Time Travel Movies and the Paradoxes Within

I saw this on Gizmodo last night and it’s pretty emblematic of everything I feel about time travel movies as a genre. For instance, in Hot Tub Time Machine [spoiler alert!] everyone comes back to the future and–as far as we can tell–just slips right into their glossy new lives. And I don’t get how that works. You can’t just start RUNNING a recording studio/production house. You can’t just be married to someone for 20 years and then come back and not know them. I’m confused.

Anyway, I posed the above to my personal sounding board, and the only reply I got was from Berman:

Before I even watch, I’d like to put out my long held “Back to the Future vs. Bill & Ted” time-travel…debate, I suppose. We’ve all seen both (I’m assuming), so I don’t think I’ll need much backstory.

Back to the Future, obviously, involves going back in time so that the present changes. By making things happen a little differently in the past, present circumstances are completely altered.

In Bill and Ted, however, there is a scene at the end that is eye-opening. I’ll let the IMDB quote section set the scene:

Bill: If only we could go back to two days ago before your dad lost his keys, and steal them
Ted: Well, why don’t we?
Bill: Cuz we don’t have time, dude.
Ted: We could do it after the report
Bill: Oh yeah! Where should we put ’em?
Ted: How ’bout behind this sign?
Bill: Ok. [looks behind sign, finds keys] Woah! It worked! Right, so when we’re done with the report, we have to remember to do this or else it won’t happen. Except it did happen! Ted it was you who stole your dad’s keys!

In other words, the present already accounts for all time travel! They’re going to remember to steal the keys, because if they didn’t the keys wouldn’t have been there in the first place. I’ve thought about it and have decided this is probably the more realistic portrayal of time travel, though it is one that would pretty much leave you with no movie. So in BTTF, under these principles, the present would not have changed by Marty going back to 1955 because it would have already been accounted for.

And of course Bill and Ted itself violates this principle by taking past historical figures out of their own times, but we need to ignore that for the sake of this “analysis.”

And now to actually watch the video…

Register your theories/rants in the comments.


About chris

One Response to Time Travel Movies and the Paradoxes Within

  1. Matthew says:

    Too bad I couldn’t just think about leaving this comment and then discover that it had written itself. #sigh.

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