The Spierig Brothers’ time travel thriller Predestination hits theaters at the end of this week (we’ll have a full review to accompany the release). While we hope many of you go see it, as it’s totally worth a few hours of your life, we think that a lot of people may sit this one out. After all, January can be a rough month at the theater, quality wise. Though the film is being marketed as a time-hopping crime story in the vein of Minority Report and TimeCop, that’s not what you’re going to see. Deliberately paced, continually shifting perspectives, and inherently weird, Predestination feels like a movie that the distributor has no idea how to sell, and as a result we’re afraid that this will fall into a category of films that, while excellent, are totally underappreciated. And in that spirit, we’d like to take the opportunity to explore some of our favorite under-the-radar time travel movies.
Ticket sales at the box office may have been at a 20-year low in 2014, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t anything worth seeing. I’m a firm believer that, no matter the state of the industry, there will always be people making exciting, interesting films, you just might have to look for them. Regardless of what this means for studios and their bottom lines, sci-fi fans had a lot to dig into over the past year. There were huge, spectacle style blockbusters right along side quiet, introspective independent features more concerned with ideas than eye candy, as well as everything in between. There are a few gaps in my genre viewing for the year—I still have yet to watch titles like Young Ones, The Zero Theorem, and Under the Skin for some reason—but in this spirit, here are my top sci-fi movies of 2014.
When you watch a time travel movie, it’s easy to sit back and imagine the ways that you could use such technology to your own advantage, and how you would avoid the pitfalls and traps that always ensnare the characters on screen. In Time Lapse, when a trio of friends stumble across a camera that takes pictures 24-hours into the future, they set about doing exactly this, and they don’t fare any better than their predecessors. Along with movies like Primer and Safety Not Guaranteed, these low-budget, idea-driven sci-fi movies are becoming staples and film festivals, and I am totally okay with this, at least as long as they’re as good as Time Lapse.
Finn (Matt O’Leary from Spy Kids, which makes me happier than it reasonably should) is a frustrated painter who had bigger dreams for his life than working as a glorified toilet repairman in an apartment complex. He lives with his oft-ignored girlfriend Callie (Danielle Panabaker), who mothers him, putting his own needs in front of her own, and his gambling-addicted best bro Jasper (George Finn). When they check on an elderly neighbor (played by John Rhys-Davies, who only appears in photographs), they discover him dead, and a massive camera that peers into the future pointed at their apartment.