This was a sequel to The Philadelphia Experiment, and as such things are evaluated it was not a very promising one--the lead actors from the original apparently were unavailable (perhaps intentionally so), so they replaced the one playing David Herdeg (Michael Paré, whose Brooklyn accent was incongruous with the character's supposed California origin) with another actor who looks vaguely similar and has a completely different voice (Brad Johnson), and they removed Allison Hayes (Nancy Allen) from the story by bringing in their son who is struggling to cope with the death of his mother. Even Doctor Longstreet (Eric Christmas) is replaced (by James Greene). Of course, not all sequels which have all-new casts are disasters--witness Short Circuit II, which Siskel and Ebert said was better than the first despite losing Ally Sheedy and Steve Gutenberg (although Fischer Stevens capably moved into a starring role, the Sheedy and Gutenberg characters were written out of the sequel, and arguably Number Five voiced by Tim Blaney is the real star of both films).
The title appears with the Arabic "2" in various places including the DVD case, but in others with the Roman "II", including the opening credits.
This film confirms for us the observation of the difference between the past and future ends of the vortex: Eldridge reportedly vanished for about an hour, the town for about a day. If we take the two films together, as seems necessary for this one, any hope of a fixed time solution is gone. This film is about an alternate reality created by a time travel event, and calls for replacement theory repeatedly. Yet it is fraught with difficulties in connection with that.
It also wreaks havoc with the previous events, as we shall see.
It is 1993, nine years after Dave Herdeg arrived in 1984 from his 1943 departure. We are given his date of birth as May 17th, 1918, and the date of the experiment as May 3rd, 1943, so he was almost twenty-five years old; he arrived in 1988 (Allison gives the date as "the 17th" but does not give the month), and the new experiment occurs on May 3rd, 1993. He is about thirty-four years old, counting by years lived, but considerably older based on his date of birth. Also, the Navy apparently never gave him all that back pay, as he is in severe financial straights now, and they want him to re-enlist.
An American scientist named Friedreich Mailer is the son of a Nazi German scientist named Friedreich Mahler. Mahler had a plane vanish briefly in radar jamming experiments, also in 1943, and Mailer has access to Longstreet's files on his two experiments and has spoken with Longstreet himself. Mailer believes that he can use the technology to deliver bombers to their destinations by matter transmission, passing them instantly through hyperspace; his experiments suggest he may be right. However, Longstreet, who continues to monitor Herdeg's condition, is aware that the experiments are causing his subject pain and disorientation, and considers them dangerous in themselves. Mailer arrogantly asserts that he has improved the system such that time is no longer involved in the equation, and wants to prove it.
To prove it, Mailer hacks the North American Defense (NorAD) radar network and connects his equipment to it, to target a nuclear-armed stealth bomber over Newfoundland, intending to deliver it over Weisbaden. He does this on May 3rd, 1993, the fiftieth anniversary of the Philadelphia Experiment itself, and at that moment his world ends; he never knows what happened.
We, of course, do, as the plane is delivered to Germany in 1943 and creates an entirely new history of the world.
Mailer's experiment connects to Longstreet's 1943 experiment, and so although the plane is teleported to Weisbaden, it is also sent to May 3rd 1943, where it lands on a Nazi airfield. Mahler is there, works out the rudiments of what he has, claims that he invented it, and on May 5th has it drop its nuclear payload on Washington, D.C. Germany wins World War II, but having severely underestimated the power of the explosives loses the jet in the blast, and Mahler cannot recreate it. He becomes something of a disgrace, and in 1963 commits suicide--although not, apparently, before fathering Mailer, who is now some kind of scientific authority in what was the Western United States and is now a nightmarish oppressed territory of a vast Nazi empire. This German Mailer is also working with the Philadelphia Experiment files (as was his American Mailer divergent self), and has concluded that somehow a jet from the future was delivered to the past; he wants to create a time machine that will allow him to warn his father, so that with a slight adjustment to the flight plan the jet can escape the blast and return to Germany.
