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#1 Posted by golguin (3842 posts) -

Let's just excuse the plot holes that have nothing to do with time travel and let's not even talk about those that do involve it. I enjoyed the movie enough, but I don't see why it's hard to write about time travel in such a way that doesn't get broken to pieces by the end of the movie. I've seen Back to the Future, but I don't remember it well enough to know if it worked or not. I've seen several anime movies/shows (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Madoka and Stein's; Gate) where it seems to work as nothing really jumped out at me as being broken when I saw them.

When you have so many different rule sets to choose from why is it so hard?

#2 Posted by TruthTellah (8517 posts) -

It is.

#3 Posted by Daiphyer (1307 posts) -

I've written a (short) script that involved time-travel, and trust me, there are so many variables and loop holes you have to cover. The worst is when covering one thing, you end up breaking the other. It's extremely exhausting.

#4 Posted by golguin (3842 posts) -

My philosophy book had a very interesting way of teaching by introducing every new section with a short story illustrating the ideas that would be found in that section. It had a section on time travel and it explained each type of time travel in a way that was easy to follow. The short story illustrating how time travel works was fantastic. I'll see if I could dig it up and maybe post the short story.

#5 Edited by Stimpack (811 posts) -

Obviously not!

#6 Edited by FlarePhoenix (420 posts) -

Because when you change one event in history, you have to consider how it changes everything. Looper was acting under a VERY basic idea of time travel: changing one thing, changed only that one thing. Also, it's fairly clear they didn't put a lot of effort into making the time travel make sense considering the movie itself just went "Fuck... I don't know how to make this make sense, just don't think about it alright?"

The Time Travel stuff I could have forgiven (I have done it in other movies (The first Futurama movie had pretty much identical problems)) if the rest of the movie wasn't so boring. Nothing about it kept me entertained, so I spent most of my time fixating on the stuff that made no sense.

#7 Edited by golguin (3842 posts) -

Okay, I have the little book. It called "Philosophy" and it's written by Thomas D. Davis. The short story on time travel is called "All the time in the world." It's 11 pages and I'm almost done reading it. It's pretty hilarious and I don't remember how it ends so this is pretty gripping stuff. I'll see if I can scan the pages and post it.

EDIT: Okay, I just finished reading it so it took me about 15-20 minutes to read it. I don't believe the story broke at any time since the characters were actively trying to figure out what type of time travel they were dealing it. Would anyone be interested in reading it if I posted it?

Aside from that I don't see how the majority of issues in movies couldn't be fixed by assuming multiple time lines.

#8 Posted by punkxblaze (2956 posts) -

Depends on the type of time travel you're writing. Linear time travel, like Looper or BTTF is difficult thanks to paradoxes, conflicting events, ripples, etc.

Split Time Travel, where altering the past just causes an alternate timeline and nothing in the time traveler's universe changes is easier. Very little consequence. Star Trek plays with that one a lot.

#9 Posted by Daiphyer (1307 posts) -

@golguin: That'd be pretty awesome. Thanks in advance.

#10 Posted by golguin (3842 posts) -

@Daiphyer said:

@golguin: That'd be pretty awesome. Thanks in advance.

I'll do it when I wake up in the morning then.

#11 Posted by Humanity (8801 posts) -

I don't remember Looper having some horrible plotholes due to time travel. The whole movie was about character development and telling this personal story while everything else was background noise. Time travel will always be dumb because it can never make sense and Looper did an alright job at presenting and sticking to its own premise. I guess the point I'm making is that all time travel movies will be inherently bad because its a plot device that doesn't exist in real life and the more they try to explain it in various movies the more jumbled it gets.

#12 Posted by audioBusting (1477 posts) -

I think Looper is a good movie because it doesn't think about time travel too hard, using it as a plot device instead. I think it's just hard to write a good story in the first place, and needing to think about complex time travel rulesets would make it even harder. Then again, stories like By His Bootstraps and Primer that play around with the rules can be fun too.

#13 Posted by DrIntrovert (81 posts) -

No. It's hard to write well.

Looper is like a lot of time-travel fiction in that it's fun until you think about it for more than 10 seconds.

#14 Posted by granderojo (1778 posts) -

Usually I hate time travel in film. Learning to play with timelines is one of the first thing you learn about in film school just due to the craft, and because it's one of the first things you learn many directors end up dabbling in the concept. I didn't find the continuity issues to be an issue in Looper just because I was so deep in that world. I want to live in future Shanghai.

#15 Posted by Vinny_Says (5685 posts) -

@golguin: You should give it a try and post your results here. Write a short story or something.

