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Toward A Theory of Time-Travel Movies

Why are we so fascinated with time travel? Time travel movies offer film makers unique possibilities, yet they also inevitably create confusing and contradictory plot malfunctions. Someone should consider the role of time-travel in such films as Back to the Future, Looper, Edge of Tomorrow, Project Almanac, Groundhog’s Day, Interstellar, Primer, Star Trek, Predestination, The Butterfly Project, Men in Black 3, and About Time. Which films simply use time-travel as a convenient plot device and which actually make it integral to the story? Why do some directors fail to account for obvious plot holes introduced by time-travel?

  • On the anime front The Girl who Leapt through Time, The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya and also Steins Gate also talk about time travel. I'm happy to add my own thoughts to the discussion as well. – Jordan 5 years ago
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  • A simple answer is that time-travel, and the nature of relatively, is an ever advancing series of theories and understandings. We may never truly know how it all works, why it works, or what it's full limitations are. The two prevailing theories in regards to time-travel plot holes are that either 1: if you go back and change the past which changes the future, this new future is a fractured timeline that is separate from the original, meaning a different universe. Or 2: if you change the past, that past directly affects the future, and there's only one linear timeline. "Back to the Future" actually considers both of these theories to be one and the same. But who's to say that the timeline Marty found himself in after the events of the first film is actually the same universe he left from? A few other theories to consider are that A. if you go back and try to change the past, you are not actually messing with time, but are a direct participant in it, because the universe "wants" you to change the past. And B. Anything that you attempt to do in order to stop something from happening, no matter what point in time you are, the universe will conspire to stop you, or will conspire to cause you to do something, no matter how hard you try to avoid it. Yes, there are obvious plot holes in some cases, but you'd have to get pretty creative and perhaps even technical in a discussion on this in order to really cover all of the possibilities regarding the logic and methodology behind creating a time-travel concept, and how it applies to a linear story. – Jonathan Leiter 5 years ago
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  • Of course time travel as we like to think of it is entirely impossible at this point in our history. Time is relative all over the universe, and time is always going forwards. There are ways to speed up time: to speed up the flow of it relative to another location. But we have yet to fully discover a direct way in which something or anything can travel backwards in time, let along a phone-booth, a police-box, or a Delorean. So all time-travel plots are completely fictional to begin with. The only logic we can really give them is logic that is likely archaic by this point, but only makes sense because we are naturally taught to understand things by a "cause & effect" relationship. – Jonathan Leiter 5 years ago
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  • I think people are so obsessed with time travel because we as human are so full of regret. I'm willing to bet most of us don't easily "move on" so to speak. What if scenario's plague us, and therefore, it's pretty natural that we obsess over the idea of going into the past and undoing all the things we regret or messed up. – Tatijana 5 years ago
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  • I believe time travel has continued to be a popular motif in contemporary film because it is one of the notable science fiction concepts that remains an impossibility in today's high-tech world. – mcmarkowitz 5 years ago
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  • Interesting...one might say that the story-telling potential for time travel outweighs the need to correct plot holes. – Candice Evenson 5 years ago
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