After alien invasions and Samuel L. Jackson appearances, time travel is the next best plot device Hollywood can inject into a film to maximize audience attendance.
The latest example: Men In Black 3
(released next week -- in 3D!), in which Will Smith goes back to the 1960's to meet a younger version of Tommy Lee Jones' Agent K (this time played by Josh Brolin). Hilarity and a catchy, non-offensive rap tune will no doubt ensue.
Later this summer, Joseph Gordon Levitt and Bruce Willis will appear together in Looper about an assassin sent back in time to off himself. As a fan of the genre, I'll no doubt see both of these movies -- only to be disappointed as soon as the theater lights go up.
The esteemed Dr. Emmett Brown once said that time travel was too dangerous to be used - whether for fear of ripping the space time continuum or simply angering obsessive dorks over plot inconsistencies.
These kinds of stories are hard to pull off, but with each passing blockbuster, time travel rules become blurred and logic falls to the wayside in favor of a convenient deus ex machina.
The devil is always in the details, so the following serves as a deconstruction of some of the most popular, but greatest offenders in the time travel genre.
3. Back To the Future
The first Back to the Future film operates off of the notion of a "Grandfather Paradox," in which a time traveler who goes back in time and kills his grandfather cannot be born and therefore cannot go back in time in the first place. However, this logic completely falls apart as the movie goes on.
The film posits that if Marty McFly's would-be parents do not kiss at the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance, Marty and his siblings will never be born. However, if Marty never existed, how did he go back in time to disrupt his parents' first meeting?
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Without Marty's interference in 1955, George McFly and Lorraine Baines would meet normally, eventually be married and have children, one of which would take up with an eccentric physicist and travel back in time in a nuclear powered DeLorean.
2. The Terminator Series
Aside from oh-so many inherent paradoxes and the two crappy sequels that completely demolish James Cameron's carefully crafted canon, the main problem with the Terminator movies is Skynet's time travel technology.
In the first film, Kyle Reese informs Sarah Conner (and all of us in the audience, by extension) that that only living, organic tissue can be transported in time - therefore clothes weapons are unable to come through the time portal. Keep in mind, this quote comes from Michael Biehn, with a luxurious head of mid-80's hair.
Fifth graders everywhere will tell you that the fibers beyond our dermal layer are dead protein cells - so Reese, Arnold, and that T-X from part 3 should have been completely bald after emerging onto our timelines.
1. Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure
Two hours before their history report is due, Bill S. Preston Esquire and Ted "Theodore" Logan arrive at the Circle K (which is actually at Hardy and Southern in Tempe) and run into past versions of themselves.
Their guide, the late George Carlin explains their temporal error by telling the boys that "no matter what, the clock in San Dimas is always running." At this time, the boys fail to realize that they have a TIME MACHINE.
As demonstrated later in the series, the Wyld Stallyns have the ability use the TARDIS knock-off for their benefit (notably stealing Officer Logan's keys and building their super group) With this kind of power at one's disposal, Pacific Standard Time rapidly becomes irrelevant.