Time To Rant About Time Travel

Athena ScalziWelcome to today’s post, where I’m going to yell about time travel in movies and shows and you’re going to like it! Or, if you don’t, that’s okay, too. We can have different opinions on time travel. But my opinion is that it sucks. I despise time travel. It’s confusing, almost never makes sense, and is used way too much in movies lately.

So I’m going to be talking about a few movies in the Marvel and DC Universes that use time travel and multi-verses, so here is your OFFICIAL SPOILER WARNING for Avengers: Endgame, Avengers: Infinity War, Agent Carter, and Justice League: Dark Apokolips War.

My main beef with time travel is in relation to Avengers: Endgame. If you love Endgame, I’m sorry, but I think it’s a terrible movie that contained a lot of bad decisions, and even more bad writing. To have 22 movies come before Endgame, and make the only one that deals with multiverses or time travel at all be Dr. Strange (excluding Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse), and then suddenly be like “oh, you know what we should do, time travel”, it seems nonsensical and like they came up with it at the last minute because they didn’t know what else to do. I’m not saying that’s true, maybe they did know all along what they were going to do, but I’m just saying as a viewer, it came off as an out-of-nowhere thing.

I can understand the part where the Avengers go into specific moments of the past to retrieve the Infinity Stones, and then later return them to their exact time and place, as if they had never been taken at all. That part is simple enough, they’re just borrowing them.

The part where it starts to become ridiculous for me is when 2014 Thanos and Nebula travel to the future. Wouldn’t that mean that Thanos wasn’t around in the years following 2014, so Infinity War could’ve never happened in the first place because he skipped that part of time completely? If that isn’t enough for you, what about when 2014 Nebula dies, but future Nebula continues to exist? Everyone knows that if you time travel and past you dies, you cease to exist and you fade away!

So already we are deep into the path of things not making a lick of sense, but to add to that, they made Captain America go back in time and STAY THERE. I can’t tell you how upsetting this was to me. When I first saw that scene, I was upset mainly because seeing Old Man Rogers made me sad, but I was also confused, because if he went back then that meant he never came out of the ice in 2012 and became part of the Avengers.

Not only that, but he married Peggy. And you’re supposed to be happy for them. Certainly I used to hope and dream that Peggy and him could be together, but that changed when I watched Agent Carter last week. Agent Carter ends with her and Agent Daniel Sousa being together. And for all two seasons of Agent Carter, I was rooting for them. I was so happy when they were finally together. They obviously loved and cared about each other so much.

If we are to assume that Daniel Sousa is the man that Peggy Carter is talking about in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, when she talks about her husband and her family, then Steve essentially prevented their life together from ever happening. Peggy had children, a whole family, totally erased because Steve decided to be selfish and go back to be with Peggy.

And sure, Peggy was probably plenty happy with Steve, and I’m sure they had a good life together. But you don’t just get to make that choice for her. Yet another superhero movie that lacks consent. Who knows if Peggy would have even wanted to trade the life she lived for Steve? Steve should’ve left Peggy in the past, and not stayed there with her.

One more thing about this that makes it seem like Marvel didn’t know what the hell they were doing is that they had Steve and Peggy’s great niece, Sharon, be kind of interested in each other and even kiss. Like, if they knew all along that this is how it would turn out, why did they bother doing that weird shit?

These were all the questions I had before doing some research and learning about how Marvel’s time travel is based on a branching theory, which means that every time they change something in the past, it makes a new timeline branch off of the original. To me, this seems like a cheap way out of there being any real consequences to dicking around in the past. Marvel gets to keep its perfect little timeline while simultaneously exploring a bunch of different options, like if Steve Rogers had lived in his original time period with Peggy.

To me, that’s some bullshit. A viewer shouldn’t have to do extensive research and watch a bunch of explanation videos to understand something. Not everyone is a huge fan that will spend the effort and time learning about what the creators’ intentions were. Not to mention everything about it just screams cop out.

So, Marvel totally failed at using time travel, in my opinion. Let’s take a look at DC.

Over the past couple months, I’ve been watching a lot of animated DC movies on HBO Max. I’ve never been big into DC, and only really ever seen the Zach Snyder DC movies. So when I started watching the animated ones, I was totally blown away by how cool DC is. They have some pretty interesting animated movies, and a whole timeline of their own much like the MCU, just animated instead!

DC has its own problems with time travel and multiverses, though, just like Marvel. Mainly because DC likes to use Flash as their source of time travel. If you’ve ever seen the CW’s Flash, you know how well it goes when Barry Allen changes the past. Confusing as shit.

The animated films are no different, they use Flash to create “Flashpoints” and change the timeline. This happens at the end of the bigger storyline, in Justice League: Dark Apokolips War. In this movie, Dark Seid totally fucks the Justice League up, kills a bunch of our beloved heroes, and takes over the Earth. After they defeat Dark Seid over two years later, the Earth is about to explode and kill all the survivors and there’s no stopping it, so Flash goes and creates a new Flashpoint, resetting the entire timeline. This paves the way for the newest DC animated movie that reintroduces Superman all over again in Superman: Man of Tomorrow. 

Again, doesn’t this all seem like a huge cop out to avoid dealing with consequences? They’re making time travel the solution to all of the world’s problems. Just start over. Wipe the slate clean. Sure, that’s one way of dealing with things, but it just seems like lazy writing to me.

The moral of the story here is that no one should ever use time travel. It’s dumb and overused and I’m sick of it because it never makes sense. Even when given the explanation of “oh it’s a branching thing” or “it’s a multiverse thing”, it’s still confusing! I still hate it! Y’all didn’t have to make superhero movies so confusing!

Do you think Marvel and DC are right in using time travel? Do you think Endgame was a good and satisfying movie (it’s the fourth worst movie I’ve ever seen)? Do you like the animated DC movies more than the live action (I sure do)? Let me know in the comments, and have a great, time-travel free day!


102 Comments on “Time To Rant About Time Travel”

  1. The whole Peggy/Sousa thing got EVEN MORE complicated.

    In Agents of SHIELD, we re-meet Sousa in 1955, and it’s revealed that he and Peggy broke up prior to that (maybe when Steve returned? Who knows, they never say). And then he’s supposedly a victim of an assassination. But then he’s saved by time-traveling SHIELD agents and now he’s still alive in the modern day, traveling into space and in a relationship with Daisy/Quake.

    And then Marvel basically de-canonized all of AOS and is only picking and choosing little bits of the stories told in the AOS/Agent Carter universe.

    And it irritates me because AOS was really good, and so was Agent Carter, and I really liked all the characters.

  2. In my book Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (the first one) was the only good time travel movie. “Remember the key!”