The peculiar wrinkle in all of this involves David's di-ribonucleaic acid (DNA). The conclusion is reached that only David Herdeg was able to travel through time because of some peculiarity in his genes. German Mailer is trying to develop a serum that will keep him alive for the trip. However, David Herdeg does not exist in this universe--Longstreet's 1984 experiment never occurred. This is twice peculiar--since the 1984 experiment never happened, no one knows Herdeg traveled in time rather than merely vanishing in the vortex; and since the stealth bomber landed safely in 1943 Weisbaden that pilot must have survived long enough to be captured or killed in the past. Thus that pilot is the only known successful time traveler, and Dave Herdeg no longer exists in this universe. (Note, too, that Jimmy never traveled to 1984, either, so there were no Longstreet reports mentioning temporal irregularities.)
That is, Herdeg has not existed in this universe until now. As the plane is picked up in Newfoundland in the original universe and carried to 1943 Weisbaden, David Herdeg, in his bedroom at home, suddenly finds himself in the same house, on the same date, in a completely different world in which the house is vacant and the neighborhood devastated.
Longstreet has been expecting him, and has resistance teams seeking him; at the same time, his presence is (somehow) detected by military police--his neighborhood is a "resource depleted area" in which people are not permitted. The rebels kill the police and take David into their custody; video reaches Mailer, who connects his face with the photo of the missing crewman from the Eldridge and orders that he be brought to him alive. The rebels take him to Longstreet, apparently leader of the underground, who wants to send him via "underground railway" to "Free Alaska". Longstreet knows this is his fault, that somehow his experiment in 1943 opened the door for the plane to reach the past and Davey to reach the future. David, though, has a different notion: send him to Mailer and get him into that time machine, so that he can travel back to 1943 and prevent Germany from using the stealth bomber. Herdeg's argument prevails, and the rebels agree to get him to that time machine on the odd hope that if he manages to do what he intends, they will never have existed. That is, of course, correct under replacement theory; but we have already run into some problems with the present history that are going to require our attention.
The resistors, led by someone named Jess, are massacred--but they achieve their objective, sending Dave back through the portal which Mailer has opened "for ten minutes". Mailer then gets to the same portal and follows; both arrive in 1943, which is another problem to address ahead.
There are already two major problems that make this film impossible.
The first should be obvious. In 1993 American Mailer uses the NorAD tracking radar system to send a stealth bomber back to 1943, where Mahler uses it to destroy Washington and win the war. Germany conquers America, and the American industrial/defense industry is erased. There is no NorAd, no stealth bomber, and no teleporter project to send the bomber to the past. The last of these we know absolutely: German Mailer (who actually probably would not have changed his name, and would remain Mahler, but that's confusing so we'll stick with the change) is working on a time machine, and has not worked out the bugs. Thus when May 3rd 1993 arrives, no stealth bomber leaves for the past, and so no stealth bomber arrives in the past in 1943. This sets up a fifty-year infinity loop, one history in which America develops the technology that leaves for the past creating the other in which Germany conquers America and the technology never exists, which reinstates the original history in which it is created and sent to the past.
The second problem is a bit more complicated: Longstreet's 1984 experiment never happened. Herdeg disappeared from the Eldridge, arrived in 1984, returned to release the Eldridge into 1943, returned to 1984, and then in 1993 the plane went back, so that in 1984 Herdeg never arrived. This puts 1943 into complete confusion--did the Eldridge ever return, or is it waiting for Dave to come back and destroy the machine? The problem is that if Dave does not arrive in 1984, he does not return to the ship.
That, in itself, might not be completely fatal to the story. Jimmy could have returned to the ship without visiting the future, and while that would make his life very different, it is already altered completely by the Washington bombing. Dave, though, is still trapped in the vortex--a vortex which now stretches between 1943 and 1993, with the ship returning to its own time and the bomber traveling to the past end. The Dave that emerges in 1993 has to be the twenty-five year old Herdeg who a moment ago was on that ship, who has no memories of Allison or their son Benjamin, of America winning the war, of anything after leaping over the rail of the ship.
