Saturday, June 25, 2016

Too sleepy to figure out time travel

The creators of the movie Synchronicity clearly set out to make a layman's version of Shane Carruth's Primer -- one whose logic can actually be followed.

Whether they succeeded or not is unknown to me, since I was too sleepy when I watched it.

If you lose ten to 20 percent of most films by watching them too late at night, you probably lose 30 to 40 percent of films about time travel conundrums.

I started watching Jacob Gentry's film at about 10:30, and after I'd already watched the trippy Return to Oz -- which I will tell you about tomorrow. But I watched more than an hour before succumbing to sleep, though even then I paused it for one of my trademark "late-night naps," resuming at sometime around 12:30. I was a bit groggier after that, obviously, but I then watched it through to its conclusion without yielding to any more of sleep's seductions.

It wasn't the plot I had a difficult time following -- I know Gentry et al were more successful on that front than Carruth. It was determining whether the inner logic of multiple planes of existence and versions of reality held water. It was determining whether the movie has cleverly reached the point where two versions of one character have arrived in the same timeline and are therefore able to influence each other's "future" actions, or gotten there through gaps in the narrative.

In other words, I understood what was happening, but I didn't understand whether it was particularly cool or not.

It occurred to me that what you want out of a time travel movie is a Keanu Reeves "Whoa" moment. You want that moment when a shrewd imagining of the various causalities manifests itself in a moment of noodle-frying surprise. You want to get a chill at the realization that if X happens, then Y happens, and Y is something you hadn't quite considered as an outcome of X. But it makes perfect sense within the inner logic of the world.

I didn't quite get that with Synchronicity. And it does become complicated enough -- not unlike Primer -- that eventually I was required to take it for granted that the things would happen/are happening the way they say they would/are.

I did get chills during the climax, but not for the reasons I would have expected. It was because even if they hadn't gotten the time travel right -- something I'm still not sure about -- they got the emotion right. Those chills were due to an emotional denouement between two of the characters. And when I'm watching a movie, I always find it more important to get the emotion right than the science/philosophy.

And that's definitely an area where the film succeeds more than Primer.

(You can probably tell I'm not a huge fan of Primer, a movie I've ranted about before, but apparently never in any detail on this blog. I owe it a rewatch, especially in the wake of really digging Carruth's follow-up, Upstream Color.)

I probably won't go back to watch Synchronicity again, to give the science a second chance. Although the movie does a lot with its low budget, it's still the type of movie that needs to bring in someone like Michael Ironside for some perfunctory star wattage. But the probability of successful science combined with the certainty of successful emotion was enough for me to award it three stars -- and a recommendation to anyone reading this.

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