    It was the most logical and internally consistent one, and the movie’s production values and seriousness best matched the theme of time travel as a genre.

    Hot Tub Time Machine was also pretty good.

  3. I was so peeved over the “Scarlet Witch has to kill Vision” thing in A:IW that I didn’t have much left for Endgame, but yeah, the time travel bugged me a lot. For me it was mostly focused on Gamora and Nebula – I’m not a Cap’n fan – but all of it was full of handwavium in a way that made me SO mad. And I’m usually ok with handwavium!

  4. Welcome to the world of comic books. Nobody popular ever stays dead; nobody’s origin story is ever set in stone, as they are constantly being retconned (which I absolutely HATE for the reasons you hate the gobbledygook time travel). And yes, as far as the comics go, DC has historically been worse at this than Marvel. Superman, Supergirl/Power Girl, Flash (the Barry Allen version), Green Lantern (the Hal Jordan version), all of them have died at one point or another, sometimes multiple times. All have come back. It’s a mess, and it reached a point years ago for me where it just didn’t seem like there was any point trying to keep up–especially with the price of comics going through the roof. Even in the movies, it seems like ideas that are important to one movie (Wonder Woman shows up in Batman v. Superman and neither character has any idea who she is, because she’s stayed hidden for the past century) get tossed in the sequel (Wonder Woman saves the entire world, in full costume, in 1984, decades before she supposedly re-emerges from hiding to help form the Justice League).

  5. It sounds as if what you’re really saying is that time travel sucks in movies based on comic books. That may be true–I haven’t seen any of the movies you mentioned, because they’re not my cup of tea–but generalizing from comic-book superheroes to “no one should ever use time travel” seems like a stretch.

    I’m betting your dad could recommend some well-written SF books and stories that use time travel, and not just as a way to cheat when the screenplay writers run out of ideas. As for movies, there are certainly some good ones that use time travel–it’s just that it’s not happening in the comicverse. Here’s an IMDb list:


  6. Totally agree with your takes on time travel in both Marvel and DC.

    But how do you feel about it in features like Back to the Future, 12 Monkeys, Looper, and Dark?

    The 12 Monkeys tv show is the best of those, I feel, and digs deep into all the time travel tropes (paradoxes, prophecies, alternate lines, loops, etc). They even manage to grow their characters in a way that makes you sad to leave them after 4 seasons. So much heartache and so many laughs and moments of awesome. Much recommended!

  7. I like the Christopher L Bennet dealt with it in his Star Trek:Department of Temporal Investigations books.

    You’ll have to read the books to get it all but to give you a flavor: The Borg assimilate a T-Rex.

  8. Excellent take. I had not thought about time travel this way before.
    As to animated DC > live action DC, ABSOLUTELY!

  9. Could not agree more about Endgame and time travel in general. Time travel has become the modern Deus ex Machina in an almost literal sense. “Hey, we’ve got ourselves so far down the rat-hole of bad writing we are now stuck for a solution…. Time machine! Yay!”

    My nephew does a “Time travel movie of the day” thing every February where he critiques some film that has time travel in it, and it is pretty funny. But one thing it has taught me is that good time travel films are really hard to do, and most of the good ones are weird art-house productions.

    Original Terminator was great. Looper was really good. “A Brief History of Time Travel” was intelligent, but a bit of an amateur production. “Final Countdown” was terrible, but being an old aircraft carrier veteran, I love it anyway.

    If “going back in time and undoing all the stupid writing we did” is the solution to your film, you have a bad film.

  10. Dang. This was good Athena. Can you do Tenet next? I feel that that’s a similar cop out too. Also disappointing how little Tenet was actually used.

  11. Andy Baird:

    Actually I think generally speaking she’s correct — time travel is not often done well. She’s using the DC/Marvel examples because these are the worlds she chooses to focus on, but many of the issues of time travel (particularly the issue of consent) apply to other time-travel scenarios as well. Don’t confuse limiting examples for brevity to mean the issues are confined only to the examples.

    I personally use time travel in Redshirts but (spoiler) it should be noted that characters are going from a “fictional” universe to a “real” one, so whether it actually counts as time travel is a metaphysical exercise left to the reader, and also in any event, the trope-y nature of time travel in television shows is confronted head on in the text.

  12. “To me, that’s some bullshit. A viewer shouldn’t have to do extensive research and watch a bunch of explanation videos to understand something. Not everyone is a huge fan that will spend the effort and time learning about what the creators’ intentions were. Not to mention everything about it just screams cop out.”

    Except that’s how Marvel (almost) ALWAYS has done time travel, even before anyone thought there would be movies decades later. I mean, you can’t throw a rock and miss an X-Men issue that doesn’t have some plot or character from some alternative dystopian future. (It’s actually tricky to pin down who actually originated in the 616 universe these days!)

    The problem with a stricter set of time-travel rules (a la Christopher Nolan) is that odds are pretty good that nothing would (logically) exist to watch, because all it takes is ONE time-traveling villain, grief-stricken hero (likely Wanda Maximoff or Lucas Bishop), or mis-stepping fool (Hank Pym) to go back far enough to screw up things so that none of your favorite stories end up happening.

    I’m not to going to address DC’s metaphysics (I only watch the CW shows and observe their orrery of multiverses expanding and contracting from the sidelines, but I do agree with you that Cap and Sharon Carter do deserve quite a bit of side-eye these days, in the same way we look at Luke and Leia in a post-“Return of the Jedi” world.

  13. Now I’m curious about your thoughts on time travel in other sci-fi things like Star Trek or Back to the Future.

    I don’t think the branching theory of time travel is a copout because it neatly deals with the paradox problems of time travel and is consistent with the laws of physics. Movies like Looper that try to have the past affect the future which then affect the present are arguably more confusing.

    But it sounds like you might enjoy closed time loop stories like the one depicted in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in which nothing is altered because the characters are just doing what has already been done.

    I enjoy time travel stories but I agree that they’re mostly nonsensical and inconsistent so I can understand why you don’t like them. I guess I enjoy them on more of an emotional level than a logical one. Who wouldn’t want to change a past decision or visit a different time?

  14. Hulk had already reversed Infinity War with his snap, so “older” Thanos becomes irrelevant.

    I’ve got nothing for Nebula.

  15. Marty McFly changes how his parents start dating, interact, and their entire lives. They still marry and have three children, but there’s 0% chance of them conceiving the same three children on the same days. Marty returns, if at all, to a world where he does not exist.

    The audience leaves disappointed. Michael J. Fox doesn’t get a bunch of lucrative Pepsi endorsements.

  16. To be fair, creating a problem by using time travel and then trying to solve it by using time travel again is a pretty accurate description of how we attempt problem solving.

