

If you detect a time travel event at the moment of departure, you're too late.  The time traveler has already arrived in the past, and any changes he is going to make have been made.  You cannot now discover what history was before the changes, because the changes have been made.  Attempting to undo what was done is a guaranteed anomaly, and if successful an infinity loop.  That is, once the time traveler has left, leave him alone.  If time still exists for you to follow him, you were fortunate; if you need to fix it, it's too late.

That is the second insurmountable problem:  you cannot go to the past to change the past in specific ways that are based on your knowledge of the past.  To do so is to erase the information on which the decision to make the trip was based.  The best hope in such cases is that you will fail, since success is the total destruction of time.

Ultimately, Time Cop traps its entire story into a massive infinity loop:  Cop's wife is killed by travelers from the future; cop becomes an enforcer of time travel law; cop prevents death of his wife.  Suddenly his entire life has changed, and we can be pretty certain he never became a time cop at all; he certainly is not the same person.

The film also suffers from a failure to have a theory of time.  It clearly does not hold either the fixed time or parallel dimensions theory; it would seem to have something similar to replacement theory, but to abuse it into nonsense.

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Clockstoppers

This film pretends to be about time, but is not consistent with itself.  It uses the popular science fantasy notion of accelerated molecules, but calls it hypertime.  I'm of the notion that it does not involve any time travel at all.

It should also be noted that it is inconsistent in other ways.  For example, the scene in which they are causing their friend to dance is completely unacceptable, for a variety of reasons:

It is also tremendously unclear how objects interact with them.  They drive cars at hyperspeed.  At what point have the cars been accelerated?

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The Time Machine

The 1960 George Pal version of the H. G. Wells classic has finally been included, and can be found through The Examiner Connection.

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Groundhog Day

People write to ask me about this all the time; and my best answers are first that there is insufficient information to do a full analysis, and second that I think it likely that the film 12:01 happened on Groundhog Day, and that the stars of these two films were for different reasons able to remember the repetition of the day.

In any event, whatever the cause of the anomaly, it is clear that Bill Murray's character is caught in a sawtooth snap; the same day keeps repeating, but because he is aware of it he is able to make changes.  For some reason we never discover, that repetition comes to an end.

It is because we can't determine why it ends that the film defies analysis.  We can observe that the anomaly occurs, and that's about it.

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12:01

This was a made for TV movie that has since been released on video tape; Martin Laundau and, I think, Helen Slater, were both in it.  I saw it on television when it was new.  For the longest time I kept calling this 11:59; I got the time wrong.

I often say that this film is the explanation for Groundhog Day; it also creates a Sawtooth Snap, in which one person is aware of the repeat of the day.  In this case, our hero actually finds the cause of the repetition (Landau's project) and resolves it.  It's a good film in this regard, as I recall, and I'll probably attempt to analyze it sometime.

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The Philadelphia Experiment

I have ordered copies of the original movie and its theatrically-released sequel, and so soon this will appear through The Examiner Connection; check there for updates.

I'm not certain whether this is two movies or three, nor even how many of them I saw.  I remember in the first, there was an experiment during World War II attempting to make ships "invisible to radar" which accidentally rendered them actually invisible--by removing them from reality altogether.  Two sailors leapt overboard, and came ashore forty years later.  They couldn't figure out what was happening to them.

One gets pulled back into this electrical storm that seems to follow them; after that, the other makes his way to that one's home, and finds him, elderly now and thought crazy for his story of having been to the future.  The one who is still visiting from the past eventually goes back into the storm voluntarily, where he shuts down the generators on the ship, allowing it to return to the Philadelphia naval yard minutes after it vanished.  He again leaps overboard, and comes out in the future.

I have vague memories of sequels, involving Nazi aircraft, a daughter, and a few disjointed details.  The most notable thing about these is that the star of the original film is replaced by an actor who neither looks nor sounds like him in any way, and the love interest is written out as deceased.  I can't begin to discuss them, although I suppose one day I'll have to do so.