#16 Posted by Brodehouse (9576 posts) -

It's as difficult to write as anything that breaks physical laws.

#17 Posted by NorthSarge (242 posts) -

Looper is a paradox. I think it was handled pretty well in the scope of the film (there is only so much time to explain a very complicated theory without losing the majority of the audience), and also Bruce Willis basically said "Don't think about it too hard" somewhere in the middleish which obviously makes everything okay.

#18 Edited by PrimalHorse (71 posts) -

It can be pretty tough, I did stuff on time travel for my dissertation at university and I ended up with hundreds of post-it notes on my wall with lines drawn all over the place ensuring that I knew what was influencing what and what paradox could fold into another, I felt like a mad scientist it was great. I think the problem with looper is people wan't time travel to be neat and circulate back to the point of origin, when often causality and other tropes are in direct conflict Some times its best to just accept time travel mess ripples off and causes crazy shit but this set of time lines is what you get to see. That's how I looked at looper.

If you enjoy time travel though, check out Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel. Its a great little British movie that has a lot of fun with the tropes of time travel and does a good job at covering the major tropes while being pretty funny with its limited looking budget.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0910554/

#19 Posted by MikeGosot (3227 posts) -

No. But it's hard to write a good history involving time travel without any plot holes. I tried to do it once and it was... Bad. Baaaaad. So bad.

#20 Posted by Mirado (990 posts) -

@golguin: Because it's intellectually taxing, and by extension it's hard to be clever about something you don't (or, honestly, can't) fully understand. Most writers have trouble keeping a linear story from developing plot holes, only a handful can keep a story that isn't presented chronologically from the same, and I've yet to meet one that can make a time travel movie plot-hole free without either resorting to comedy, hand-waving or making it incomprehensible to the audience (i.e. Primer, which is a good film but one that practically requires multiple viewings to wrap your head around). The very idea of time travel isn't easy to comprehend, so no "easy" solutions or explanations will work.

However, that isn't Looper's biggest problem. Bruce Willis does a good job of getting you to try and break free of the "poke holes in it" mindset that most moviegoers like myself would have when going to a film like this, but no amount of hand waving will fix the fact that the last act of the film feels tonally out of place with the rest. Without spoiling anything for anyone who hasn't seen it, it feels like the whole movie does a weird left turn about 2/3rds through, and it wastes its time focusing on the weaker elements of the setting rather then fleshing out the world that you are dropped into.

But, that's just my take. :D

#21 Posted by Do_The_Manta_Ray (568 posts) -

@golguin: I'll begin with congratulating you on 999 posts, mate. As for writing around the concept of time-travel, I believe that it's your fundamental approach to it as a design that determines how difficult it is going to be. Time-Travel is, and I'm sure will remain, complete and utter fiction and as such, any theories we can establish are flawed by the exposure we've had to the topic as each and every author's (or screenwriters) view of what it means varies from the other. Time-travel itself, is usually described as something quite simple; you find a method and so you move through time. It's the consequences, the aftershocks, that tend to lead to complications. Paradoxes, yet these are all the very epitome of individual creativity in writing, because whilst adhering to the law of action and reaction, everything past that point becomes subjective and relative for the author themselves. Let's take a look at the same scenario played out in a number of ways as per how one might interpret "time-travel". Let's assume, for these examples that you travel back in time in order to ensure someone you care for survives an accident.

Option A: you manage to do so, and as such, in the future, you find that this person is alive and well, and life has changed accordingly, with ripple upon ripple of side-effects, many that could force you to reconsider your initial choice as is the tendancy of dramatics.

Option B: you manage to save them initially, but find that, as it so often is, the concept of fate is too tightly interlinked with the concept of time, and as such, said person dies in a similair fashion the moment you let your guard down.

Option C: saving said person causes time itself to, shall we say, break apart until it's own weight, and any number of dramatic consequences occur on a catastrophic scale.

Option D: saving said person works, but upon returning to your own world, you realize they're still dead. Taking yet another trip back, days after you saved them, they are well and good. Here is where the concept of different layers of time, time-lines come into play. You can change the past, but that will not have any consequence on your own present.

Option E: you save said person, and return home once more. On your return, your own memory of the incident has been wiped; after all, if nothing had ever happened to said person in the first place, why on earth would you need to go back in time to remember it?

Now, what if we work under the assumption that time is less of a straight line and more of a spiral, and actions that others have committed through time-travel need to be repeated by their past selves, as it is often seen in media? Options A to D allow for this to theoretically occur and be repeated any number of times; option E however, would completely and utterly ruin that theory as the loss of memory and impulse to save said person would have been gone from you, which means you'd have saved the person and yet you wouldn't have. In other words, it simply wouldn't make sense.

