Back to the Future

Well, let’s say this first.  What a great telling of paradoxes in the time travel genre.  First, there’s the question about whether a time traveler and/or a time traveling device would run into anything if leaving one time and entering another.  With the DeLorean, this is displayed even more so, because the Flux Capacitor’s power is directly related to the speed of the car.  So, when the car reaches 88mph, the Flux Capacitor generates the necessary electrical power to send the car into the designated time.

Now we have to contend with not only a car reappearing in an area that may already be occupied by something or someone, but the car is moving in a lateral direction as well, at 88pmh!  So, when Marty McFly travels back in time for the first time, he runs through a corn field, a scarecrow and through a barn door where the DeLorean stops inside as it crashes into bales of hay.

Then comes the idea that you should not tamper with the past.  The slightest instance could result in catastrophic consequences!  “GREAT SCOTT!”  Butterfly Effect, anyone?  So, when Marty accidentally “falls” into the lap of his mother’s home, she becomes smitten with him, and therefore, the chain of events that originally led to her meeting Marty’s father, George, no longer exists. 

Now, Marty has to convince his mother that he’s not for her, convince George (dad) that he’s good enough for Lorraine (mom), and convince mom that George is a worthy mate!  All the while, he must deal with Biff, the local bully/thug. 

And during all this, with the Mom/Dad path disrupted, Marty begins to FADE!  Without his parents meeting, and ultimately hitting it off, he will never be born.  Therefore, his very existence in the past could result in his death long before he’s even born!!  Wrap THAT around your noggin!  “This is heavy,” indeed!

All in all, the movie shows intelligence in the way that it tells the time travel story, but also incorporates enough action, comedy and love story to keep everyone’s attention.  And even if you don’t completely follow the science of science fiction, you’re still okay, because the script allows it to be told in a way that puts you at ease if you don’t completely “get it.” 

This is a great flick; a classic from an era in America that was filled with great achievements in entertainment…the ’80s!! 

The acting is superb, the direction is flawless and the script is a thing of beauty.  There aren’t many movies that Spielberg has done that you can say a lot of bad things about.  No change here.  And Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox display an on-camera chemistry that may make you want to meet the characters in real life…if they were real, that is.

Overall, I would give this a 9 out of 10.  I would recommend this for anyone interested in any number of genres.




12 Monkeys (based on La Jetee)

In the year 1996, nearly five billion people were wiped off the earth by an unkown deadly virus.  In the year 2035, where only about one percent of the population is still living underground, a group of scientists have created a means of time travel.  The “volunteers” that are chosen to return into the past are prisoners of this new time.  One of these prisoners is a man named James Cole (Bruce Willis) has been chosen to return to 1996 to discover the origins of the virus.  He is told that the “Army of the Twelve Monkeys” were the people guilty of the pandemic.  Cole is accidentally sent to 1990 where he meets Kathryn Railly, a psychiatrist played by Madeleine Stowe, and a mental patient, Jeffrey Goines (Brad Pitt), who both aid (in their own ways) with his mission.

This movie is based on the short film, “La Jetee” by Chris Marker.  The basic elements of “La Jetee” are used in the film.  James Cole has memories of the past, when he was a child at an airport, where he witnessed a man being killed.  He travels to the past and meets a woman that he does fall in love with.  While the memories alone could offer an interesting take on time travel, David Webb Peoples (screenwriter) adds to the story by incorporating the Army of the Twelve Monkeys, actual time travel, an earth-destroying virus, and an insane sidekick of sorts in the mental patient, Jeffrey Goines.

12 Monkeys Trailer

Brad Pitt as Jeffrey Goines (12 Monkeys)

Time travel is possible through the direction of the scientists.  However, the time travelers have no control over when they end up, so it’s almost a hybrid of time travel films–some that can control what happens and the ones where they cannot.  And in some cases, the scientists’ time travel manipulation goes awry and the time travelers end up in random times; sometimes not even remotely close to the intended destination.

