Friday, December 29, 2006

Time Travel

I admit it, I'm kind of bizarre. What I like to read and what I like to watch are often two different things. Why? I have no idea. It may be simply because no one has made any of my favorite books into a movie good enough to change my mind. I don't know. One thing I find more fascinating in film than books is time travel. I ran across a list on the website Sci-fi Signal of what readers declared are the best movies about time travel. They are as follows Time After Time Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home Back To The Future Trilogy The Time Machine 12 Monkeys Planet Of The Apes Army Of Darkness The Final Countdown Bill + Ted's Excellent Adventure Somewhere In Time I have actually seen most of these, though I don't know if I would rank them exactly in this order. But that's not really the point. I guess to me the point is that time travel is such a fantastic idea. What would any of us do if we could travel in time? Would we be the selfish type and simply look for way to profit individually? Or do you fancy that you would be the type who would try to do something for the greater good? Or do you believe that trying to alter history would likely do more harm than good? All interesting things to think about. And have we ever really seen a movie (or read a book) that addresses the issue as well as we'd like? I remember reading Piers Anthony's book from the Incarnations of Immortality series. This is a whole book devoted to the idea of time as something that is managed and can be changed, but I always felt the book fell short. But I often feel that Anthony has a tendency to ramble in his books. What about the movies listed above? I must admit, Time After Time is a personal favorite. It combines the idea of time travel with the horror of Jack the Ripper set loose in the modern world. Add Malcolm McDowell to the list and I'm a happy movie-goer. And Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home is my favorite of the whole series. I don't know if this is because of the time travel element or simply because it was the best one. But I liked the way they tied together how what we do today affects the world tomorrow. A simple concept that they did very well IMO. But I must admit, I am not a fan of Twelve Monkeys. I haven't watched it in awhile, but it didn't do much for me when I watched it. Maybe I'm just not a fan of Brad Pitt in his manic mode. I also enjoyed the lighthearted fare of the Back to the Future series (though the second one kind of stunk) and Bill + Ted. After all, it is kind of fun to watch Keanu Reeves when he still had more than one facial expression. So what do the rest of you look for in a time traveling movie? Is there one out there that you have liked in the past? Or are you still waiting for a decent one to come along? Have you ever read a book on the subject that did it any justice? (H.G. Wells perhaps?) What kind of time travel story would you write?


Jon the Intergalactic Gladiator said...

I've always ben a fan of the two Bill and Ted movies, they were such goofy fun.

One of my favorite time travel books is the Forever War, though it really isn't exactly about time travel.

Stewart Sternberg said...

I loved "Forever War" Jon, and I think of it as a time travel novel. Although thematically it is an antiwar story.

Michael Moorcock "Behold The Man" was somewhat controversial and a good read. A man goes back in time to confront Jesus, discovers Jesus to be in developmentally disabled, and so has to take on Jesus' identity to fulfill prophecy. I told you it was controversial.

Another was Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughter House Five". Billy Pilgrim, the main character, finds himself becoming unhooked in time, leaping between his mundane post WWII existence, to his time as a prisoner of war in the midst of the bombing of Dresden, to his time as a zoo exhibit for the Trafalmadorians. So it goes.

Then, on a smaller scale..a two short stories by Bradbury. The first being "A Sound Of Thunder" which deals with going back in time to hunt dinosaurs. Big mistake.

The second one is charming, from his "Dandelion Wine" novel. The name of the short story is "The Time Machine". I call it a short story because the chapter has been published as such. Not really science fiction, and not really a time machine story, except as a metaphor. Basically Tom and Doug Spalding, two kids, for entertainment spend several afternoon with a lonely old man they call "The Time Machine" because through his memories and stories he relates to the boys he is able to carry them back through time so can relive with him his glorious history.

deslily said...

i've seen most all of those too.
I was always impressed a bit by the fact that director Nicholas Meyer directed the 1979 Time after Time and ST Undiscovered Country.

Mercurial Mike said...

Time travel has always been my favorite Sci-Fi theme. I would like to see more stories on resolving the Time Traveler Paradox What would be the consequences of (for example) changing one's past by murdering one's grandfather. ( a clear violation of the "Prime Directive" for Time Travellers!)

Angela/SciFiChick said...

I love both movies and books that deal with time travel. It's one of my favorite themes in science fiction.

I'd add Frequecy to that list of great Time Travel movies.
And, of course, one of the best TV shows of all time: Quantum Leap.

My favorite books on Time Travel:
Star Trek novels
HG Wells' Time Machine
Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis
Timeline, by Michael Crichton
Quantum Leap novels

This is all I can think of off the top of my head. I'd have to look through my stacks to remember more.

SQT said...

Wow, who knew time travel was so popular?

Thanks for all the book recommendations, I think I have a few to add to my list.

I haven't seen Frequency yet for some reason, though I loved Quantum Leap. I actually forgot about that show.

That seems to be a popular theme in time travel too. People from the future trying to "fix" the past. They did several episodes on Star Trek on time travel too didn't they? I seem to remember one with Joan Collins on the original Star Trek.

Jon the Intergalactic Gladiator said...

Stewart Sternberg said...
I loved "Forever War" Jon, and I think of it as a time travel novel.

You're right, Stewart, It is about time travel. I meant to say that it's not a "go back and change the past" type of story, which is what time travel often involves.

I never did read the sequels to the Forever War, either.

There was an episode of Star Trek TNG guest starring Matt Frewer that was pretty funny. Frewer appeared in a time machine and said he was a scientist from the future. It turns out that he was a con man from the past who got the time machine and was trying to get technology to take back with him in order to get the credit for inventing it.

deslily said...

don't forget that Sliders was a time travel show too.. (john rhys davies, who i love was in that)

Reel Fanatic said...

What's definitely missing from that list is Time Bandits, easily the funniest movie about time travel, and also one of the best

Professor Xavier said...

I've always been into time travel stories, too. I'll be a little more forgiving of otherwise crappy books or movies or TV if they involve time travel. Why am I so interested in it? No idea.

SQT said...

I keep trying to think of what I'd do if I could travel through time, and sad to say I'm not at selfless as I had hoped to be. Mostly I just want to find ways to be rich.

Maybe I'd create Harry Potter before J.K. Rowling had a chance to write it. I don't know though, maybe timing is everything and it would have failed at any other time. I guess lotto numbers are probabably safer. I know, a big powerball, that'd be the way to go.

Stewart Sternberg said...

That's funny SQT, I imagine myself tripping back to 1962 and writing a number of Lennon/McCartney songs before Lennon/McCartney.

And yeah, investing money in Apple or a Microsoft and leaving them for me to pick up years later.

mist1 said...

I am afraid of time travel. I wouldn't be one of the ones to go. I know I'd mess something up on a microcosmic level.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

They were good choices; time travel is always a good story.

jedimerc said...

Some great films, pretty close to what I would have, though I might have Final Countdown higher.

Actually, my favorite time travel story and one I would love to see done (though they did a quick scene of it sort of in Timecop) is 'Guns of the South' by Harry Turtledove. The AK-47 is given to Robert E. Lee during the Wilderness campaign... fantastic. (also, most of Turtledove's alternate histories are great... recommend the Great War series)

As far as one I would write, I wrote one that dealt with time travel mingled with parallel lives and how far would you go to create the life you always wanted, and of course the repercussions of such a decision.

To my mind, every decision we make alters history in some way, just not 'recorded' history. Every thing we say, do, and feel has a repercussion because it affects us on the basest of levels.

Ormondroyd's Encyclopedia Esoterica said...

You forgot Heinlein's "All You Zombies..."