    Not saying that it’s necessarily a good approach …

  17. I enjoy movies that have time travel in them, but I’m often disappointed because they often don’t do their research or use it in an interesting way but instead use it as a gimmick or a crutch. There are exceptions to this and when it is done well, they can make the movie profound.

  18. Athena, I can summarize my view as: I really dislike lazy, half-assed storytelling.

    And using time travel/branching multiverses (TT/BM) as a “get out of being consistent with what’s already happened in your storyverse” card is one of the worst and most offputting forms of lazy, half-assed storytelling.

    That said, I have on occasion been seduced by good storytellers and even some fanfic that leaves a storyline consistent, and then posits a kind of “alternate history” version enabled by a TT/BM Macguffin.

    However, in those cases, it was very much a case of “okay, we did it consistently and correctly, but we’ve always kinda wondered what would have happened if at Pivotal Plot Point X, this character had made the OTHER choice.”

    And that can be fun.

    But simply using it as a pseudo-nerdy-retconning tool from sheer laziness or cupidity (because more people will come if the trailer shows THIS seemingly-impossible-based-on-what’s-already-happened thing happening!)?

    Nah. I’m with you.

  19. And this is why I don’t like most comic books and why I’m not a huge fan of anything much after the first Avengers (except for Black Panther, which stood well on its own, and I did enjoy WandaVision despite its many issues). There’s no consistency, no canon. It’s always changing and branching and you need a freaking Wiki to figure out who anyone is and why they’re doing it and the movies just don’t stand on their own. I don’t want to have to have read 6,000 comic books to know what’s going on and why.

  20. Also – another thought – I think you’re too hard on the film writers in the “Infinity War” / “Endgame” case, given that rewriting the past is a key resolution of the “Infinity Gauntlet” source story. I don’t know if you can adapt that story (which Marvel had been leading up to over a decade) and decide that you’re taking time travel off the table.

    Now, the film heroes did a lot more timey-wimey stuff, compared to the comics, but the outcome is the same. I’d argue that the film story ended up being a better story than its source, since there are interesting consequences of its time travel that we’ve only started to unwind in the latest Spider-Man film and in WandaVision’s Monica Rambeau. In the original story, the universe gets reset and half the population of the universe is none the wiser. In this sense, the dramatic possibilities that the five year blip introduced are superior to the next month’s issues after “The Infinity Gauntlet #6”.

    Also, if you want to make these rants a series, I would LOVE to hear your take on clones. :-)

  21. David Tennant era Doctor Who episode “Blink”. Multiple closed loops that tie together wonderfully.

  22. I felt that Avengers: Endgame did a pretty good job establishing its “branching timelines” rules of time travel, and (very important) following those rules. It was clear the first time I watched it, but YMMV.

    I do mostly hate time travel because the stories rarely follow the rules that they establish, and that rule-breaking is most egregiously used to RESOLVE the conflict in a Deus Ex Machina.

    How many time travel stories have we seen where when all seems lost, and time travel won’t help because “time travel can’t do X,” and then suddenly it CAN because mumblemumble and the Day Is Saved!

    And in how many follow up stories could X never be done again to resolve the plot because Shut Up That’s Why, but in the last moment some NEW rulebreaking Saves The Day this time?

    One of the basic rules of fantastical fiction is that once you establish your rules, you have to follow them. You MIGHT break them to initiate a story, but should never, ever do so to resolve a story.

  23. They addressed Endgame’s time travel in-film though – when Hulk was talking to Ancient One and when they were saying how you can’t change your past. So according to the rules in the film, time-travel causes alternate branches of reality to exist. So when Thanos+Nebula travelled to the film’s “present” they were also leaving their reality and entering a new one – what doesn’t make sense to me is why Thanos would do that unless he didn’t understand what was happening. He’s leaving his own reality Thanos-free to go inflict Thanos on a reality that already defeated him once.

    Likewise for Steve/Peggy – Steve returned to an alternate reality created by the time-travel in the first place, altered it further, then went back to his original reality after Peggy died. I don’t really see how anyone’s consent was violated – in that timeline Sousa was not entitled to Peggy’s affection. Every act you take today leads to an infinite number of futures being denied – I don’t think you blame yourself for all the kids you haven’t had yet not being born – just think of how many of them or their descendents didn’t have a chance to grow up to be famous scientists or sci-fi writers!

    I liked Endgame and strongly disagree with your assessment :) But seriously though – what I didn’t like about the time-travel is that it makes everything pointless. Lost something? steal it from a parallel universe! Miss someone? go to a parallel world where they aren’t dead! Also with the time stone AND the quantum realm they have ways to de-age people and reverse damage, yet they still let Tony die. But letting these sorts of gaps go is how you enjoy superhero films. Otherwise you get hung up on how Ant Man is heavy enough to smash the bathroom floor but light enough to run on a record needle. Or how Hank Pym’s tank keychain is light enough to carry but is a real tank.

  24. I love time travel movies, they’re one of my favorite genres.

    I’ve never seen any of the movies listed in this post :).

  25. I think time travel stories require the same degree of world building as other science fiction and can be done poorly or well. I loved Connie Willis’s Doomsday Book. What I liked the most about it was the juxtaposition of world views – the modern scientific view of the plague and the religious view of the world…

  26. Endgame and the Iron Man Dies plot problem:

    My biggest problem in Avengers Endgame is how they handled the multi-verse and it’s use for time travel. Doctor Strange is a genius who has experience with the multi-verse, but seemed to forget that in a multi-verse of infinite scenarios, all scenarios are equally, and infinitely possible. That is to say that when Doctor Strange was using the Time stone to search for a ‘success’ scenario to defeat Thanos, he should have been able to find one in which none of the Avengers had to die.

    Strange should’ve just told Stark that out of the 14+ million scenarios he looked through, only one was good enough for this plot hole.

  27. I believe the Doctor said it best…

    “People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect. But actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint it’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey… stuff.”

  28. I largely ignored the Marvel movies because they’re just not really my bag. I think I watched about five of them before I decided that I had no need to see any more.

    But while I’m sure, reading your description, that time travel was done badly in these cases, it can be done quite enjoyably (it doesn’t always make much sense when you poke at it, but can be a good device nonetheless). Hell, it’s the whole premise for Terminator 2, which remains one of the best popcorn action flicks of all time, IMO.

    But even more than T2, when I think of time travel I think of Star Trek, being a big trekkie. Trek has both good time travel and bad time travel. Since the case for “bad” has been made already, let me mention two TNG episodes I liked that use time travel.

