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When I Come Around

Banes at 12:00AM, April 29, 2021
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The other week i finally watched the movie Palm Springs - I think I'd heard some good reviews, and had a vague notion that it was sort of a romantic comedy with a time loop twist. I absolutely flipped out over it and watched it again the next day, and hunted down a handful of interviews about it, and so on.

It really struck a chord with me, but after recommending it to a couple friends and hearing some unenthusiastic reactions (sorry, friends!) I realized that maybe it was one of those flicks that was amazing for me, and not necessarily for everybody else.

So obviously, I am a fan of the time loop concept in stories.
It's very entertaining to watch scenes play out, with multiple mysteries to be revealed as the character goes through their repetitions and sees more and more of the world during their looped time.

The fun of this genre is seeing what the characters do with their combination superpower/curse. In comedies or romances, the character can try again and again to get things right, and learn new skills in less than a blink. In thrillers or horrors the moment of discovering the loop is probably very significant: what could be worse than the suffering that never, ever ends. The dramatic possibilities are great, too, as characters can do extraordinary things in certain ways - but not in a way that will ever last, or matter, or be remembered by anyone but themselves.

But what really makes the genre work for me, I think, is the themes that are present in this kind of story.

To me, the time loop story is the ultimate metaphor for the meaningless life. A life of certain, fleeting pleasures, and powers, but with no way to build anything truly lasting. The thrill of being able to predict outcomes, manipulate your way into certain situations, not have to worry about consequences - it all eventually fades into existential misery. The consequence-free life becomes a nightmare.

Finding meaning in a meaningless existence - that's a character arc that always works for me. And the time loop story is so much fun, and useful to tell that story.

Palm Springs, I thought, told a satisfying time loop story, with an ending that satisfied on a plot level as well as a thematic one.

How do you like timeloop stories? Got a favorite?

Have a good one!

loopingly,

Banes

comment

anonymous?

Corruption at 5:33AM, May 4, 2021

One of my favorites time loops comes from Terry Pratchets Discworld novels. Ancient priest uses magic to keep himself alive so he can help the Gods continue to surivive by having followers. He gets sent into the past and starts the religions. Thing is: he is so old he doesn't even remember starting the faiths by the time he gets sent back.

Banes at 5:44PM, April 29, 2021

@hushicho - To be honest, the friends I recommended this to did not come back with my level of enthusiasm - in fact, one friend was annoyed at me for the recommendation, haha. So...fair warning xD

hushicho at 3:01PM, April 29, 2021

Time loops can be a lot of fun, especially when you want to maintain a status quo but also want to have the characters develop. It can also provide a nice reset button, in case you make any mistakes, so you don't have to worry about going wild or being experimental. I enjoyed Groundhog Day for what it did, and the second season of gdgd fairies also played with time travel and loops, which was generally done well. It's an interesting element to think about for a number of stories. I'll have to check this movie out!

Banes at 2:55PM, April 29, 2021

@Chickfighter - well I have to see Edge of Tomorrow! Haha - I know of a Twilight Zone episode that is a bit like you describe; it’s not a time loop exactly but sort of “blissful” in a way, and it plays out...well, I won’t spoil it. It’s called “A Nice Place To Visit”.

Chickfighter at 12:35PM, April 29, 2021

To be honest time loop stories don't do much for me. But then I'm not a fan of time travel stories in general. Yes, I get that it is a device being used to tell a story, but I just have a real tough time getting past the seeming impossibility of it. I DO appreciate when a reviewer tells me in detail why they like something though so I can make a better determination as to whether it would be worth my "time." Hah. That said my favorite time loop movie is probably Tom Cruise's Edge of Tomorrow (2014), costarring Emily Blunt. Perhaps an interesting twist on the time loop theme that I haven't seen would be for the person to be reliving the best day of their life over and over until they become tired of it. Sort of like going to heaven and singing hallelujah until you fall asleep. How much bliss is too boring to endure? Heh. Might one eventually choose the striving over the arriving? Worth a ponder or two.

Banes at 12:02PM, April 29, 2021

@ozone - that's a feature of most of these stories, yeah. If you (meaning the Protagonist) are aware that things are repeating, YOU are effected. You accumulate memories, can build skills, and grow weary of life (and perhaps go insane, which a person eventually would, disturbing as that is to think about). Of course when I mentioned lack of consequences I meant consequences that are external to whoever is looping. The Red Dwarf variation sounds neat!

Banes at 12:00PM, April 29, 2021

@bravo - cool! I've never heard of 'When They Cry'. Dang, there are more of these than I even thought!