We cannot get past 1984, though, without considering Jimmy. His sequential history included leaping from 1943 to 1984 and then returning to 1943, being treated as mentally injured, celebrating V-E day, being visited by Davey at the ranch, and whether nine years later he is still alive or not, once the bomber is sent back it creates a new history. Now as Jimmy enters the vortex, the 1984 end never opens, so he never travels to the future. Once 1984 arrives, there is no Jimmy to travel to the past, and so the Jimmy that comes back on the Eldridge is not the time traveler. Yet he does come back.
That is the issue. If Jimmy is left in the vortex awaiting the future end, then when the Eldridge returns in 1943 he is not there; he must also emerge from the vortex in 1993 with Dave, when the other experiment occurs. In that case, no one traveled from 1984 to 1943, and history has been changed. However, in this case, no one will make that trip in the next history, so we resolve to an N-jump in which Jim and Dave vanished and never returned to 1943, going instead to 1993.
At the same time, they cannot be here. That is, a hole was opened between 1993 and 1943, but not in this version of the universe; if Herdeg leapt from 1943 to 1993, he would be in the universe from which the aircraft vanished. That universe ends the instant the aircraft vanishes, and everyone in it (in the versions of themselves known in that universe) cease ever to have existed, including Jim and Dave. There is no way for these time travelers to arrive in the universe in which the portal never opened.
The movie still has more disasters ahead, and is worth continuing our analysis.
We stated that this was the wrong Dave Herdeg. It is impossible for any version of Dave Herdeg to be here, in the altered version of 1993, but if it were possible it would be because Dave fell off the boat in 1943 and emerged from the vortex in 1993 because of American Mailer's experiment. The film does not see it that way, though, and it matters to the plot that this version of Dave Herdeg remembers arriving in 1988, marrying Allison, and raising their son Benjamin, and that he, alone, remembers the world in which no stealth bomber reached Weisbaden and America won the war. Thus we need to understand how that could be.
The excuse given in the film is that because of his genes Dave is the only person who has ever survived time travel. It is, as we saw, twice nonsense--once because until the moment he arrives in 1993 no one in this version of history knows that he ever traveled through time, and again because the bomber pilot must have landed his plane safely in Weisbaden, and thus survived long enough to do that much at least. Thus we can discount the "unique genome" explanation. There is also Jimmy in the first film, although I suppose since he was sucked back through the vortex and returned to the past perhaps he does not count.
It might be argued that Dave and the pilot, not in any way related as far as we know, shared a gene or several genes such that they were the only two people who could travel thus. However, it would be passing odd if the unknown pilot had this trait and Benjamin did not. It is not impossible, but it strains credulity.
Perhaps, though, it is because Dave is otherwise missing from this world. That is, in the original history Dave leapt from 1943 to 1984. (Jimmy did as well, and then returned to 1943 with the ship, creating a second history, but Dave is unaware of the change.) In this new history, created by Mailer's mistake, Dave never arrived in 1984, and therefore there is no version of him in 1993 in this world. Thus he is replaced by his self from the erased history.
While that sounds nice in theory, it faces a significant problem: there are millions of people alive in the other world who are not alive in this world. Remember, Washington was hit with nuclear weapons; those people died. Jess claims to be sterile, victim of the bomb; how many were never born because their parents were sterile or dead? Oh, but never born is different from no longer alive. Dave was born in 1917 and still alive in 1993, thanks to a forty-one year leap. He, though, would not be the only person still alive from 1943--it has only been fifty years, and a substantial portion of the population would have been fifty-one or older in the American 1993. Many of them would have died in this version of history--but then, would that not have included Dave Herdeg? Other than his temporal hop, there is not much to distinguish him from millions of others. Indeed, there is no reason for Dave to have appeared in this version of 1993 that does not apply to someone else somewhere, and probably to so many others that Dave would be lost in the crowd.
So it does not make sense under its own theory nor under any other theory. Dave Herdeg cannot be here.
In the new history, Longstreet has been expecting Herdeg to arrive. He did not know what year it would be, but he was certain that it would be on May 3rd. That is passing peculiar.
