Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Primer Review

Primer Poster

Primer is a scary film that is often overlooked for it’s heavy dialogue and highly technical and heavy technology. The movie follows a group of tech workers who stumble upon a new way to time travel. They stumble across this and the story then goes through some odd situations but mostly involves a lot of dialogue and technical information that isn’t really scary on its own, but the greater picture is when we see a true portrait of horror.

Here is a trailer for the film Primer:



The movie was shot on a shoe string budget of under 10,000 dollars. It doesn’t look that way though, as the film does look as though it was shot on film and features some good camera work for such a low budget. The actors seem real in their portrayal of tech workers (I would know, since I am one) and the majority of the acting requires a lot of reaction and talking, and these guys nail it perfectly.

The actual mechanics of the machinery that aids in time traveling is not an easy one to understand. This is the downfall of this film. You have to really pay attention and then think really hard to get the whole picture of the movie’s mechanics. The tech workers accidentally discover this way of time travel via an accident while making a super conductor in their spare time. However, it is not a euphoric experience like you would see in other films like The Time Machine, Back to the Future, Bill & Tedd’s Excellent Adventure, or A Sound of Thunder. The time travel portion of this film is somewhat lackluster and uneventful. The guys in this film don’t even realize what is going on until much later and after they figure it out, there are long winded scenes of them sitting in a room waiting for their doubles (the time travelers) to catch up to normal time.

Primer Screen Shot

Why Primer is Scary: The movie itself is laughable at times. However, the dialogue and accidental treatment of time travel begs for closer examination. The closer examination reveals human obsession and greed. The people in the film first decide not to over complicate their time travel, but then they can’t help themselves and they play the stock market and become rich. At this point in the film the friendship begins to dissolve as one member of the team wants to be a hero while the other wants more money and notoriety. The ruin of friendship is not the scary notion but the obsession and lengths that one will go to achieve their status really becomes a nightmare of sorts for one of the characters.

So desperate to prove himself a hero he correlates a master plan that would involve him thwarting a shot gun murder, which he eventually figures out after going back in time several times. We also see the other friend choose a path that is somewhat safer in the short term but could have dire consequences. He is building a larger time machine and our film closes.

Psychologically speaking this film’s obsession with notoriety is the key to the subtle nightmare that this film has. It shows you the development of these characters and how they eventually toss in their civil and moral qualms in pursuit of financial gain as well as their own ambitions that will most likely be the end of their worlds. On a simpler term the film also goes to great lengths in chronicling the parallel universes that are created for their doubles and that’s where the movie starts to play head games with the viewer. It’s ridiculous to note how outlandish the dialogue is, as the film does not try to dumb anything down and most people will not enjoy this film.

I admit, it took me a few viewings to enjoy this movie, and the more and more I thought about it the more this science fiction gem is a nightmare for anyone that has ever dreamed of time travel. The film doesn’t play around with the notion of time travel and it is not a comedic journey at all, it treats the notion almost as if this were a documentary or a first person trip through time and discovery. This movie is scary but only if you consider the “realism” that the people involve try to make of it; yes it is fiction but it is presented in a plausible way and once you start toying with the realism and “what if” factor of this film, you start to unravel a deep terror that the film maker wisely left under the surface. I recommend this film for viewing at least once. Primer is not going to make a lot of people’s list of scary movies, but if you take a second or even third look Primer is a scary movie about time travel, even if you don’t understand it initially.

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2 comments:

CaroleMcDonnell said...

that was the hardest film to follow...and all those parallel folks. I really have to try to force myself to sit through it yet another time. -C

Fitz said...

It's definitely a difficult film to comprehend, but I was fascinated. I thought the way they handled the intricacies of potential time travel was incredible. Great review!