Now this is just skimming the topic; there are so many variables to account for, say, what happens if you meet your past self? Is it even possible to do so? And blah blah, yahdi yahdi. It's horribly contrived, but the point is that in the end, it's personal and subjective to each person. You, yourself, choose how complicated it must be, for time-travel is a dissapointing day-dream and nothing more. Bound to the rational only in that it's tied to our own world and that of a single law.

Also, looper was pretty good.

#22 Posted by Phatmac (5721 posts) -

People can be a bit nitpicky about time travel stuff. Looper even has a scene with Bruce Willis basically telling his past self to not worry about the logistics of time travel during the diner scene. Time travel was a way to make the story come true but I don't think it was trying too hard to keep any semblance of realistic time travel.

#23 Posted by Ramone (2959 posts) -

It's impossible to write without plot holes because time travel backwards is completely impossible, illogical and paradoxical.

#24 Edited by XChairmanDrekX (280 posts) -

I think Steins Gate did a pretty damn good job of having a heavy time travel-esque plot while avoiding plot-holes or inconsistencies. Mostly because it incorporated the many worlds theory instead of time being a straight line. In fact, the many worlds theory may be the only way to explain away time travel without it leading to countless plotholes and inconsistencies.

#25 Posted by Jams (2959 posts) -

I didn't read all the replies but I just wanted to say that I think writing time travel falls apart when you try to fit it into how you want your story to work. I think it works best if you fit your story to a theory on time travel. I'm thinking about Looper in particular. They wanted it to fit how they needed it and it completely fell flat for me. I actually don't like that movie very much because of it.

#26 Posted by rentfn (1277 posts) -

I would guess Time Travel is hard to write. I really enjoy watching those movies. I liked Looper but it wasn't the best in the genre. I really liked the Forgien film Timecrimes. It worked great. This might be unpopular opinion but I couldn't stand a movie like Primer that is so complex and full of it's self that the writer and director "refuses to explain it" because he wants people to "figure it out for themselves." I think I understand most of Primer but if the person who creates something that complex doesn't want to talk about it, just seems rude and seems like it would be an amazing conversation. I guess he also was in touch with Rian Johnson, the creator of Looper.

#27 Posted by Little_Socrates (5675 posts) -

Looper is intentionally paradoxical and "filled with holes."

Here's the director Rian Johnson's approach, as pulled from this article:

"Part of my logical construction of how time travel works included a certain amount of messiness - instead of clean timelines and absolute logic, the notion that the universe is a pocket watch where everything works exactly perfectly," says Johnson by phone. "I more approached it that the universe is an organic body and time travel is introducing a foreign element into it. There's a certain amount of messiness to the way the universe integrates this paradoxical new element; that also cut us a little bit of slack, I guess."

Johnson also pointed towards this article, saying ""In one essay, charliejane has said nearly everything I've ever wanted to say regarding time travel's use in fiction."

So, well, it definitely didn't bother me after the fact. It didn't bother me while watching, either.

Film Crit Hulk is a big fan of Looper, and it prompted him to write a long article about movie-stopping solutions and "plot holes" in general. And, uh, I do mean long. But it's a great read for those who can get through it.

Those who want more Looper can read an absolutely, ridiculously long essay (27000 words) here. And yes, it's still all in caps. No, I am not actually FCH shilling his work on Giant Bomb, I'm just a big fan. Okay, I'll shut up now.

#28 Posted by Animasta (14648 posts) -

@XChairmanDrekX said:

I think Steins Gate did a pretty damn good job of having a heavy time travel-esque plot while avoiding plot-holes or inconsistencies. Mostly because it incorporated the many worlds theory instead of time being a straight line. In fact, the many worlds theory may be the only way to explain away time travel without it leading to countless plotholes and inconsistencies.

yeah, i tend to agree with this.

#29 Edited by Fredchuckdave (5327 posts) -

@Mirado said:

@golguin:

it feels like the whole movie does a weird left turn about 2/3rds through, and it wastes its time focusing on the weaker elements of the setting rather then fleshing out the world that you are dropped into.

Yes, very much so; I think Looper could have been much better if they consolidated the myriad characters (almost all of them well acted so it doesn't matter which characters are eliminated or buffed up) into about 4 (well technically 5 I guess) or so with 1-2 main antagonists.

As for Time Travel, it is a necessary conceit that something will be broken along the way, much like any other instance of suspension of disbelief.

