6 things we’ve learned about time travel

Beware dwarfs and shoddy Irish-built time-machines, and be sure not to touch yourself if you're heading out of your own decade...

Time Bandits

The upcoming release of Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel (now shunted back to April 24th in case you’re hunting for it around now) has taken the usual beer fuelled banter about temporal travel and turned it into an amusing guide for anyone who has ever seriously considered a trip through time.

In honour of the film’s release we’ve looked back over some fine educational films to look at what cinema has taught us about tachyons, temporal anomalies and time travel.

1. Never travel with dwarves – Time Bandits (1981)

What we learnt: Time travel is rarely a solitary pursuit in movieland and whether you’re turning back the clocks with a crazy-eyed scientist (Back To The Future) or that chick from Sex And The City (Flight Of The Navigator) someone is bound to come along for the ride. Which is fine, so long as they’re not dwarves. If Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits has taught us anything, it’s that dwarves are not to be trusted with portals through space and time. Invariably they’ll cause havoc before playing into the hands of an evil genius and require saving by the unlikely combination of an 11-year-old boy named Kevin and the supreme being.

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What we’d go back and change: We’d replace the dwarves with Oompa Lumpas, a solution that is similarly economic on space, but which replaces the mischievous dwarf genes with a strong work ethic forged in the slavelike chocolate pits of Wonka’s factory.

2. Pack a spare set of clothes – The Terminator films (1984 – 2003)

What we learnt: No matter if you’re an uber attractive fembot, the governor of California or a ratty unkempt member of the human resistance, you’ll have to show a bit of skin as you emerge foetus-like from the time stream. Of course this offers gratuitous opportunities to admire the machine/human form in all its glory. But those of us who are not champion bodybuilders or former models would do well to pack a spare pair of clothes, or at least try to park our time sphere where we can hide our modesty. But that’s right, we can’t because only organic matter can go through time, can it? Still, all joking aside, what is truly terrifying about James Cameron’s iconic film is the fact that OJ Simpson was originally mooted to play the unstoppable cyborg, but was considered too nice to believably play the mechanical killer. A slice of irony I will leave you to devour all by yourselves.

What we’d go back and change: Why go back to 1984? And then again to 1991 after Sarah has had a chance to train; surely a more calculated plan would have been for Skynet to head back to the 1800s and kill old Ma Connnor where all Reese would have had to defend the future of the human race would have been a musket and a rapier.

3. Remember to turn it on – Austin Powers: The Spy who Shagged Me (1999)

What we learnt: Any evil genius can build a “time machine”, but this “time machine” needs to be turned on if you are going to “travel through time”. Of course, you’ll need to invest heavily in a coffee franchise in order to develop the start-up capital required to construct the machine and you’ll most likely end up causing innumerous paradoxes which your disappointment of a son will be all too pleased to point out to you.

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What we’d go back and change: We’d ensure that discussions about “time travel” no longer requires the use of speech marks in order to avoid the repetitive strain injuries that inevitably creep in after explaining the concept to one’s minions.

4. When this baby hits 88mph you’re going to see some serious shit – Back To The Future trilogy (1985 – 1990)

What we learnt: Time machines come in all shapes and sizes. Whilst you may think the technology to propel you through temporal wormholes would require a similar amount of space to the large haydron collider, they can, in fac,t be mounted into chairs (The Time Machine), consist of a mess of wires and masks (La Jetee/12 Monkeys) or simply be mounted into an ill-fated Irish built sports car. Of course, your time machine will need fuelling and more often than not, when you wind up in the past, or indeed the future, you will have damaged your vehicle in some way or run out of whatever sort of juice powers it.

What we’d go back and change: If we did it all again we’d go back and tell our past selves to pack a spare flux capacitor, or at least to take a book containing the meteorological data for the next few months, just in case we miss the famous Hill Valley storm whilst we’re out impersonating underwear magnates and almost sleeping with our mums.

5. Don’t touch yourself Timecop (1994)

What we learnt: It’s a lesson we all might heed whether there’s time travel involved or not, but the consequences are far worse than blindness if this jewel in the Van Damme crown is to be believed. JCVD has taught us many a valuable lesson down the years, but in his time as a temporal cop he forgoes the usual gymnastic demonstration to inform us that “The same matter cannot occupy the same space” before shoving the film’s villain into his older self, creating what can only be described as a human bancmange.

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What we’d go back and change: We’d go back to 1994 and tell JCVD that one day he’ll not look back fondly on his work in upcoming films such as The Quest, Maximum Risk and Desert Heat and as strange a decision as this might sound, he’d be better spent biding his time until a very clever French director puts him in a pseudo autobiographical film.

6. Time travel is a most excellent way to complete your homework assignment – Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989), Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991)

What we learnt: Principally that San Dimas high school football rules! But also no matter how unappealing the completion of your history assignment may seem, a future utopian society may be based on your amateurish skills as a guitar player, so you’d better pull your finger out. Of course, some of us have to hit the books and aren’t able to call up a tran-dimensional phonebooth; and whilst we wont be able to put together a who’s who of historical show and tell, we also won’t have to deal with our evil selves or Genghis Khan as he runs amok in the mall.

What we’d go back and change: It’s a school boy error but you never leave France’s most famous military leader with your kid brother, who’s bound to lose him, especially when there are water parks and ice cream parlours to act as distractions.

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