The doctor's reasoning goes something like this: on May 3rd, 1943, he opened his end of a time portal, and Dave Herdeg vanished into it. On May 5th, 1943, a nuclear armed stealth bomber, clearly from the future, drops its payload on Washington. It must have traveled through the portal Longstreet opened, and therefore Dave must have exited at the other end.
We have already seen that this is the wrong David; what is peculiar, though, is why Longstreet thought the other end must be May 3rd. What opens the other end of the wormhole is not the date but the fact that there is a second experiment generating enough power for the two to connect through hyperspace. Or is there another factor?
The writers might be attempting to avoid the perpetual question, why does the time traveler wind up on earth? After all, this question posits, the earth is constantly moving, spinning on its axis and orbiting the sun. It would take a year for the planet to be in the same place it was. So then, maybe we only get these connections if we conduct these experiments at a moment when the earth is in the same place as it was. That way there is only one point in space, but two points in time.
It is a nice theory, but flawed: the sun is also moving, and the orbit of the earth is shifting slightly such that its distance from the sun is slightly different. The same date would be irrelevant. Further, Longstreet would know this. He would presumably take into account the shift in the position of the galaxy in calculating when the earth would be in the "same place". It is not my field; I am not certain whether the earth is ever in the "same place"--some in relativity would say that there is no such location, and it certainly would be difficult beyond measure to identify, with the earth moving around the sun, the sun moving around the galaxy, and the galaxy itself moving relative to other galaxies. So scientifically it proves to be nonsense.
Yet even were that not so, there is no reason for Longstreet to think the location of the planet matters. He knows that the bomber arrived on the day he opened one end of the vortex; he can reasonably conclude that Herdeg would arrive on the day that someone opens the other end. That could be any day of any year. Further, he knows that German Mailer is performing experiments to attempt to travel to the past, but he does not and cannot know whether he has as yet created a portal.
On top of that, although in the first film we do not know exactly when Dave and Jim arrive in 1984, we do know that when they ask Allison the date she says, "the 17th". Even without knowing the month, we can see that the 17th is at least half a month away from the 3rd, whether it is May 17th, (17 minus 3 equals) 14 days later, or April 17th, (30 minus 17 equals 13, plus 3 equals) 16 days earlier. They did not then arrive on the 3rd, and there is no reason to expect that they would.
Of course, Longstreet does not know that, because in this history that never happened; we know it, though, and it makes our acceptance of these events more difficult.
That raises another question, in terms of an inconsistency with the nature of time travel in the first film.
In the original film, a temporal vortex was created when an experiment in 1943 connected with another experiment in 1984; a few things moved from 1943 to 1984, and a few things moved the other direction, while the vortex was open. Now in 1993 when American Mailer attempts to teleport a bomber, he connects with that 1943 experiment, and his spatial transfer works, delivering the plane to Germany on May 3rd, 1943.
At the moment the experiment occurs in 1993, Herdeg shifts to a different world. It is daylight, but by the time he is traveling to Longstreet it is night; they then organize a rather complicated operation and drive some distance to deliver their attack on German Mailer's lab to put Herdeg in the time machine and change history. Herdeg emerges through a portal in the past which, according to German Mailer, will be open for ten minutes. He arrives in Germany at night; the jet is on the ground and Mahler is preparing to launch it. It therefore must be not earlier than May 3rd. Yet upon arrival in Germany, the disoriented bomber pilot will have to find the field and land, the Germans will have to take him prisoner and examine his plane, and will need time to realize what they have, pushing us into May 4th. However, we are told that the past end of the original vortex was open for less than an hour. If German Mailer is tapping the connection to the Philadelphia experiment, he and Herdeg should both arrive on the 3rd, while the vortex is still open in Philadelphia. Once that end closes, there is no connection between the two points in time. By the time they are taking that photo, the vortex in Philadelphia will have closed; no time travel with later arrival times will be possible by that means.
That means German Mailer's machine is creating the opening at the past end as it creates the future end.