#30 Posted by Veektarius (4585 posts) -

My two cents on Looper and time travel in fiction:

Try and think about how time travel would work in your head. There are basically two possibilities. One is that there is only one current time in our dimension. However, other dimensions exist for all other possible times, and when you time travel, you're actually changing dimensions. As such, you don't affect your own history, but cause the history of the place you're visiting to be slightly different. This can be compounded by other changes created by other time travelers before you.

The other way of perceiving it is that all time exists at once. Time is like a racetrack. You may be in one position on the racetrack, but the rest of the racetrack still exists (and you exist in all positions you will ever inhabit). There could be someone on the other side of the race track who runs across the middle and decks you and changes where you'll be in five minutes (actually five minutes is a distance on the race track... let's drop the metaphor). However, the person who creates the changes is also affected. At the same time, that person *also* already exists after he decked you (as do you), so there was no change made to time, because he always ran across to deck you. He had to circle back to do it, but it didnt' change time, it just broke the rules of time as you understood them before you were decked. This is the approach taken by Twelve Monkeys. It can seem as if time can be changed, but it can't, because there is only one possible state of time that already encompasses your future actions. That's difficult to work with, because it demands that you believe in human determinism, i.e. that presented with identical stimuli every time, a person will make the same decision.

Looper takes the racetrack view of time, but rejects determinism. It claims that faced with the same stimulus as before, Joe in *this* time (but not in the last time) decides to do something that will stop himself from killing the rainmaker. On its face there's nothign wrong with it, it's simply a philosophical point of view that humans do not always make the same choices. However, from a fictional standpoint, it's difficult for the reader/viewer to understand. "Why didn't he do that in the previous version of time?" We expect more logic from our characters' actions than we expect from ourselves, and suggesting that the reason for the change is completely arbitrary is frustrating. That's not a bad thing, it's just a thing, and I think it's the thing that sabotaged the time travel element of Looper's plot.

#31 Posted by McGhee (6094 posts) -

The only way to make time travel logically consistent would be to include splitting off timelines and multiple universes for every changed event, but at that point where's the impact of the story? It makes you feel like nothing you do really matters. Plus things just get more messy and hard to keep up with.

#32 Edited by Ghostiet (5223 posts) -

As long as you do linear time travel instead of splitting timelines, yes. And even if you split them it can be mighty hard if the timelines interject and influence each other.

The only plot about time travel I remember not having too many gripes about is Homestuck (back when I still gave a fuck and followed it), but that thing is deliberately planned months, if not years ahead and also paced and padded in a very particular way - the story is essentially told backwards. I'd like to see Hussie's notes and spreadsheets after he finishes the fucking thing.

#33 Posted by Dagbiker (6939 posts) -

The problems with writing time travel is how it works in the universe. I like predetermined outcomes when time traveling.

But that's doubly hard.

Back to the Future was easier to explain because every time they changed something they would create another universe.

But something like Primer, or Deja Vu is much harder because you have to know your beginning middle and end, all from the beginning.

Timetravel is also very rule dependent, because its very easy to question why they just didn't go back and give themselves more time.

#34 Posted by CornBREDX (4790 posts) -

Time Travel is incredibly hard to write. There are so many holes to be accounted for at some point you have to just "be a long for the ride." 
 
I think it's more important you make those plot holes less substantial than the over arching plot. That is generally the only way to make a time travel movie work without falling apart. 
 
The problem for me, with Looper, is it has a major plot hole- a question you ask yourself going in (or at least I did)- that they never ever answer. Things like that make time travel stories hard to swallow sometimes. Well, that and the last act of the movie feels like we went into a different film. Not a bad film, but like 2 really decent films. Besides that, though, Looper is a really good movie. It's unfortunate it has to have caveats though.

#35 Posted by golguin (3842 posts) -
@Animasta

@XChairmanDrekX said:

I think Steins Gate did a pretty damn good job of having a heavy time travel-esque plot while avoiding plot-holes or inconsistencies. Mostly because it incorporated the many worlds theory instead of time being a straight line. In fact, the many worlds theory may be the only way to explain away time travel without it leading to countless plotholes and inconsistencies.

yeah, i tend to agree with this.

Yes. This is why I mentioned it in my opening post. Japan seems to have it together on making their time travel solid.
#36 Posted by MarkWahlberg (4578 posts) -

Time travel is hard to write for the same way magic/ sci-fi is hard to write for. Once you break reality, you're throwing so many rules out the window that not writing new ones leaves holes by default in whatever story you're writing.