“12 Monkeys” is filled with science fiction, science plausibility, and science fact.  The great thing about the film is that it offers action, drama, mystery, sci-fi, and comedy all at once.  But pay close attention, or you find yourself lost as the story offers great insight to time travel, psychosis, moral imperatives, and more.

A fresh take on the end of the world as we know it, “12 Monkeys” utilizes the superb acting of Willis, Stowe and Pitt (among others) under the direction of Terry Gilliam.  A great part of the story that may go unnoticed by some, is the question, “Can you change the past, thereby changing the present/future?”  Or, is our future already chiseled in stone?  Another question that the movie brings up is, “What is our fate if we continue to explore viruses, manipulate disease, etc?”  When does the study of such things go too far? I was the Nuclear, Biological, & Chemical Defense NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer) in the Corps.  Let me tell you, there are a plethora of powerful “macnasties” out there.  It is completely plausible that we could indirectly cause an incident like the one portrayed in “12 Monkeys.”

I never saw “La Jetee” before seeing “12 Monkeys.”  So, when the end revealed several things, I thought it was brilliant.  Actually, I still do.  This is a film that should interest anyone who likes quality films, and don’t thought-provoking and using their own mind to decipher certain aspects.  Mindless popcorn movies are entertaining, but a movie like “12 Monkeys” will leave with synapses firing on all cylinders when it’s done.

My grade?  9 out of 10.

More Jeffrey Goines (Pitt)

Cole (Willis) meets Dr. Rainey (Stowe)

A Slave of Time

In the process of reading the book The Kindred, it reminded me of a 1991 movie called Brother Future. In addition to the discussions we’ve had in class, I found this to be a great example of the similar ideas that Octavia Butler had in her book. 



 Brother Future is a film that starts off with a boy named Tj. He becomes involved with selling stolen items to his neighbors, and living a life of crime. One day while selling on the streets of his neighborhood, he gets chased by the police and hit by a car. While unconscious, he relives the life of an African American slave living in South Carolina in the year of 1822.

The story begins with him waking up beside a tree. Once found, he is sold onto a slave plantation to a man named Mr. Cooper. While going through the struggles of slavery, he stumbles across many obstacles. One day Tj comes across a palm reader who tells him that in order to go back to his life in the future, he must help impact the life of a slave. In attempts to do just that, he meets a fellow slave named Josiah. They build a bond, and Tj ends up teaching him how to read and write. Unfortunately as a result of this, Tj finds that he is in more trouble than he could have ever imagined. 

…To save myself from spoiling the movie to those who choose to watch it, I will end by stating that because of Tj’s journey to the past, he learns to have more respect for himself, and the heritage of African Americans. I strongly urge any one who’s interested to watch this movie, and compare the similarities to The Kindred, as well as how time travel seems to play a remarkable role in slavery and the African American culture.   

La Jetée and Tempunauts

              While watching the ending of “La Jetée,” I couldn’t help of thinking of “A Little Something for Us Tempunauts.” The characters in each story experience a sort of time loop. In “La Jetée,” the man is forced to travel back in time after the destruction of World War III. As a child he witnesses a man being shot and killed. It later turns out that this event, is him witnessing his own death in the future. In a way, he will continue reliving these events of his life forever, because even though he is dead in that moment, his child self will keep growing up, traveling back in time, getting killed, and witnessing his death in this continuous cycle. This is very similar to the time loop seen in “A Little Something for Us Tempunauts.”

                In “A Little Something for Us Tempunauts,” the main characters choose to relive the same moments over and over as a way of seeking immortality.  The Tempunauts are able to cheat death by dying.  By manipulating the amount of weight in their time traveling device, they are killed and thrust into a time loop. Even after viewing their own funeral procession, they still choose to continue reliving the same few days . The man in “La Jetée” is forced to unknowingly live in a time loop. By the time he can even figure out that he is the man getting shot in his childhood memory, it is way too late to prevent his death. There is no way he can fix the mistake by warning his child self if he has no idea that it exists.