This is not the same technology. In the first movie it made some sense for people at different points in time each to open a gate into hyperspace and have them connect, and it makes sense for a similar experiment to open another gate into that same tunnel and send something else through it. Yet for a machine in the future to open a gate in the past is a different concept. You would have to calibrate such a machine somehow for the temporal distance traveled. The original was very much station-to-station, with a power supply at each end to establish the connection, one of which had to remain active to maintain the portal. We have a station at the future end this time; we have no past end station, no second power supply, nothing to target or support the past end.
Of course, this is supposed to be a more advanced technology--more advanced, though, than that used in 1943. Everything else about our Nazi-occupied future suggests that their technology lags, and indeed without the competitive stimuli of the Space Race and the Cold War it is questionable as to whether we would even have invented transistors, let alone microprocessors.
Also complicating matters is that hyperspace seems to be not exactly timeless but temporally very different from normal space. From the perspective of those inside the vortex, the town and the ship are both in the same tunnel "at the same time", even though the one is in the future and the other in the past. We think that the difference in their positions is a matter of their temporal separation, expressed as spatial separation, but we have no notion of how to measure temporal separation, nor even spatial separation, between those points. There is no frame of reference. The probe of the first film enters the vortex, passes the town, then passes the ship. How fast is it moving? How far did it travel? The travel time from the opening of the vortex to the town was not appreciably less than that between the town and the ship--but we would have thought the town to be mere minutes from the opening and the ship forty years beyond it. There is no fixed point for reference. Assuming you could punch a hole into hyperspace and then reach some distance and punch a hole out of it, how would you know how far to go to reach the time you want, and how would you know if you had gone that far?
So the time travel methodology here seems to want us to believe that it makes sense as a new application of what happened in the original movie, but that does not withstand scrutiny. This is different, and considerably less plausible.
Why does Herdeg appear in the abandoned ruins of his own house?
Our first reaction is that this makes sense. He was in his own house, and the universe changed around him. However, this is inconsistent with all of our other trips. Dave and Jimmy appeared where the town had been (in Nevada, nowhere near Philadelphia), and so did the mast from the Eldridge; the ship itself, and the town, remained in the vortex until released to their originating points at its (temporallly shifted) ends. Jimmy's return trip puts him at the vortex opening in the past. The bomber makes sense, because American Mailer was attempting to teleport it and succeeded in doing so, but failed to prevent the temporal shift; and we can perhaps accept that the German Mailer time machine is able to target its arrival point spatially as well as temporally. However, when Dave moves from the original universe to the altered universe, he is in California, nowhere near any vortex point of which we are aware.
He is also in a room that cannot exist. We might accept that the house was built before (or, less likely, during) the war, and thus that the room itself would be there; but would it contain the furniture which Dave and Allison, who now never met so never lived here, undoubtedly obtained for their son Benjamin, now never born? Perhaps they rented it furnished--against all odds, with the same furnishings--but would not the furniture have been moved to accommodate the preferences of a young boy? Not only should Dave not be here, "here" should not exist as it does.
Obviously, though, the point is supposed to be that Herdeg remains who he is and where he is, and the universe changes around him. However, the changing of the "universe" seems to be somewhat selective; that is, the part which does not change extends beyond Dave Herdeg to include his acoutrements. He is wearing a baseball cap with a label that says it is made in the United States in 1993, and carries modern identification such as a drivers license, and perhaps most telling a photo of his son Ben. Sure, we can invent possible explanations--some kind of field immediately surrounding him, such that everything on his person must go with him--but these are all inconsistent with everything we already know about this event. We are ultimately faced with the problem that this is the wrong David Herdeg. He cannot exist in this universe, and the fact that the other universe has been erased means either:
The story, though, insists that somehow Dave is still connected to hyperspace, such that whenever anyone tampers with hyperspace technology he feels it, and so that when American Mailer using hyperspace time travel destroys all of the history in which Dave travels to 1984 and creates a new history through 1993, Dave pops back into hyperspace just long enough to arrive in the new history. It makes no real sense, but there it is.
