Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Time Traveler's Wife - 3 stars

What if you could travel through time? Imagine being able to go back and watch yourself grow up. Imagine being able to go back and see a loved one who has passed away. Would you want to go into the future and find out how things turn out? Would you want to know how and when you die?

In The Time Traveler's Wife, Eric Bana plays a man named Henry DeTamble who has a strange genetic disorder: he travels through time, but he can't control it. He has no idea when it will happen or where (when) he will end up. He just suddenly starts to fade away. He appears in another time (but within his own lifetime), and after a few minutes, he returns to his own time.

I generally categorize time travel in movies into two categories: Somewhere in Time and Back to the Future. The Somewhere in Time rules state that you can't change history. Everything that has and will happen is set. Before Christopher Reeve went back to 1912, he was able to look at the register for 1912 and see his signature. He knew that he would travel back to 1912 and check in to the hotel. The Back to the Future rules state that you can change history. You couldn't look in a history book and see a picture of yourself, because you haven't traveled back yet.

The Time Traveler's Wife follows the Somewhere in Time rules. When Henry was a boy, his mother was killed in a car accident. Even though he can travel back and talk to his mother, he is not able to change the events that led to her death. Also, when he learns about certain tragedies that are going to occur, he is helpless to prevent them. I don't know about you, but that would drive me crazy.

When Clare Abshire (Rachel McAdams) was a young girl, Henry appeared in the meadow behind her house. He told her that he was from the future, and that in the future they would be good friends. As she grew up, Henry would appear to her now and then. When she finally meets Henry in the present, she is glad to see her old friend, but he has no idea who she is, because he hasn't traveled back to see her yet. Confused? Because she knows that they are married in the future, she is happy to date and marry him. This brings up an interesting question: does she really have a choice in the matter? What if she decided she didn't want to marry him? Could she have been stubborn and changed history? Not if the movie is following the Somewhere in Time rules of time travel.

I had a few problems with the movie. His time traveling is a little too convenient. He disappears at random times, but it never happens when people are watching. He is able to hold down a job as a librarian, and apparently he has never traveled during his shift. See, sometimes he returns from his trips to the past just a few minutes after he left. If he disappears in front of his wife, she will see him materialize in time for dinner. Other times, he can be gone for weeks. When he returns from one trip, he asks "did I miss Christmas?" She replies "Yes, and New Year's."

Another problem I had is with the way he steals clothes. See, when you travel through time, you don't get to take your clothes. You disappear and your clothes fall to the floor in a heap. When you appear in the past, you are standing there buck naked. Again, this is too convenient. He never materializes in the middle of a crowded street. As soon as he appears, he picks the nearest lock and steals whatever clothes he can find. Then within 2 minutes, he disappears again to return to his own time. If he is never in the past for more than a few minutes, why go to all the trouble to break in and steal clothes? Why doesn't he just find a place to hide until he travels back?

And as for the clothes, he always seems to wear the same thing: dress slacks, a button down shirt, and a sweater over the shirt. Doesn't he realize that he could save himself some time (and thus be able to spend more time in the past) if he just went with jeans, a T-shirt, and some flip flops?

Overall I liked the movie. Despite my minor issues with the writing, the characters were well developed. I really felt for Henry and how hard it must be to have that condition. I also felt for Clare. Sometimes she is able to deal with Henry's problem, other times she is a wreck. How hard would it be to have your husband just disappear with no warning, and you have no idea how long he will be gone for?

I also thought there were some nice surprises in the movie. At one point, he makes a decision that she does not like. The way she gets him back is very clever.

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