    The first is “Cause and Effect,” otherwise known as the “TNG groundhog day episode” in which the crew keeps re-living the day before their ship gets blown up. Now, how much sense the whole thing actually makes is debatable, particularly since the whole conceit only works based on the idea that everyone only half-remembers stuff from the previous cycles. But it’s fun sci-fi drama, watching them guess and second-guess themselves about how to avoid the coming disaster. Did we try this already? Or not? Are we just psyching ourselves out?

    The other TNG episode that immediately leapt to my mind in the context of effective time travel was the series finale, in which there was a past, present, and future Enterprise all interacting indirectly around some sort of weird time inversion phenomenon thing that supposedly ended (or was going to end? Verb tenses and time travel, I’ll tell you…) the development of life of earth before it began.

    Again, how much sense does this really make if all versions of the Enterprise and its crew didn’t immediately just disappear? But I’m willing to ignore the obvious contradictions because it’s another case that makes for really effective drama. Series finales are hard because they have a lot of viewer desires to satisfy: we want to be able to look back and see where the show has been (acknowledge the past), and get a sense of closure, of where characters ultimately might end up (i.e., the future), while also ideally feeling like the characters continue to exist and have adventures and live their lives, even though we won’t be watching them anymore (i.e., continue on in the present). The great thing about the TNG finale is that they managed to achieve all of this by simply “cheating” and using time travel. We got to see Picard’s first days on the ship, along with characters on it who had since departed or died. We got to see decades in the future, and where all our favorite characters might ultimately end up. And yet the final shot of the show remained in the present timeline, with Picard finally consenting to play poker with his officers for the first time, giving us a sense that they all continued to grow and change and have adventures off-screen.

    Could they have done all that without time travel? Well, sure, they could have just written something that involved flashbacks and flash-forwards without the actual time travel part. But as it turned out, it ended up being a really effective device to end the series.

    So there’s my defense of time travel. Maybe it doesn’t always make a lot of sense if you spend any amount of time poking at it, but done well, it can make for compelling drama.

  29. These are indeed the Mark Gruenwald Memorial Rules of Time Travel, and the reason for them is to keep time travel from messing with the value of the franchise too much. Set in place decades before Disney bought Marvel. And because of those timelines that branch off…those are themselves Major Consequences right there. In fact, there’s an implication back in Marvel Two-In-One # 50 that such timelines were already there all along, already divergent in ways great and small. You can never go back to the past of your own universe. And if you manage that anyway, that’s a symptom of serious damage to the multiverse…but I’ve already nerded out too much.

  30. Counterpoint: When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead.

    Granted, that’s a novel, not a move, but it’s still time travel with consequences. Or maybe it’s consequences with time travel.

    Hard to tell, but a tight story either way.

  31. There was a show called “Timeless” a couple of years ago.

    Plot was essentially “Bad guy steals time machine, good guys follow him around in the prototype time machine to fix the stuff he tries to change.”

    They did it better than most. Every time they went to the past, when they came back, something was different, because of the butterfly effect. There were new people that didn’t exist before, others were wiped from existence, and the only people that remembered were the time travelers themselves.

    The show was cancelled, but they were allowed to finish up the storyline rather than leave things hanging.

  32. If you’re concerned about consequences and long-term/slow-burn storylines, superhero comics are not a great choice. Perhaps catalyzed by the CCA, perhaps just in a race to the bottom, there are almost no stories that break the expectation that everything will be restored to status quo by the end. Time travel and how it is managed in comics seems to me like a consequence of that, rather than an intrinsic issue with the concept.

  33. I am 100% on your team regarding the laziness of Endgame and the way it borks up the entire timeline for Agent Carter and AOS. I have no opinions on DC, having never gotten into The Flash in spite of my children watching it. And now I am trying to think if there are any SF works that deal well with time travel? Every time it comes up, it seems to further confuse plot lines (Stargate SG-1 is another example).

  34. Yes!

    I was going to leave it at that because it so neatly encompasses my agreement with your blog piece. I am so done with time travel. I am actually pretty done with DC and Marvel movies and tv shows, too. They always get more and more bizarre as the seasons go on, with villains who seem like absurd caricatures and our plucky group of heroes involved in weirder and weirder plots, until finally I just throw up my hands and quit.

    The only tv show it never happened with was Cloak and Dagger, which I enjoyed to the end (though I did have some issues with their 180 degree reversal into stereotype with Cloak’s character at one point). It only went for two seasons, though, so maybe it just didn’t have time to get weird.

    I’m currently trying Superman and Lois, which is okay. Not great, but so far it’s watchable. We will see what happens.

    Mostly movies are okay, though some of them I just don’t want to watch (like Endgame). I liked the two Wonder Woman movies, especially the first.

  35. My favorite time-travel treatment in fiction is The Time-Travelers’ Wife by Audrey Nefenegger. I mean the book (or audiobook), not the (supposedly terrible) movie, which I haven’t seen.

  36. Time travel as a solution to problems pretty much always sucks.

    Stories that are about time travel (from All You Zombies to The Man Who Folded Himself) can be interesting because they don’t have the Deus Ex Machina element.

  37. Whereas I really enjoy time travel! I’m particularly fond of closed loop / predestination storylines, and also time loops.

    What I do want through is fixed rules within any given story, and for them to not be broken without a very good explanation! Even some of my favourite time travel stories get messed up this way (some mild spoilers to follow!). The first Terminator movie is the perfect example of a great predestination paradox; T2, as great an action movie as it is, completely ignores the rules of time travel as set up in the first movie. Likewise Harry Potter has a great closed loop in Prisoner of Azkaban, but then the time turners are destroyed in a later book apparently so that theres a reason that nobody tries to change the past?? Despite the fact that PoA indicates changing the past is impossible?

    Avengers Endgame is actually a fairly good take on the multiverse/branch theory of time travel IMO, with one major exception – they didn’t explain how Capt America was appearing in the main timeline as an old man when he should be off in a branch universe.

  38. Best use of time travel in a movie? Bill and Ted. I loved the moment in the first movie, where they’re under attack, and they say “Dude, we gotta remember to come back and leave your dad’s car keys here” and reach up to the desk and grab the keys. Most excellent!

  39. In the matter of Agent Sousa, you’re shipping up the wrong tree, as revealed in Agents of Shield. More time travel I’m afraid. A lot more time travel…

  40. Athena:

    “People assume that time is a strict progression from cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey…stuff.

    ” It got away from me, yeah….”

  41. I really liked Timeless. It was two thirds educational one third derringdo, taking noticeable care to reinsert the Black history that tended to get left out. Plus they gave Werner von Braun lines stolen from Tom Lehrer

  42. CW Flash is my favorite superhero show, I like the characters and the stories are mostly reasonable and Tom Cavanagh’s acting chops are amazing. But OMG did the finale of season 6 make me compare the writers unfavorably with a concussed bee.

