In honor of the new year, the League takes a look at a few of our favorite films that reference time and time travel
Happy Death Day
By Tom Moore
Of all the time loop movies that have taken clear influence and inspiration from “Groundhog Day”(1993), the “Happy Death Day”(2017) series has utilized its concept the best. Its story of university sorority girl Tree (Jessica Rothe) attempting to break the time loop she’s stuck in where a baby-faced masked slasher continually hunts her down has been a blast to watch unfold over two movies (so far). Writer/director Christopher Landon and the first film’s writer Scott Lobdell absolutely nailed balancing their brand of horror/comedy with the time loop concept as the relentlessness of the mystery killer through each loop makes them a scary foe and the darkly comedic death resets are always a treat to watch. Tree’s eventual uncaring attitude towards death is constantly funny and it’s really where “Happy Death Day” puts its own spin on the “Groundhog Day” time loop concept.
“Happy Death Day” utilizes its time loop for more than just fun horror/comedy beats though as Tree’s recurring attempts at survival give her a lot of growth as a character. With each loop, Tree begins to see herself in a different light and finds ways to grow as a person. Tree’s relationship arc with Carter (Israel Broussard) is easily one of the most touching aspects of these movies and the personal growth she goes through in changing her perspective on herself is excellently done. Not to mention, “Happy Death Day 2 U” is one of the few sequels out there that’s excellent largely because of how character-driven it is with Tree confronting her grief about her mother that sees her finding emotional closure. More importantly, this series showcases why Rothe is an incredibly well-rounded talent that deserves to be seen as much as possible.
The “Happy Death Day series” is the ultimate modern time loop movie and it’s no wonder that it’s one of the most successful and well-received offerings from Blumhouse.
Time After Time
By Joan Amenn
Perhaps not the best variation on the original story of “The Time Machine” by H.G. Wells, “Time After Time” (1979) is a fun, fast moving romp with Malcolm McDowell playing the author himself. The real star of the film is Mary Steenburgen as thoroughly modern Amy Robbins and future (past?) second wife to Wells. Husband and wife in real life at the time, McDowell and Steenburgen’s chemistry onscreen go far to compensate for the rather cheesy special effects of the late 1970’s. McDowell is particularly good at being both very intelligent yet vulnerable to Steenburgen’s independence and feminist convictions. While the real-life Mr. and Mrs. Wells were not very happy in their marriage, the onscreen pair complement each other perfectly.
Wells is in pursuit of Jack the Ripper (David Warner) through the space/time continuum in an actual time machine that he has designed and built much like he wrote about in his famous novel. Warner has played so many great villains through the years, it’s hard to pick a favorite from “Tron” (1982) to “Titanic’ (1997). As Jack, he is a respectable surgeon and supposed friend to Wells by day, and a mass murderer by night in the shadows of Whitechapel, London. Warner is pitch perfect as a malignant narcissist who revels in the opportunity to continue his slaughter in the much more violent society of 20th Century San Francisco. While there are plenty of plot holes to overlook, the overall story is a surprisingly romantic and enjoyable ride.
The George Pal adaptation of “The Time Machine” (1960) remains the definitive film version of the story, but director Nicholas Meyer, best known for his work on the Star Trek franchise, gives his own spin to the narrative. Now that special effects have evolved to the point of doing the script justice, “Time After Time” might be great material for a remake. As Wells says in the film, “Every age is the same. It’s only love that makes any of them bearable.”
By Nicole Ackman
The first time that I watched Richard Curtis’s “About Time”, I knew that it would be one of my favorite movies within the first fifteen minutes. The 2013 film follows a young man named Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) who learns from his father (the incomparable Bill Nighy) that the men of his family have the ability to time travel. But unlike many time travel movies that have life or death stakes, Tim’s abilities are rather simple: he can only go back to places and times that he personally has been. Naturally, Tim resolves to use his powers to correct mistakes in his love life – first with Charlotte (Margot Robbie) and later with Mary (Rachel McAdams). Gleeson and McAdams have fantastic chemistry and the love story is sweet and engaging, but the film also focuses on Tim’s family from his desire to help his sister (Lydia Wilson) sort out her life to his wonderful relationship with his father. It’s a film that focuses not on the time travel itself but on the idea behind it – how would you act if given a second, or even third, chance to live each day? As Tim learns that even time travel cannot fix everything and that there are consequences to changing the past, it’s nearly impossible to not cry. “About Time” is a very English film from its sensibilities to its supporting cast, which includes small roles for Vanessa Kirby and Richard E. Grant. It has lovely production and costume design, great moments of humor, and a strong script. But maybe most importantly, it’s the sort of film that makes you reflect on the way that you live your own life and perhaps even inspires you to live it a little better. Plus, any film that features a party scene with “Mr. Brightside” blasting is a winner for me.
By Bianca Garner
Ever since its release back in 2014, Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi epic “Interstellar” has always remained one of my favorite films about time travel. Set in 2067, crop blights and dust storms threaten humanity’s survival. The Earth is essentially dying and can no longer sustain any organic life (a scary prediction of what’s to come?). The film follows Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a widowed engineer and former NASA pilot turned farmer, who lives with his father-in-law, Donald (John Lithgow), his 15-year-old son, Tom (Timothée Chalamet), and 10-year-old daughter, Murphy “Murph” (played by Mackenzie Foy as a child and played by the wonderful Jessica Chastain as an adult). After a dust storm, strange dust patterns inexplicably appear in Murphy’s bedroom. Cooper manages to work out that the dust patterns were caused by gravity variations and they represent geographic coordinates in binary code.
He follows the coordinates to a secret NASA facility headed by Professor John Brand (Michael Caine). Forty-eight years earlier, unknown beings positioned a wormhole near Saturn, opening a path to a distant galaxy with 12 potentially habitable worlds located near a black hole named Gargantua. Cooper is recruited to pilot the Endurance to venture into the wormhole along with Amelia Brand (Anne Hathaway), John’s daughter. However, this means that Cooper must leave behind his family, which leaves Murph heartbroken and distraught. The likelihood of Cooper ever returning home is very slim, but it’s a sacrifice he must make in order to save humanity.
At its core “Interstellar” is a film about the power of pure unconditional love. The film focuses on Cooper’s attempts to get back to his daughter Murph and their relationship together. Cooper acts as Murph’s inspiration to become a scientist for NASA and ultimately she is the one to rescue humanity because of her determination instilled in her by her father. Although the concept of time travel is often used in sci-fi films as a form of wonder and spectacle, in “Interstellar” time travel is considered to be something to be wary of. It’s a hindrance, a burden and a barrier that Cooper must overcome. Time is seen as something uncontrollable and unpredictable. Cooper will never get back the time that he has spent away on his mission.
The message we can take away from Nolan’s “Interstellar” is that time is fleeting, and precious so therefore we must never waste a single second with our loved ones. So, for 2022 we should focus on how precious time is and spend it with those we hold dear. By investing time with our loved ones, we can help them unlock their true potential and they can return the same investment in you.