Ultimate Time Travel
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Classification: Plot Device

 

Donnie Darko, the protagonist of the film, is a seventeen year old strange teenager living in Virginia suffering from some serious mental issues (for which he takes medication). Donnie is a social outsider: he has difficulties interacting with his teachers. He is also not very good at making friends. The only person who understands him – at least more than the rest – is his girlfriend, Gretchen.

 

One night, while sleepwalking, Donnie goes outside his house. When he wakes up, he sees a man-sized, horrific looking bunny. The bunny, who calls himself Frank, tells him that in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds, the world will end. The strangeness doesn’t end here: while Donnie is speaking to Frank, an engine falls of a plane and crashes on the roof of Donnie’s house, destroying his room in the process. This bizarre sleepwalking incident saved Donnie’s life!

 

In the next few days, Donnie’s life turns even more surreal than it is. He begins hallucinating about Frank: at first Frank instructs him to vandalize the school mascot. Then he tries to convince Donnie that he can’t get into trouble anymore. Despite taking medications, and even undergoing hypnotherapy, Frank continues appearing to Donnie. Donnie is confused, more so by the fact Frank hints he can see him by usage of Time Travel, thus, making Donnie obsessed with the subject.

 

This is where I stop. I don’t want to say anything anymore, since the rest may spoil the plot.

 

Donnie Darko has one of the most unusual premises I’ve seen. When I first heard of it, I knew I absolutely had to watch it. And it doesn’t disappoint. Although it basically describes the life of one (almost) average teenager in high school: it’s not the average teenage movie by a long shot. Instead, Donnie Darko is a highly atmospheric, gloomy, creepy film, populated with grotesque characters. On top of that, the acting is superb and the soundtrack is exceptional (have you heard Gary Jules’ Mad World?).

 

While watching the movie, at first I was hooked by the big mysteries: Is Frank real? And if so, who is he? Why does he look like a large mutated bunny? Will the world really end in 28 days? But the film is memorable for other reasons. Although I don’t normally like surreal movies, Donnie Darko can be said to be a spiritual journey: it’s as if we are going on a journey with Donnie; during the course of the movie, we start to deeply care about the pitfalls he faces and his overall fate. I rarely get this feeling from movies or books (in fact, the only other example I have is of a novel I reviewed, An Exaltation of Larks).

 

The best part is the ending. It’s the kind of emotional yet unpredictable ending that makes you want to watch the whole thing again. Better yet, if the message speaks to you, you are changed by this story. Uplifted by Donnie’s journey.

 

I know some consider Donnie Darko to be highly overrated. Perhaps that may be true. But it is definitely one of my all time favorites. it is also quite hard to understand at times. Some say that to completely understand it, one must watch all the extra scenes in the special edition DVD – a claim I agree with.

 

In summary, Donnie Darko is not a cult movie by accident: it is thought provoking, surreal and beautiful. Unusually bizarre, and yet highly compelling, Donnie Darko is a must for lovers of the genre. That being said, it is likely that many would probably not like the film for these very reasons.

 


Click to see Donnie Darko (The Director’s Cut: Two-Disc Special Edition) on Amazon

 

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Classification: Personal Alternate Reality

 

In what begins as a typical office movie (i.e. Office Space), we are introduced to Barry Thomas, a lowly officer worker sitting in his cubicle and dreaming of a better future. As we find out, Barry doesn’t really like his job; but he does like fantasizing about Lisa, an attractive, very senior scientist who works for the same firm. Unfortunately Lisa barely even notices Barry; he is so beneath her, on so many levels, that he’s literally insignificant from her perspective.

 

One day, on his way home after finishing work (coincidentally exactly when Lisa finishes her work), Barry witnesses a mysterious gunman driving by. To his shock and horror, the gunman shoots Lisa and kills her on the spot. Immediately afterwards, the gunman disappears. That night Barry goes to a bar and gets really drunk. In a weird turn of events, he somehow gets zapped by a powerful electricity surge – exactly at 12:01am.

 

His very next memory is waking up in his bed, having no clue how he got there. Puzzled, Barry continues with his daily routine. He goes to work, and to his amazement, notices that the day’s events are identical to the events of the day before. Even more bizarrely, no one seems to remember the previous day’s events, including Lisa’s death (which has affected everyone). When he tries to investigate what happened to her, he finds out – to his great shock – that Lisa is not dead at all, and very much alive. But the day’s events repeat themselves perfectly: after finishing work, Lisa gets murdered once again. It is then Barry realizes he somehow has gone back in time and is reliving the previous day’s events.

 

The next day begins, and Barry quickly finds out it’s the same day all over. But this time he refuses to accept this, and begins investigating what is going on. Determined to save Lisa, Barry begins unraveling the mystery, an investigation which leads him to a shady and dangerous conspiracy. However, he has a unique advantage: he can allow himself to do dangerous things, knowing that tomorrow everything will be reset, except for the knowledge he has gained.

 

Will Barry find out what happened? Will he save Lisa? Will he stop this temporal loop? Watch the movie to find out!

 

One of the most appealing aspects of the Time Travel sub-genre, to me, is the witnessing someone’s ability to make different actions, and the effect they have on the final outcome. There aren’t many movies that do that (though it does seem every science fiction show has at least one such episode: Star Trek: The Next Generation, Stargate SG1, etc). 12:01 certainly does an admirable job at this: it offers a good mystery that is slowly unraveled during Barry’s investigation, a fast paced story, and decent acting. Not to mention Jeremy Piven as Barry’s sidekick. Overall, it’s definitely an excellent movie. The only reason I’m not giving it an even higher ranking is the fact that it lacks a certain ‘brilliance’ (which Groundhog’s Day had in my humble opinion). If the film had this – how shall I say – unique twist or a philosophical perspective – it could have become a classic. Then again, maybe all that is missing is Bill Murray in the main part. I don’t know. Unfortunately that is not the case.

 

Lacey shared an interesting anecdote with me about 12:01. Apparently, it used to be a series of 15 minute television movies on Showtime (probably) that later evolved to this movie. I never heard of this – shame, probably could have been really good.

 

In summary, 12:01 is a highly entertaining, fun action/sci-fi movie. Definitely recommended.

 


Link to the DVD on Amazon.com

 

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bestimetravel

Classification: Anthology

 

This is an excellent collection of 18 short time travel stories. It includes work by some of the greatest sci-fi authors such as Larry Niven, Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, and Robert Silverberg. Most of these short stories are fairly light, and none is a masterpiece, though some are quite good. My favorites include:

 

A Sounds of Thunder: Ray Bradbury’s famous short story (there’s even a movie!) tells the tale of a wealthy man gone on a time travel trip to hunt dinosaurs in which he accidentally steps on a butterfly. Once he returns to the present, everything is different. This is, by the way, the origin of the ‘Butterfly Effect’ theory. A classic.

 

Rainbird: tells the story of an accomplished inventor who goes back in time to teach himself the lessons he has accumulated during his life, so that he would reach even greater heights. But not always things go as planned. Possibly the best story in the collection.

 

Death Ship: Three astronauts are trapped in a scary temporal loop. Excellent.

 

Timetipping: Jack Dann’s excellent story describes a world in which everyone can time travel (or ‘Timetip’) in, except for the protagonist, Paley Litwak. Weird but amusing.

 

This is certainly a very good collection that all Time Travel lovers will like – even though I don’t think it qualifies for the title “The Best Time Travel Stories of the 20th Century”…

 


To get this book from Amazon.com



To get this as an eBook from eBooks.com

 

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Time Travel Movies