    (You know, the one where the Reverse-Flash manipulates the heroes into destroying a power-dampening dagger in 2018…and this causes it to vanish in the year 2038 but you can still see where it was by the burn mark on his clothes. Agh.)

    Oh, and “Darkseid” is traditionally one word.

  43. I thought the in-movie explanation of time travel in Endgame was reasonably clear, but then the old-Cap thing really threw a monkey wrench into the works. If you haven’t watched this video about Steve’s life with Peggy after Endgame, I recommend it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hBmj4rs1KrI

    As for the animated DC movies, I like how the two Flashpoint events neatly bookend the films starring that particular version of the Justice League characters, so it didn’t bother me as an ending. I think more timelines should have a definitive endpoint instead of just being left dangling with no resolution. :)

  44. I enjoy ‘good’ time travel stories, which generally means books, not ‘movies and shows’.
    (Yes, I am a ‘book snob.’)

    Try ‘Time Travelers Never Die’ by Jack McDevitt, the ‘Time Patrol’ stories from Poul Anderson, or ‘Timeline’ by Michael Crichton.

    Or dig into ancient television and watch ‘The Time Tunnel’ ;-)

  45. I think that one of the main sources of confusion Cap’s last time travel trip in Endgame was the presentation – by having Old Steve just sitting on the bench, instead of appearing on the platform, the film gives audiences the impression that he had been there “all along” and had simply lived out his life in the main timeline.

    He couldn’t have, according to the rules as established, because the life he created with Peggy would have been a separate timeline, not the one that he traveled back from. His new shield hints that he got up to a lot in that timeline, as well. But at some point (presumably after Peggy’s death) he would have had to return to his original timeline just as he and the other Avengers did at the end of all of their other time jaunts.

    Steve WAS able to select a time and place to arrive other than “exactly where and when he left,” but the exact limitations of traveling to specific timelines were not established beyond the “watch” gadgets making that possible. (Steve obviously had to be able to travel to pre-existing branches in order to return the stones.)

    I think that the confusion could have been avoided completely if Steve had returned to the platform just after leaving as they expected, making it clear that he was time-traveling back rather than having taken the “slow path.” They could still have done the big reveal of his age, too, with the unfolding helmets of the time suits. Just have Steve show back up fully-covered as when he left, only to open the helmet to reveal his age.

  46. For those avid readers who despise Hollywood, I just want to say that the movie 12 Monkeys was a movie “too good for Hollywood,” so give it a try.

    By the way, at an art gallery I saw the original French version. In black and white. It took, as I recall, up to half an hour, using still photos with a narration. It was good.

    Novel-wise, I believe Andre Norton’s The Time Traders was the first to have an organization where the operatives were all in disguise when they were sent back. Not just to avoid changing history, but to hide from the Russian time agents. It made the Bronze Age real to me.

    In 1958, long before women’s liberation, the heroes meet a woman healer and nature-lover who points out that the male god, who is not part of nature, is starting to dominate.

    I just had a thought as I read this post: If vampire stories are help us accept our mortality (being a vampire is never good) then maybe “time travel sucks” is to help us accept our personal reality, with no “if only’s.”

  47. Out of curiosity, are you a fan of non-linear narratives in general? Time travel is one of those mechanics that comes with a whole raft of potential expectations, one of which is “am I using it for plot reasons, for narrative reasons, or both?”

    Westworld and The Witcher TV shows both do a great job of telling stories using non-linear narrative, so they can feel like time travel shows without actually using time travel. Closed-loop time travel stories, on the other hand, can be told in a fairly linear fashion (more or less depending on how many POVs you use) — John Varley’s novel Millenium (and the end movie adaptation) comes to mind, as does The Time Traveller’s Wife. With the closed loop time travel, it becomes more of a framework for arranging how you tell the story, because what happens already happened, now the storyteller just gets to structure the retelling for maximum effect.

  48. I’m under the impression that in a multiverse, you can do whatever you want because whenever you go back, you just create a new timeline. Then Peggy can be with Steve in one timeline and Daniel in another.
    Of course then you aren’t really fighting for the fate of the universe, you’re just shopping around for a timeline you like.

    I do like a well done self-causal-loop though. Try “Somewhere In Time” with Christopher Reeve.

    Time travel can also be a fun adventure in a period piece.

  49. Someone mentioned Timeless, which I mostly enjoyed, but you need to try and find (I say ‘try’ because Netflix dropped it abruptly and it is currently only on HBO Europe) the excellent Spanish series El Ministerio del Tiempo – THE MINISTRY OF TIME.

    Of course, one of the best time travel books was Jack Finney’s Time and Again. Ken Grimwood’s Replay was also excellent.

  50. Old Steve Rogers: At the end of the movie, Rogers is 170+ years old. He lived for 20-something years in the 20s-40’s, got frozen in ice without aging for 70 years, lived a while longer in the 21st century, then went back in time and lived another 70+ years while aging normally. For most of the 20th century he was both trapped in the ice and living his life with Peggy.

    And then layer branching timelines on top of that to make it all clear as mud.

  51. I am right there with you! I have hated time travel for, um, 40 years? More? On a practical level, I think that time travel is just too powerful. It lets the author do anything. The author then needs to invent some sort of constraints to make there be actual dramatic tension. (I will never, ever forgive Anne McCaffrey’s Moreta’s Ride, where all the heroine needed to do was to time shift to a place where she could take a fucking nap. The “tragedy” was that she was too stupid to do so.)

    It seems to me that time travel requires one of two things: predestination, or infinite branching universes. If the former, then you have no choice, things always happen as they happen, and I hate that view of the universe. (Ok, being raised as a Calvinists definitely makes that especially fraught.) But the other option means that nothing really matters. I’m not that big a fan of Niven, but “All the Myriad Ways” definitely summed up my feelings about that theory of time travel.

    If time travel is possible, than nothing you do matters. If there is no meaningful choice, then there is no meaningful story. In my opinion.

  52. I’ve been reading time travel stories for over half a century. It usually becomes a mess, and nowhere more so than in comic book stories.

    I’d say the branching-timelines model isn’t a “cheat” it’s the only way to make a time travel story sort-of plausible, since any single-timeline time travel involves the possibility of impossible paradoxes.

    Some stories have seemingly random circumstances arise to prevent a paradox and maintain the sequence of events, as if Time has a conscious intent.

    BACK TO THE FUTURE tried to have it both ways; incoherent mess.

    And yet I’m a fan of causal loops, another feature of single-timeline stories. Heinlein’s famous “All You Zombies….” is maybe the best expression of that idea (and was filmed remarkably well as PREDESTINATION).