Tyme Sefari Inc.

             “TIME SAFARI, INC.

                    SAFARIS TO ANY YEAR IN THE PAST.

                YOU NAME THE ANIMAL.

                   WE TAKE YOU THERE.

              YOU SHOOT IT.”

                  “TYME SEFARI INC.

                      SEFARIS TU ANY YEER EN THE PAST.

                  YU NAIM THE ANIMALL.

                    WEE TAEK YU THAIR.

                        YU SHOOT ITT. “

Who would think that stepping on a butterfly could change completely change the English language, like illustrated in the two posters above? Before reading “A Sound of Thunder,” the idea seemed completely absurd. In the short story, by Ray Bradbury, people can pay to go back in time to hunt dinosaurs or any other prehistoric creatures to satisfy the ultimate hunting obsession.

The story starts out with the main character, Eckels, who wishes to hunt a dreaded Tyrannosaurus Rex, seeking out a company that has access to a time machine. The company, which is barely allowed to operate by the government, has a guide take the hunters back in time as long as they agree to stay on a narrow path that floats six inches above the earth in order to prevent “destroying an important link in a growing species.” The travel guide, Travis, that leads Eckels’ group on the expedition, explains this by using this lengthy example:

“‘All right,’ Travis continued, ‘say we accidentally kill one mouse here. That means all the future families of this one particular mouse are destroyed, right? Well, what about the foxes that’ll need those mice to survive? For want of ten mice, a fox dies. For want of ten foxes a lion starves. For want of a lion, all manner of insects, vultures, infinite billions of life forms are thrown into chaos and destruction. Eventually it all boils down to this: fifty-nine million years later, a caveman, one of a dozen on the entire world, goes hunting wild boar or saber-toothed tiger for food. But you, friend, have stepped on all the tigers in that region. By stepping on one single mouse. So the caveman starves. And the caveman, please note, is not just any expendable man, no! He is an entire future nation. From his loins would have sprung ten sons. From their loins one hundred sons, and thus onward to a civilization. Destroy this one man, and you destroy a race, a people, an entire history of life. It is comparable to slaying some of Adam’s grandchildren. The stomp of your foot, on one mouse, could start an earthquake, the effects of which could shake our earth and destinies down through Time, to their very foundations. With the death of that one caveman, a billion others yet unborn are throttled in the womb. Perhaps Rome never rises on its seven hills. Perhaps Europe is forever a dark forest, and only Asia waxes healthy and teeming. Step on a mouse and you crush the Pyramids. Step on a mouse and you leave your print, like a Grand Canyon, across Eternity. Queen Elizabeth might never be born, Washington might not cross the Delaware, there might never be a United States at all. So be careful. Stay on the Path. Never step off (Bradbury)!”

This example is a bit extreme, but it gets you thinking about how fragile and complex time travel would be if it actually existed. I’m not going to give away the entire story, but Eckels ends up stepping off the path and accidentally kills a butterfly. To him, this doesn’t seem to be a huge deal, but once he and the other hunters return to the present, things seem to be different somehow. It’s not until they read the sign that was originally posted that they realize the affects of Eckels killing the butterfly. It is truly terrifying to think that something as simple as stepping on an insect can change the future in such a huge way.

(If you want to check out the story, it’s pretty short and very interesting!)

What would YOU do?

A lot of time travel questions are asked of us fairly often by friends, family and others.  One of these questions is, “If you could change one thing in your past, what would it be?”  Well, there are 3 types of answers that I’ve heard.  One, is the “I wouldn’t change anything, because I am where I am…”  Another answer is one where a person chooses a point in time where he or she chooses to correct a single mistake in his or her past, such as choosing to NOT go out with that particular, regretted “date”, or to choose college over the military, etc. On the flip-side, one could decide to choose a “better” of two choices, rather than simply choosing to NOT select the “bad” one.

The THIRD, and quite possibly the least thought of answer is the one where someone chooses a point in time that seems insignificant at face value.