In the original, travel to the future merely erases these two from history.  This is not a problem.  The one then goes back into the storm.  He does not yet appear in the past; he's trapped on the ship.  That means that the one still in the present will never find any trace of either of them.  However, ultimately the other reaches the ship and shuts off the power.  This completes his friend's trip to the past, creating the CD timeline.  Thus he meets his friend at the family home.

More serious, perhaps, is the fact that until that time travel event is completed, the ship cannot reappear in Philadelphia.  It must still be trapped in the alternate dimension for all those years, as part of the AB timeline.  It is in the CD timeline that it is released, moments after it vanishes, when the hero travels back from the nineteen eighties to the nineteen forties to release it.  This also means that in the AB timeline no one will report that he was seen rescuing the ship, because he never did it, and the ship was never rescued.  But this is remedied in the CD timeline.  In this connection, it is also significant that they do not have a record that says he did not come back with the ship, because the ship never came back; but they would still have a roster of who was missing.

The more I consider it, the more problematic it becomes.  I hesitate to do an analysis, however, as I seem to recall the sequels were terrible, and I'd rather not subject myself to multiple viewings of such bad movies.

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Disney's The Kid

Bruce Willis' other time travel movie is a delightful fantasy about growing up and knowing who you are; it's a terrible time travel movie.  We never understand why or how anyone moves through time, except that it's somehow connected to this magical diner which appears here and there.  It is also not explained why, if as a child he came forward in time and met himself, he as an adult does not remember having done it.  It appears that his older self helps his younger self cope with life, actually stepping back into his own past to give him the encouragement he needs to overcome some obstacle.  There is also a yet older self who buzzes around in a crop duster, trying to tell us that everything will be all right eventually.

Even under loose scrutiny, this film starts to fall apart temporally.  Mercifully, that's not it's point.  Suffice it that it could never happen, and leave it at that.

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Black Knight

This movie was actually better than I anticipated.  That is not entirely due to the fact that the cover led me to anticipate a slapstick adaptation of Connecticutt Yankee.  The film has some good moments.  In the end, they try to sell us the notion that the entire story has been the dreams of the main character as paramedics attempt to revive him from a drowning accident; and yet they also try to leave it open as to whether that's right or not.  As goofy an ending as that is, it proves better than trying to figure out the timelines of it as reality.

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Just Visiting

This adaptation of a French film is a lot of fun, and the French actor who carries off the lead is quite believable in the role of the nobleman.  It's mostly comic, drawn in large part on the displaced medieval duo in the modern world.  Some of it is on the edge of disgusting, such as having them wash up in the toilet because of how clean it seems, and eating the minty urinal freshener.  Overall, it does an excellent job of giving us the feeling of men out of time.

It does not do at all well with the time travel part.  A disaster at a dinner has the nobleman slated for execution, and his wizard attempts to save him by sending him back to fix the problem--but the spell is interrupted, and the nobleman is instead propelled forward hundreds of years.  Here he happens to meet his own descendant, who is considering selling the ancestral property.  At this point we should shudder.  The man has been ripped out of time, unmarried and childless.  He has no descendants.  He won't have them until he returns.  Thus we can't be seeing the AB timeline; he must already have lived through some sort of modern world adventures that don't include his great-great-greater granddaughter.  Once he returns to the past and repairs the damage, then he can have children who begin the chain that leads to her.

It is further complicated by the nature of the magic.  The wizard ultimately sends the nobleman back to a moment before the disaster (a potion substituted for his wine, which is given to his bride by mistake), where he displaces himself.  Now, I'm not certain why he displaced himself in the final scene but not in the first trip.  Shouldn't he appear inside his own crypt?  The use of time travel is thus inconsistent; if he can travel to a point after his life would have ended and appear in a place without reference to the location of his corpse, then when he travels back he ought to temporally duplicate himself, such that there are two of him in the room.  That doesn't happen.  Perhaps of more serious consequence, in avoiding the disaster, he also derails the entire chain of events.  He will not be arrested and held pending execution; his wizard will not accidentally send him to the distant future; he will not help his descendant; he will not return to abort the disaster; and so the disaster will happen.