    In the Spanish movie TIMECRIMES, a character goes to crazy lengths to try and make a causal loop happen, fearing what might occur if it doesn’t.

    Some franchises use time travel constantly, but break their own rules whenever it suits the story. (DR. WHO is particularly bad about this.)

    The branching-timelines model has been explored in some great ways. I particularly like Alfred Bester’s story “The Men Who Murdered Mohammed” and used something similar to its approach (along with Damon Runyan’s “perpetual present tense”) in my own story “This Particular Evening”. (Only steal from the best.)

    So if your travel into the past creates an alternate timeline, you can do anything in that alternate past. Even exploit it like a Third-World country, as in the great Bruce Sterling-Lewis Shiner story “Mozart in Mirrorshades”.

    Agreed, ENDGAME was a damn mess, and in general I hate the comic book tradition of not simply letting people stay dead.

    The DC shows on CW (the “Arrowverse”) are pretty good. They’ve gotten deeper into DC mythology than I ever expected to see, and the Crisis on Infinite Earths episodes ended with a newly established multiverse. But the animated DC movies are probably the best adaptations.

  53. Somebody who understands physics better than I do (and who seems tolerably trustworthy) said that, no matter how science-fictiony it seems, if it has time travel then it’s fantasy.
    I often love time travel stories, especially if they used a great deal of handwavium to bolster the story. (And all problems can be solved by reversing the polarity of the doubletalk generator.)

  54. There’s plenty of good time-travel movies, they just aren’t also superhero movies. Time Bandits! Surely one of the all-time great movies, period. Time After Time isn’t bad either; you could hold a whole festival of “time travel movies with David Warner in them.” There’s a great little small-scale movie on Netflix from a couple years ago, See You Yesterday, whose characters are mostly Black teenagers.

    But I entirely agree with you on one point, hating plot twists which look gingered up at the last minute to fill plot holes. And if the defense is, “No, they always intended to do it that way,” that makes it worse! Why carefully and lovingly craft something to look like it was a hasty last-minute clumsy fix?

  55. I watch/read stories about time travel because I want to see ow they handle the inherent paradoxes that time travel poses. I loved the use in Bill and Ted where they simply declared that after winning, they would go back in time to set up what they needed to win. IMO best use of time travel ever. To that same note, I hate it when the time traveler arrives just in the nick of time to save the day. You have a time machine! Go back earlier, have a latte, see a movie, and then casually stroll up to when you need to be where!

    I also thought the end of Endgame was poorly done. I got the pulling the stones and returning the stones. But after that? Too many paradoxes. Some of them could have been solved simply by stating that Thanos and his army were sent back to the instant they left (including those killed in the battle), but the whole old/new Nebula screws that up.

    I read a short story a long time ago about a guy who invented a time travel machine, and then got caught in a fire. He tried to use the machine to go back in time to prevent the fire. Each time, he snapped right back to where/when he was in the fire, not having accomplished anything to change his circumstances. You could argue everything he did created alternate universes, in which maybe he didn’t die in a fire, but he was irrecovably tied to his universe.

    And shout out to Quantum Leap, where Sam goes back to the JFK assassination and changes things… by saving Jackie (or at least that is how I recall it).

  56. I am conflicted because I liked the Steve & Peggy coda at the end of ‘Endgame’ but I also liked the Peggy & Daniel arc in ‘Agent Carter.’ And in fact I liked that better so I will come down on the #TimeTravelSucks side there.

    As to ‘Endgame’ generally, I watched it; I mostly enjoyed it while watching it; I had the sense throughout that it was a Wrap Shit Up So We Can Start Over episode. Also I am really sick & tired of the All-Powerful Villain. It’s a thing I hate elsewhere, as in mystery novels where there is an All Powerful Serial Killer. The truth is, most serial killers are not terribly functional human beings. They are not simultaneously genius plotters, hackers, financial wizards, charming socialites, and fiends in human form.

    Granted, a superhero franchise has to give its heroes some reason to be super, which maybe (?) requires a supervillain. But wouldn’t it be refreshing and different to see superheroes fighting impersonal forces like, say, climate change? :-)

  57. Time Travel can be fun. See: Doctor Who, Back to the future. It usually is pretty shit though

  58. As I’m unfamiliar with either the films or the comics mentioned, I’m entirely unqualified to comment in that arena.

    That said, however, and as mentioned by many above, there’s good writing about TT. Have you tried Neal Stephenson’s “The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O?” Or, for that matter, w/r/t the “branching multiverse” concept, his “Anathem?”

    Speaking for myself, I wish my grandparents and parents could have lived on a branch in which Adolf Schicklgruber got into art school after all and didn’t feel the need to change his name to Hitler. Or, for that matter, that I could have lived on one in which Trump’s dad was not only a nicer person, but was really nice to little Donald…

  59. I liked how Quantum Leap handled things in its first two seasons, but it kinda went off the rails after them. Of course, Bellisario’s Maxim and all that.

    My main gripe with Time Travel is this damn one second per second stuff we seem to be stuck with though. That ain’t right. Someone should do something about that.

  60. I quite like time-travel stories, but most of the ones I’ve enjoyed so far have been book-form and not comic-related, and therefore not generally require all the background knowledge of the form.

    I’ll admit that I’m deliberately ignoring all the fanfiction time-travel stories that are some of my favorites for this post.

    The two time-travel stories I’ve been loving most recently are Outlander (both book and show) and A Discovery of Witches (book).

    For the one, it seems as though history can’t really be changed, despite trying (at least as far as A Breath of Snow and Ashes IIRC), and in the other, as far as I’ve read so far, despite NOT trying to change things, there are a lot of subtle changes in the “present” in the story. I’m really enjoying both takes. However, I’ll also note that part of what I enjoy is all the historical detail in the stories.

  61. I am no fan of time travel… it’s all too often used as a lazy device to spackle up plot holes. It’s not as bad as “it was all a dream”, but still. Most of the stories I like that have had time travel in them were just so good (Connie Willis’s “To Say Nothing of the Dog”, Michael Swanwick’s “Bones of the Earth”, etc.) that I liked them despite the time travel. Or there’s Seanan McGuire’s “Middlegame” (also fantastic), where it’s really more like reloading a saved game…

  62. I’m generally a big fan of time travel, especially when you count all the great ways it’s been used in things like Looper, or Futurama, or The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, but then I read The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle and realized I had a limit.

  63. I was appalled by Cap’s ending in Endgame. Not only was it was a cheap, sentimental, and artistically frigid choice that made no sense at all, but it reduced Peggy Carter to a reward for Steve’s pretty pretty man-tears. Just awful.

