There are many challenges with time travel. Not only is there the biggest hurdle of actually travelling in time, but there are numerous hazards involved with breaking the space-time continuum. Even if traveling to the future can spoil some of life’s surprises, traveling to the past is much more dangerous. Changing things in the past can drastically affect the future, even if these things seem menial or insignificant at the time. Needless to say, it doesn’t matter in which direction in the time stream you travel, the return trip will always be the most challenging. People sometimes don’t realize that, in order to successfully travel through time, you need to do it twice! Unless you want to stay in the new time, you must return to the past, or go back to the future. This week’s two films examine the challenges of getting back to the future.
X-Men: Days of Future Past
Length: 131 minutes / 2.18 hours
One of the reasons time travel is so appealing is that it allows us to go back and fix certain events and actions which led to our dystopian present. This “Deus ex Machina” allows a time traveler to arrive back in the future with the status quo reinstated. Of course, the time traveler won’t know if their adjustments on the past worked unless they can get back to the future. Depending on how far back in the past they went, they might be able to wait it out, not needing to travel immediately to the present they left. Another alternative is to send someone who doesn’t age. In this way, there is only the need to travel backward in time. Especially if the time traveler isn’t the expert in time travel, this method is the safest way to change the past, as it doesn’t require a return trip. However, it still hinges on sending an immortal into the past.
The immortal Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is chosen to go back to the 1970’s from a dystopian future where all mutants are being exterminated. With his regenerative powers, he is able to be sent far enough into the past to prevent the implementation of the Sentinel program by Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage). As his future consciousness links to his past self, he sets out to find Professor Xavier (James McAvoy/Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender/Ian McKellen). These two powerful mutants are the only ones who can stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from her assassination of Trask, which would lead to her capture and the eventual upgrades of the Sentinels. While Magneto uses the Sentinels to attack President Nixon, Mystique still holds the key to whether or not the future will change.
Back to the Future: Part III
Length: 118 minutes / 1.96 hours
Because time travel is such a difficult skill to master, there are always risks of becoming stuck in the new time period. While the future will have new technology that might allow for easy transit back to the past, the opposite is not necessarily true. In fact, if the time traveling device is damaged in the past, it may be impossible to go back to the future. This was the challenge in the first Back to the Future movie, as the nuclear power supply for the flux capacitor was no longer an option to provide the needed electrical energy to travel back to 1985. Fortunately, through a predicted lightning bolt, the electricity powered the flux capacitor and returned Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) to his original timeframe. Unfortunately, by the end of Back to the Future Part II, the time traveling expert, Dr. Emmet Brown (Christopher Lloyd), gets trapped in 1885, requiring his rescue.
Marty’s reason for traveling to 1885 is the discovery of a tombstone with Doc Brown’s name on it. The date on the tombstone is a few days after Doc sent the letter to Marty in the future, informing him of his temporal location. After enlisting the help of the 1955 Doc Brown, Marty uses the DeLorean to arrive in 1885. Unfortunately, once he gets there, the car is damaged and cannot reach the necessary speed to travel through time. With no way to fix the car, Marty finds Doc and they plan to use a train to push the DeLorean fast enough to get to 88 miles per hour. As they enact their plan, Doc falls in love and his name disappears from the tombstone. However, Marty’s name might appear there, as he has made a few enemies in town. With time being of the essence, they manage to tie up most of the loose strings in town before “borrowing” the train to use for the time travel experiment.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 time traveling tales