In my past, what would I change?  I honestly don’t know.  I could choose one of a plethora of bad scenarios.  I could choose to NOT date “that girl.”  I could choose to go back and tell myself not to argue with my mother over the phone while I was in another state, because it would be the last time I would speak with her.  Or what about the decision to give in to the idea of divorce, which ultimately resulted in my children living with their mother in Florida.

Perhaps I could choose to return to my past and tell myself to accept my invitation to Duke University rather than joining the Marine Corps.  Or, what about this one?  I could let myself know that I should be further away from the rail while working at the quarry, so I would NOT get hit by the train that resulted in my termination and being without work for over a year, which also resulted my ex-wife prohibiting me from speaking to or visiting my children for almost a year now.

I could also go further into my childhood and find ways to prevent my mother from becoming addicted to prescription meds that led to foster homes and an orphanage, and at one point, led to me dialing 9-1-1 to save my mother from dying from a seizure that resulted from the use of the medications.

I’m not seeking pity.  I’m simply stating that if you choose to return to the past, where do you go?  What do you do?  And more importantly, what happens as a result of the changes?  If I chose to make certain changes in my past, I might be in different situations now.  I may not be married to my wife now, I may not have two beautiful daughters at all.  And I would have missed out on my travels through the military.

So…what would I change?  There is a lot of heartache and hurt that I could remedy by going back and changing something.  However, I don’t think I would choose to manipulate changes at all.  Perhaps if we learn from our mistakes and/or the past in itself, we can manipulate the future.  The past is done, we must live with it, unfortunately.  I think I would choose to accept it, move on, and prevent further instances as such from happening again.  Or, at least, I’d try.

Life is short, you never know when your “time” is up, or the “time” of others.  Make the most of it.  To quote “The Gravediggas” (rap group), “Life is nothing but a form of animated death.”  Fairly poignant actually.  Once we are born, we begin to die as a process of developing.  Outside forces are ever present to accelerate or passing.  So, choose wisely; and think before you (quantum) leap.

“Time Traveler’s Wife”


Before I got into this time traveling literature class, I never put much thought into the complexities of time traveling.  When we started reading “Slaughterhouse- Five,” I noticed a few interesting similarities between the book and the movie “The Time Traveler’s Wife.”

In the “Time Traveler’s Wife,” the main character, Henry, began time traveling as a young boy. He has no control over when or where he time travels. It just….happens. The same thing sort of happens to Billy. Though he doesn’t physically disappear, like Henry, his mind travels to the different, important periods of his life.

In the movie, time traveling is treated as a genetic disease, in which there is no cure. While it doesn’t seem to be terminal, Henry eventually is killed, because he time travels to the wrong place at the wrong time. By doing so, Henry dies and ceases to time travel at the age in which he is killed.  Similarly, Billy Pilgrim ends up being killed because of his uncontrollable time traveling. Because of Billy time traveling, he and Weary become prisoners of war. When Weary dies, Lazzaro plans to avenge his death (which of course, the blame was put on Billy). In the end, Lazzaro has Billy killed.

A quote that is found in “Slaughterhouse-Five,” can be tied back in with what is going on in “The Time Traveler’s Wife”:

“The most important thing I learned on Tralfamadore was that when a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at a funeral. All moments, past, present, and future, always have existed, always will exist (pg. 26).”

When Henry time travels, he travels at his present age at the time. So, he is constantly time traveling at multiple different times. The younger versions of himself that are also time traveling don’t know all of the information that the older versions of himself know. This video is an example of younger Henry meeting Clare, who the older version of Henry met when she was a young child. Though she has known him most of her life, he has no idea who she is.         

Even after Henry dies, his past selves continue to travel through time. So even though he is long since dead, he still is able to meet with his daughter and wife. . So in a way, this case of time traveling equals immortality. This ties directly to the concept of the quote from  ” Slaughterhouse-five.” Even though Henry is dead in that moment and won’t continue to age any further,  he is not dead. He still continues to live on in his past, and his family’s future.