  64. I am generally with you on the Marvel universe — none of it really made sense and had holes big enough to drive a tractor through (as my gramps would say).

    Time travel done well in books: I second the recs for Connie Willis who I think does it excellently.

    And recently, “This Is How You Lose the Time War” which I found through this very site’s Big Idea post. Fantastically done and beautiful writing.

  65. The way HG Wells avoided time travel being “too powerful” was to make his machine a “one-off,” the first ever made. Oh, and then the traveler conveniently loses it and himself.

    As for organizations monitoring earlier organizations (in the time stream) Harry Harrison, in one of his Rat satires, had a conference room where the heroes are discussing using time travel to save the universe, and a series of disembodied voices, each from later in time than the rest, say, “IT IS FORBIDDEN.”

    The classic non satire, that I found moving, was Keith Laumer’s lonely “Dinosaur Beach.”

  66. One of the better efforts at showing time travel and its effects (without any actual travel) was the movie Frequency. The handwavium is used when 2 record-breaking aurora events allow a man to talk to his father on a short wave radio set, 30 years in the past. The plot starts off with spoiler the son saving his father from dying in a fire, then a whole different storyline develops. Things that happen (and are changed) in the past are shown to have immediate effects in the future, implying that it is all one recursive time stream. One of the better efforts of keeping internal consistency in a quasi-time-travel storyline.

  67. All I have to do to “time travel” is re-read the old comics all these are based on, which I have buried in a crate in my basement! The old saw: “Not gonna see the movies, i read the books.”

  68. Elan Mastai’s novel, All Our Wrong Todays, does a pretty good job of handling time travel.

    Anything more would be a spoiler. The movie, if it gets made, may well mess it up

  69. Valid points, but I think the real lesson is that science fiction movies are stupider than science fiction books, and that superhero movies are stupider than science fiction movies.

    Which is not to say I don’t enjoy me a bit of Avengers or Dr Strange.

  70. Yeah, there’s good time travel and bad time travel — Time Machines Repaired While-U-Wait is a great time travel story and also a big fan of All You Zombies

  71. THANK YOU.

    There is very little I hate more than time travel – in any media. And if I do enjoy a story of any sort that contains time travel, it’s usually in spite of the time travel. It’s unnecessarily confusing and I agree with you: it almost always, always, always feels like a failure of ideas on the part of the writer/creator. Just… did y’all get lazy? Or maybe your story is just weak, if the only way to save it is time travel?

    Anyway, so glad someone else feels this way, lol

  72. Poorly done Time Travel is indeed terrible; it’s complicated enough that authors and producers often don’t think through things sufficiently to make sure things make sense.

    But well though out time travel can be really fun. I call attention to Eric Flint’s 1632 series, wherein a small coal town in rural West Virginia is suddenly relocated from 2005 WV to 1632 Germany… only there isn’t a nationpstate known as Germany in 1632.

    Lots of historical research into politics, culture, social mores, technology of the era goes into these novels, of which there are several dozen now, if you count the published fan-fiction associated with the canon novels.

    We have the Ottoman Empire threatening from the south, The Polish Empire threatening from the Northeast, The French Kingdom threatening from the west, along with the English King.

    We have technical experts from the 21st century attempting to recreate their areas of expertise several centuries in their past, steam engines, balloons and aircraft, weapons that actually work, as opposed to match-lock muskets.

    I really enjoy this series, even the off-shoots with a major cruise ship relocated to the Mediterranian of around 90 BCE. So much to work with, so many conflicts between modern culture, the freedom of women, a total rejection of slavery, freedom of religion, none of which existed in the 17th century. And mostly led by former members of the UMWA, United Mine Workers of America!

  73. Just to add, I have in my possession my grandfather’s UMWA membership card from the early 1900s. Even though he was a Republican, he was also a member of a strong worker’s union~!~

  74. I think it’s just a totally overused trope. A little time-travel goes a long way…

  75. When it comes to time travel, 2 of the better (or at least more entertaining) time travel stories are Deep Space Nine episodes.

    Trials and Tribble-ations just has fun with time travel (and with seamlessly melding the ds9 crew into an original series episode). The closest thing to consent is issues is an autograph request.

    Past Tense uses one of the more compelling time travel tropes “we broke the past accidentally and now we have to fix it”. The picture of an economically oppressive 2024 in the US is eerily prophetic and time travel is used as a set up to tell the story they wanted to tell. Terry Pratchett’s Night Watch uses almost exactly the same trope to similar good effect.

    In my opinion there’s nothing inherently wrong with time travel as a narrative device but it’s so easy to turn into a deus ex machina that it needs to be used with care.

  76. Man, if Endgame is the fourth worst movie you have ever seen, there is some really wretched cinema you need to get to! :D

    I don’t disagree with your overall take that time travel is a really lazy way to fix things. But I see Endgame as a giant set up for the multiverse. Every possibility lives in its own little universe. And all of the previously told stories are their own timeline. So there is an earth where Sousa and Carter are a thing, and another one where Steve stays after dropping off the infinity stones and lives happily ever after with Peggy. If there are unlimited realities to play with, then everything can happen, no?

  77. I remember reading an article shortly after Star Trek – The City on the Edge of Forever was shown in Australia which said, basically, the writers had opened Pandora’s Box ‘cos everybody would start using time travel as a get-out-of-jail-free card. Unfortunately they were right. And I agree with you, the convoluted logic of Endgame’s TT is weak but I did so enjoy the movie regardless. It was worth is alone for Cap taking up Mjolnir. Thank you for a very well crafted analysis.

  78. The thing about consistency in comic book movies, is that the source comic books are disaster scenes for consistency — mostly because of decades of writers coming and going, and every so often they try to sort everything out, which lasts until the next batch of writers.

    I’m with a couple of previous commenters that the best time-travel movie I’ve seen was the Bill & Ted movie, which basically got it right. (And similarly, the second movie did the same with the Epic Journey.)

    My current TT fave, in another medium, is the recently-completed webcomic All Night Laundry.

    The fun thing here (well, one of many fun things) is that the time-travel mechanics are bullshit, overtly magical — and the characters call that out in-story, even as they’re working out the rules and how to exploit them to deal with the eldritch god that’s making all the trouble. And trying to survive, mustn’t forget that. They don’t get to change the past, but they do get to use “tricked out time” occasionally, verrry carefully.

    And, well, even aside from the time travel, ANL is an epic feat: 2400+ daily installments each with at least one image and/or animated GIF (yes, the author was iron-manning for over 6 years) which also has beauty (and horror), brains, wit, and heart.

