It’s fitting that I hear news that reminds me of time travel on the eve of my inaugural “Retro-Journal” blog entry describing events of twenty years ago: DarkHorizons.com says there will be a remake of the Jean-Claude Van Damme movie Timecop, only thirteen years after the original’s release (and just the other day I was marveling that remakes of Hellraiser and Near Dark might be afoot after only twenty years — maybe they’ll eventually shoot the original and the remake of a film back-to-back — sort of like Gus Van Sant’s Psychos).
The news induces what Chuck Blake (who featured prominently in yesterday’s blog entry) and I have referred to, since high school, as “timelash” or alternately “falling down a time tunnel” — that is, the sense that time is passing so quickly that one is losing control over reality, an idea poetically captured by Chuck’s favorite band, Rush, in the song “Time Stand Still” (well, it’s pretty touching for a song by Ayn Rand fans with butt-kicking drums — interesting aside: if you think I’m a nerd, once when I mentioned Aimee Mann to Chuck, he replied, You mean that woman who does the backing vocals on “Time Stand Still”?).
We weren’t too worried about rapid aging back in high school, but circa 1985, time travel did figure prominently in our favorite sci-fi series and my favorite comic book. And aside from some brilliant plot gymnastics in a couple third-season episodes of Babylon 5, movies and TV rarely get time travel “right” even by their own stated rules-of-the-game — not that time travel fully makes sense to begin with, of course. Timecop happens to have been, in my estimation, one of the worst offenders, so I am baffled and disoriented on multiple meta-levels to hear they’re remaking it.
The rule clearly laid down at the beginning of the movie is: when a time traveler (such as Van Damme) alters the past, he remains unchanged — so that when he goes back to the future, people there have to fill him in on the details of the new timeline created. That is, he is now something of an outsider to history. Yet at the climax of the film, villainous Ron Silver time travels and laughs off his own imminent destruction (while he’s visiting the past) by a bomb blast, saying that since he’s time traveling from the future and altering the past, none of this will have mattered/happened and his future self will be just fine, with the implication he will never have made the time trip in the first place. So now the time traveler supposedly gets “erased” along with the old version of history.
Silver’s version of how time travel works is about as logical as Van Damme’s — but they shouldn’t both be in the same damn movie, especially not at a climactic moment dependent upon what rules we think we know about what’s going on. Either the time traveler changes with the timeline or he doesn’t, but you can’t have it both ways, you bastards!! Hollywood’s getting a little better at keeping these internal-sci-fi-consistency things (about which I’ve obsessed at length before) straight, as real nerds age and rise to power there, but it’s touch and go.
One good retro-time-spanning thing to come out of Timecop, though: a cover by the Smithereens of the Outsiders’ song “Time Won’t Let Me,” a CD of which was given to me years ago by Dawn Eden, through whom I was also lucky enough to meet nice Smithereens lead singer Pat DiNizio, once a skinny neo-beatnik guy and now a portly former Senate candidate for the Reform Party in New Jersey — but still rockin’ on a regular basis (and somewhat conservative).