If we attempt to count the trips made to the past, we run into a problem. We know that the departure of the stealth bomber from 1993 to 1943 is one, and although arguably it is undone by its own consequences we can still count it as the first trip. The problem is whether when Herdeg and German Mailer travel from the variant 1993 to 1943, they are making two separate trips, or only one. It is something of a technical question, but it is a significant one nonetheless.
We see Dave Herdeg leave from German Mailer's lab from the already activated time travel platform, and emerge in 1943. He is alone at that moment, and keeps himself hidden. Then in the future we see German Friedreich Mailer leave from the same platform a minute or two later, and emerge from the same portal in 1943, also a few minutes later. The logic of the situation suggests that there were two separate trips to the past. If so, though, they are rather complicated.
If Herdeg has left for the past first, then his arrival in the past changes all of history from the moment he arrived to the moment he left, and that must be resolved before anything else can happen in the future. He intends to destroy the stealth bomber, the consequence of which will be that the German history, including German Mailer, will be erased. (His departure from the future will also be erased, creating an infinity loop, but that is a separate issue for the moment.) In this resolved history, Germany did not have the bomber and did not win the war. German Mailer does not exist, and American Mailer is not building a time machine (at least, not intentionally), so even were it somehow possible for there to be another minute after Dave's departure, that entire world, as Jess anticipated, has been made never to have existed. German Mailer's time machine is not there, and he is not there to make a trip to the past.
Of course, it also means that there is no portal awaiting Dave for his return trip, but that is not our focus at the moment, either.
In order for German Mailer to follow Dave in a separate trip, Dave must have failed to destroy the bomber. He was seen, captured or killed, and never launched his firebomb. The bomber launches anyway, and the history Dave hoped to prevent is the history that happens, with one footnote about an American saboteur being thwarted in his efforts. Then German Mailer follows Dave into the past, and his presence distracts the guards sufficiently that Dave is able to get past them and destroy the bomber. Had it not been for Friedreich, Dave would have failed; he did fail. Because Friedreich followed him, Dave succeeded.
The alternative is a bit more complicated, but in analyzing Star Trek: First Contact we suggested that Enterprise and the Borg ship traveled to the past together in one temporal event. That means that the Enterprise never detected the changed world below them, because the Borg ship did not get there "first" and change everything for them to change back. Rather, using our present film as the example, the vortex created by the time machine is open at both ends for ten minutes, and at the future Dave enters followed by German Mailer, and at the past end Dave enters, and in the order that they entered the vortex expels them, Dave into the past followed by Mailer, and then Dave into the future. Thus we have a future in which Dave enters the vortex, and Friedriech follows him, and at the end of ten minutes the vortex closes and time bounces back to 1943, where Dave exits, followed by Mailer, all of history is changed by this one time travel event such that the bomber is destroyed and something like the original history restored. Dave then re-enters the vortex, passes himself going the opposite direction, and is expelled from the future end before it closes.
Except of course that it does not happen, because this vortex is never created in this new history, so we still have not resolved events.
At the critical moment in the story, when German Mailer is about to kill Herdeg, Herdeg fatally shoots Mailer's father, Mahler. Mahler dies surprisingly quickly, and Mailer is startled by this. Then, more than startled, Mailer is destroyed, undone, as his body dissolves into the vortex. A wounded Dave drags himself the last few yards and stretches one hand into the field, and is then sucked into the future.
How does any of this make any sense at all?
We are supposed to conclude that because Mahler died childless, Mailer was never born, and because Mailer was never born he cannot now exist. Thus his existence ceases, and he is not there. Yet he was there, and his existence is the direct cause of the injury in Dave's arm and of the temporal gate that awaits him a few feet away. If Mailer now never existed, then he never existed five minutes ago, never came through the portal, never created the portal, never did anything he has done in the movie. So what would really happen?