  79. The only obvious rebuttal I have to your post (and I agree Endgame has some sloppy stupid writing) is really to point to another film franchise that uses the exact same mechanic but EXPLICITLY EXPLAINS IT and is very well loved: the Back to the Future trilogy.

    It’s the same type of time travel (leaving aside that travelling through the microverse makes you immune to the changes in the MCU) but the BTTF movies make sure the viewers understand the rules.

    Now a comic book reader would expect Marvel to use a multiverse theory, because they always have since the late sixties early seventies. So they would be less confused going into Endgame.

    I think the biggest dumbest part of Endgame was the Clint/Natasha fight to see who would die to get the reality stone a second time. That should have been a tearful 90 second convo with some actual acting. Huge mistake doing it the way they did.

  80. I, for one, never delve into the logic of sci-fi too much. This is known as “suspension of disbelief”, and it is essential to the enjoyment of pretty much all time travel stories. I also recommend not actually caring about the soap opera aspects of superhero movies. As others have pointed out, this is guaranteed to be a losing proposition.

    Here are some movies and novels I recommend, which I haven’t seen others suggest.

    I highly recommend Alice Through the Looking Glass. I absolutely do not understand the dislike this film has generated. It gets bonus points for taking on the “you can’t change the present by changing the past” mantra directly. (A sequel, must see this second.)

    Deadpool 2, of course, did a magnificent job of combining time travel with breaking the fourth wall. It helps, this being Deadpool, to be aware of the main actor’s film flops. (A sequel, must see this second.)

    Men in Black 3. All the MIB films are magnificent. (I think they should be seen in order, but it’s been a long time.)

    The short film Blackadder: Back & Forth is Rowan Atkinson at his best. It can be enjoyed without seeing the original Blackadder series.

    Isaac Asimov’s novel The End of Eternity did Asimov’s then original technique of taking a sci-fi cliche, writing what appears to be a first-class and overall excellent implementation, and then exploding the cliche every which way.

    Douglas Adams used time travel several times. Its usage was fantastic in the Hitchhiker series, and then it was insanely beyond fantastic in Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. As a bonus, that novel has one of the greatest endings of any novel ever. (I can’t comment on any adaptations.)

  81. Mention of consent issues and time travel makes me think of “My Future Boyfriend” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/My_Future_Boyfriend) which I watched because I’ll watch almost any time travel story – it features a charmingly befuddled guy from the future coming to the present to learn about the mysteries of this thing called “love,” who meets an equally charming reporter/romance novelist. They fall for each other, but as she is engaged, they can’t get together, so future guy goes back further in time, to meet her before she meets her betrothed – neatly removing all her agency in her own love story. Bleah.

  82. …and, just for irony’s sake, the book highlighted in the sidebar is Kameron Hurley’s /Light Brigade/, which is a time-travel book from the ground up. She even provides a nice graph of the heroine moving through time on her blog.

  83. For the written word, allow me to recommend David Gerrold’s “The Man Who Folded Himself”. An original take on the time machine itself, and exploration of a number of possible consequences, including (not quite SPOILER) a twist on the go-back-in-time-and-become-your-own-parent trope. Published in 1973 but holds up well IMO.

  84. Interestingly, there’s a deleted scene from Endgame that shows the implications for alternate universes being born from deviations from the timeline. In it, 2014 Thanos takes on the Avengers at a time where they’re unprepared for him and wins decisively.

    Plus the fact that Loki is getting his own spinoff from when he escapes from the Avengers in 2012.

    I don’t particularly mind the vagueness of time travel rules in Endgame (I’m a Doctor Who fan; the canon and continuity in that takes a broad strokes approach for a reason). What I don’t quite get is what’s so special about our heroes’ timeline that it’s ok to create a bunch of problems for other timelines in order to save theirs, if that makes any sense. At the same time though, it’s something of a Necessary Weasel (to use TV Tropes terminology) if the plot is to proceed.

  85. *Just wanted to add, I’m reminded of something Steven Moffat said in the commentary to the Doctor Who episode “Blink,” which he wrote: the time loop that occurs in that (which was honestly, pretty cohesive as far as these things go), is simply an example of why time travel is impossible.

    I feel like that’s true of virtually every instance of time travel. Doesn’t mean some examples aren’t better or worse than others, but given that it’s just as impossible as acquiring spider-based powers by being bitten by a radioactive spider, or a creature the size and strength of Godzilla or King Kong existing without violating the square-cube law, a little leeway is expected. :)

  86. The movie Don’t Let Go uses a timey wimey scenario effectively. A policeman’s niece is murdered and he starts getting calls on her cell phone from her, seemingly from before the murder happened. Then they have to work together to figure out who committed/will commit the murder and how to stop it. There’s a neat scene (spoiler alert!) where they are sitting on opposite sides of the same table in a cafeteria, and he proves that he really is in the future by having her stick notes under the table that he immediately reads back to her.

    DC, after a lot of futzing around, had just decided that they will have many versions of their characters in a multiverse so that they can tell the stories they want without having to constantly worry about continuity. It’s a good decision. People seem to forget that this is all just made up stuff. It’s not consistent because it’s not real. Demanding that writers keep a hundred years of comic history in their heads before they can write a new story is unrealistic.

  87. I hate the time travel trope.

    I hate it in movies but I truly detest it in books. It is incredibly annoying because there are always inconsistencies that if addressed are hand-waved away like magic. It also tends to be used when authors want to fix something in the storyline without killing a lot of characters.

    I hate that.

    Let the storyline and characters adjust and learn from their actions, not create a do-over get-out-of-jail-pass-because-time-travel card.

  88. Well, there’s 4 ways that I can think of that time travel like this can be “real” and still have all this work out:

    1) Elon Musk is right, this is all just a simulation. In this case, pretty much anything goes since the simulation can be adjusted as we go along by modifying variables in the code as it runs. No need for multiverses or alternate timelines or anything and all that mucking about with alternates. Just a little bit of debug code and and there Nice and tidy.

    2) It’s a deterministic universe and there’s no multiverse and no branching and the idea of those are just illusions, as is free will. It is what it is and that’s all that it is. Suck it up and live with it (or not, as was determined during the big bang).

    3) The quantum idea that, in a universe big enough that lasts long enough, everything that can happen, will. The “branches” and “multiverse” is nothing more than quantum fluxuations in probability in different regions of the universe that allow pretty much anything imaginable to happen. Time travel, per se, doesn’t actually happen, just fluxuations of quanta that make it appear to happen. What’s actually happen when “time travel” occurs is that disparate parts of the universe interact for a moment and leave debris.

    4) The universe is inherently broken and there’s workarounds to pretty much all of the “laws” of nature because the design is basically flawed. Human biological plumbing supports this theory.

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