Where You End is Not Where You Begin – Time Travel in Movies


I just finished watching The Edge of Tomorrow – Live.Die.Repeat last night and I found it to be very good (It would earn a B+) for its Sci-Fi Action elements.  It’s not my favorite Tom Cruise Sci-Fi (that would currently have to go to Minority Report), but it is fun nonetheless.

Now, no spoilers, but this movie is part of the “repeating day” genre popularized by Groundhog Day (starring Bill Murray).  There have been several of these repeating day/repeating time/”timeslide” movies in the Fantasy and Sci-Fi genre.  While they’ve mostly been enjoyable, they always seem to mess up the resolution of the story.

Again, without spoiling anything, at the end you’ll find that the main character goes through the classic character arc, but (ultimately) the female lead’s arc is cut short by the time travel that takes place.  For me, this was a bit unsatisfying (and why I wouldn’t give the movie an “A”).

Deja Vu

Deja Vu (starring Denzel Washington) had the same problem, but in its case, it was the female lead who went through the arc and it was the main character whose arc was cut short.

In both cases, neither of the two characters were the fully realized characters at the end of the movie as they were portrayed throughout their struggle in the movie.  And each seems slightly unsatisfying at the end of the movie (even though Deja Vu has one of the most innovative car chase sequences that I’ve ever seen.)

And these are two of the best movies–there are others that are not nearly as effective, such as:

Prince of Persia nextSource Code

Prince of Persia, Next, and Source Code failed to find amazing theatrical success, I would argue, because of the problem of the nature of the “timeslide” and that audiences found the movies’ ending unsatisfying in the extreme.  I know I did–they almost had that “it was all a dream/dream sequence” element to them.

I’ve learned 2 things about writing my own Time Travel stories from watching these movies:
1) Main character and secondary characters MUST change from their experiences DURING the “Timeslide.”
2) Somehow, they need to RETAIN what they’ve learned and MUST understand how the “Timeslide” affected them in order for the ending to be completely satisfying.