The problem is the more complicated by the mistakes already made. If American Mailer accidentally sent a stealth bomber to Weisbaden, 1943, changing history such that Germany bombed Washington and won the war, then in 1993 there is no stealth bomber and no teleporter program by means of which to send it to the past; we covered this already, but it complicates our situation now. The stealth bomber now is as much "never born" as Mailer. The only plausible resolution is that somehow Niven's Law means that once the past has been changed it remains changed unless someone from the future changes it; that is, once the bomber has come to the past, it exists in the past even if its creation in the future and trip to the past are undone. Yet if that is so, then it applies equally to Mailer: once he has come to the past, he exists in the past even if his actions cause him to cease to have come into existence in the future. While this resolves the problem of the Grandfather Paradox, it is not what happens in the film.
If we ignore the problem created by the bomber and assume that somehow Mahler obtained the bomber and used it to win the war, and if we ignore the problems related to Dave's presence in 1993, we reach yet another infinity loop. This, though, may be one of the most complicated looping sawtooth snaps represented in any film, even once we eliminate the intervening infinity loops. We will set it aside to address next.
Meanwhile, if German Mailer does not instantly cease to exist, he should be able to kill Herdeg and return to the portal himself, to be transported back to 1993, arriving in yet a different future in which America won the war but he was born in the NAZI German empire that never existed. Of course, time ends at that point--for the same reasons that this Dave Herdeg cannot be in that universe, that Friedreich Mailer cannot be in this one.
The death of Friedreich Mahler, father of Friedreich Mailer (whether the German or the American), created one of the most complicated sawtooth snaps of any film. We are going to attempt to examine it.
The universe is trapped, repeating these four histories perpetually, and the only good news is that there can be no sequel to this movie.
The ending is of course impossible; as we saw, there is no future to which Dave Herdeg can return. However, in that last scene there is a detail that reminds us of another problem, a very significant problem, with this film. Jess is in the stands at the little league game.
To refresh your memory, Jess is the girl who leads the resistance group that rescues Dave from the military police, takes him into their custody to deliver to Longstreet, and leads the raid which puts him in the time vortex to travel to 1943. This last she does with full knowledge that if he is successful, the world she knows will never have existed. She is probably the closest thing to a romantic interest the hero has in this film, and the hero is going to erase her entire universe.
Yet there she is, at the baseball game.
This is doubly odd because in the altered history she indicates that she is sterile, a casualty of the bomb. We do not know her age, but she is clearly considerably younger than fifty, so she was born quite some time after the 1943 attack. At a Little League game, we assume she is mother of one of the players. That means her sterility in the other history is a genetic defect from the radiation; it also underscores our genetic problem, a problem which we ought to have noticed in connection with Mailer. We have an original history in which Americans, mostly men, died in significant numbers fighting a war in Europe and the Pacific. We have an alternate history in which those men probably did not die, but millions of Americans died when bombs were dropped on Washington, D.C. If Jess is thirty-five years old, she was born in 1958; that is fifteen years after the bomb dropped, and it is highly unlikely that her parents would have met in both histories, never mind had the same child.
Similarly, the Mahler who is a German war hero blamed for the loss of his superweapon will have a very different life from the Mahler who is a German scientist grabbed by the American government to do research in America. That this man would have had the same child in both iterations of time, even if we allow that he may have been married already in 1943 and that his son was born late in his life, is incredibly improbable. We know that he was childless at the pivotal moment in his life; for everything else in his life to have changed except the son he has not yet fathered would only be possible if Mailer himself has already been conceived and his father does not know it, which makes our future scientist forty-nine years old--possible, but it does not seem so. It would also mean that the death of Mahler would not be the undoing of Mailer.
Add to this that Allison married Dave in the original history, but not in the alternate history, and we again have the problem that relationships have changed--not only has Benjamin not been born, it is likely that an entire generation has changed noticeably, as Allison marries someone else who does not marry whom they would have, who marries someone else, and the world is very different. Count Jess in that change as well--if indeed she is a Little League Mom, she has changed the list of who is born in this world. You cannot have a parallel universe in which some things are seriously different but the same people are born at the same times and places anyway.
So although it would be nice to imagine Dave finding a new relationship with the girl he met under very different circumstances only he remembers, on some level it merely adds insult to injury in a film that has been impossible repeatedly throughout.