Half of Star Trek's stories involves time travel in some capacity, and they have a multitude of different ways of accomplishing it, so technically speaking the biggest hole in that fictional universe is why no one has gone back in time and conquered the universe yet, because all you really need is a star ship to do it. On the other end of the spectrum, I read Michael Crichton's book Timeline a long while back, and I remember it having a pretty well thought out mechanism - IIRC, it was essentially the infinite multiverse idea. The book itself was kinda meh, but the explanation was cool.

#37 Posted by Jimbo (9772 posts) -

It will be.

#38 Edited by mordukai (7133 posts) -

A few things that really stood out for me as a plot holes aside from the time travel: \

  • In the beginning of the movie the main characters tells you that in the future it's impossible to get rid of bodies and that's why they send them back to the past...That is unless you're a middle aged Chinese women who then be burnt in her house.
  • Why do they have the Loopers kill them? Why not just kill them in the future and just send the body to the past.
  • Aside from maybe being a sadistic joke on the part of the future criminal organizations; why do they make looper kill their old self? Wouldn't be easier to just have other Loopers kill them and they would never know about it.
#39 Posted by benpicko (1995 posts) -

Not when it's Looper.

#40 Posted by golguin (3842 posts) -

@mordukai said:

A few things that really stood out for me as a plot holes aside from the time travel: \

  • In the beginning of the movie the main characters tells you that in the future it's impossible to get rid of bodies and that's why they send them back to the past...That is unless you're a middle aged Chinese women who then be burnt in her house.
  • Why do they have the Loopers kill them? Why not just kill them in the future and just send the body to the past.
  • Aside from maybe being a sadistic joke on the part of the future criminal organizations; why do they make looper kill their old self? Wouldn't be easier to just have other Loopers kill them and they would never know about it.

Don't even get me started on the Chinese woman. I was specifically referring to that when I mentioned plot holes that had nothing to do with time travel.

On a side note I will now be posting that time travel short story. I think pictures might be easier than scanning the pages.

#41 Edited by Green_Incarnate (1788 posts) -

Joseph Gordon Levitt's cgi face was more distracting than any plot holes.

#42 Posted by TheSouthernDandy (3782 posts) -

I think you can find holes in almost any time travel story. Looper was fantastic because the time travel was almost minimized it became the background of the story as opposed to the point kinda like The Walking Dead and zombies.

#43 Posted by Hunter5024 (5536 posts) -

Really the only problem is that explaining a lot of the concepts involves heavy exposition, and exposition is boring, and honestly it's just better to leave some plot holes than to waste 30 minutes of your movie explaining the mechanics.

#44 Edited by golguin (3842 posts) -

@Daiphyer said:

@golguin: That'd be pretty awesome. Thanks in advance.

#45 Posted by StriderNo9 (1079 posts) -
Online
#46 Posted by MC_Hify (321 posts) -

I think it's because, for the most part, writers are interested in telling human stories and are only using a sci-fi or fantasy device like time travel as a way to tell different stories about people.

#47 Posted by andrew2696 (290 posts) -

@Green_Incarnate: *Joesph. Justin Gordon-Levitt is his alternate future self.

#48 Posted by GinjaAssassin (158 posts) -

People get rally butt hurt over SCIENCE FICTION!

I loved Looper, but having to listen to people break it apart because it has plot holes based around something that DOESN'T EXIST kind of ruins it.

Not trying to start an argument but I just wish people weren't so cynical sometimes.

#49 Edited by MikkaQ (10268 posts) -

Screenwriting or fiction writing in general is hard enough without having to worry about time paradoxes, I imagine the authors of these kinds of things probably had a giant cork-board just to keep track of the temporal narrative.

This all reminds me of Primer, which is probably the most complex film involving time travel ever made. It's not even a good film and the acting and dialogue are pretty bad, but the appeal in the film is in solving the puzzle and trying to understand it. Unfortunately when you realize the main timeline of the film is probably like 10% of the film's running time and that there's at least 10 other timelines showing up in the film, but the film doesn't mention when you're in a new one, you begin to go fucking nuts. It gives you no help. That film is brutal.

@Brodehouse said:

It's as difficult to write as anything that breaks physical laws.

As I understand it there is no law in physics that prevents time travel. There's also no known law that allows it. But that doesn't make it physically impossible.

#50 Edited by Sisyphean (73 posts) -

@McGhee said:

The only way to make time travel logically consistent would be to include splitting off timelines and multiple universes for every changed event, but at that point where's the impact of the story? It makes you feel like nothing you do really matters. Plus things just get more messy and hard to keep up with.

I completely agree. I hate it when stories take this approach because I simply stop caring. Time travel seems to be at its best when it's used to produce an interesting story, and when the focus is kept on the story rather than the time travel itself. Writing a story about time travel makes me think you've failed before you began.