However, the film is certainly worth seeing, if only for the moment when the wizard pulls himself together.

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My Science Project

Someone mentioned this film, and I said I didn't think I'd seen it; but when they started to describe it to me, suddenly it started to come back.  It has not come back nearly well enough for me to know even whether it's really a time travel story, but I'm going to have to hunt it down and find out.

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Run, Lola, Run

I have seen this film.  I expect some would call it an excuse for showing a lot of footage of a buxom blonde bouncing along at a quick jog, but I don't think it's as bad as that.  However, I do not think it is a time travel movie.  It is a film about assessing and making choices, and where these take you.  As such, I don't expect to add it to this site.

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La Jetée

This is the film which inspired 12 Monkeys, and as such I get questions about it periodically.  I broke down and ordered a copy, and the analysis is now available through The Examiner Connection.

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Primer

Primer is the first film to be discussed in the new series at The Examiner.  The serialized articles are indexed on the page here entitled The Examiner Connection.

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Butterfly Effect

The analysis of this film is now available at The Examiner, and you can find the entries indexed here on my site and also on theirsButterfly Effect 2 has also joined it.

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Lake House

This one is now available on The Examiner, and you can follow the series through the indices here on this site or on that one.  I understand it is possible to subscribe to the series there.

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Premonition

Sandra Bullock's other time travel movie (she is in Lake House has her living fragments of her life out of sequence.  This is another that someone gave me so that I would have the chance to analyze it, and it is now available at The Examiner and indexed here.

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Next

A fan of the site gave provided a copy of this one for me, and it made it to The Examiner.  As anticipated, the temporal element is that the hero can see a few seconds into the future and change what is about to happen, putting it in Minority Report terms of some sort of psychic probable future.

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Timeline

This film was something of a disappointment, but it has made it to The Examimer.

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Bender's Big Score

This one is also posted at The Examiner and indexed here.  It was more interesting than anticipated, although far from a great time travel film.

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The Last Mimzy

With thanks to John "A1nut" Cross (who wrote the analysis of The Final Countdown), this film has been analyzed and posted to The Examiner.  An episode index appears here on my site and also on theirs.

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Time Rider  The Adventure of Lyle Swann

I saw most of this film decades ago, channel surfing into it somewhere in the middle.  I caught enough to see the major flaws in that the time traveler becomes his own grandfather and gives his grandmother the medalion she left to him, but I have not had a copy in hand to examine in more detail than that.  It is definately a good example of problems in predestination paradoxes.

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Land of the Lost

I was asked to cover this movie, but it's not a time travel movie--more a Journey to the Center of the Earth or Island of Dr. Moreau parody, in which the heroes travel to a place somewhere else in the world where creatures from the past are still alive now.  Those can be fun, but the Brendan Fraser Journey was better and funnier (or at least I enjoyed it considerably more).

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2046

Despite plot summaries which suggest otherwise, this is not a time travel movie.  It is a slow-paced exploration of the relationships and sexploits of a writer, in Chinese with some Japanese dialogue, subtitled in English and Spanish, laced with supposedly keen insights into human interactions.  It happens that the writer finds success in creating what is apparently a series of stories based on a world he calls 2046, to which people go seeking something stable in their lives, and from which they almost never leave.  It is a futuristic world, and in his imagination he often visits it, which we see played on the screen, but mostly to use as metaphors for his own situation (as asking whether the android based on his landlord's daughter loves him or not).  Many of his readers think that 2046 is a year in the future, but it is actually the number of a hotel room in which he had a lingering love affair, and becomes the metaphor for that place of being in love.  Nothing is really about the future, and no one either goes to or returns from any other time; it does tell events out of sequence, but only because he tells them as they become relevant to revealing all of this.

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More Movies

At present, new film analyses are being serialized at The Examiner.  I have been indexing the new releases on a page on this site called The Examiner Connection, and they have kept a parallel index in my author profile there.  Films I am planning or hoping to analyze in the foreseeable future are listed at the end of the index page here; since that list will be in flux, it will be easier to refer the reader there than attempt to maintain two current listings.

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