Banes at 12:00PM, April 29, 2021

@marcorossi - I think I stopped around episode 10. I'd like to see it, but it's hard to get through. Maybe I'll just check out the movie instead. Thanks!

Banes at 11:55AM, April 29, 2021

@Andreas - that's cool! There are a lot of these out there i guess; more than I've ever heard of! xD

Banes at 11:54AM, April 29, 2021

@ozone - apparently "Russian Doll" on Netflix is a "loop" series. I don't know - I couldn't make it through the first episode i was so bored by it. I liked the science of Palm Springs - it took a different approach than the Groundhog Day/Twilight Zone setups, where the magic lasts as long as it lasts, with nothing the Protagonist can do to get out (other than become a better person or whatever). In Palm Springs the specific mechanism was required in order to tell the story they were telling. Loved it!

bravo1102 at 10:43AM, April 29, 2021

The entire series "When they Cry" is an extended time loop. But you don't find out in the series for the longest time. That's easily the best treatment I've seen because some of the alternatives before the resolution are very tippy. All too often you think the series is simple horror or science fiction and it flips it around again. Loved Beautiful Dreamer if only because one character has his very own Leopard tank. I have to say the US edit shown on Cartoon network of Urusei Yatsura stunk.

marcorossi at 8:26AM, April 29, 2021

@Banes I tried binge-watching Urusei Yatsura during the lockdown, but honestly it's just too long - what is it, 300 episotes? I think Beautiful Dreamer is one of the highlights of the serie, way better than the other OAVs, so I push you to watch it before finishing the serie.

Ozoneocean at 8:18AM, April 29, 2021

In Red Dwarf they had an episode with looping... I think it ws about photos: You could walk into a photo of the past and expereince it, but nothing outside of that... Though you could inflience the past by doing that and change the future. In the Canadian ScFi Series Star Hunter in the first seasion there was an episode with time bubbles that caused people to drop back at random earlier spots in their recent timeline and relive them over and over. It was frustrating but clever. In LEXX there was an entire episode called "the web" and then another called "the net", basically the same thing repeated again but with really small changes, the characters were supposed to be caught in an artifical reality I think and finally breaing out of it at the end of the second episode... In reality I suspect it was an excuse to just cheaply make another episode by only shooting 5 extra minutes of footage.

Ozoneocean at 8:11AM, April 29, 2021

Number 2. The second thing that was new was the idea that although you seemingly have almost complete freedom from all consequences in this scenario to live out whatever fantasy you chose, commit any act, transgress laws and morals etc, there ARE infact consequeces for the psyche! The more bad things you do the heavier it weighs on you so you learn NOT to do those things and adjust your behaiour accordingly- so things are not quite as meaningless, consequence free and directionless as they apear: Although the world repeats and resets the same way each time, YOU do not.

Andreas_Helixfinger at 8:09AM, April 29, 2021

Oh! Oh! Now I actually remember another iteration of this story. In the syndicated "Disney Afternoon", that I used to watch as a kid, I remember this episode of Aladdin titled "The Sands of Fate". I remember it being about Aladdin and his friends coming across a group of tough warriors out in the desert that was being attacked by bandits and dropping a crystal from a chest that shattered. And for everytime this magic crystal got shattered it kept re-triggering the loop. Aladdin and his friends one by one ended up magically switching place with the warriors, forgetting who they were, becoming sucked into the scripted event, bit by bit losing any chance of escaping it. That was an interesting take on the time loop arc. A time loop that not only traps you in the same event, but also rewrites your whole personality into the event, erasing who you were before it happened. It was a cool episode.

Ozoneocean at 8:06AM, April 29, 2021

Palm Springs was interesting in that it posed two new ideas: 1. Scientifically studying the timeloop and testing its limits in order to understand it. The first main character has given up and just expereinces life over and over, but the woman wants to find out all she can and eventually works it out. The sceince was silly but the fact that she took that approach was quietly brilliant.

Ozoneocean at 8:02AM, April 29, 2021

There's a new thing out that has just done the same looping theme... I haven't watched it yet and can't recall its name. It was advertiesd on Amazon Prime.

Banes at 6:52AM, April 29, 2021

@cdmalcolm - I agree, it would be very challenging! And damn, I still have to see Edge of Tomorrow. I don't know anything about it but saw some good reviews.

cdmalcolm1 at 6:26AM, April 29, 2021

I’m sorry, I’m still stuck on the lazy river in the middle of the desert......that’s AWESOME! Well, anyway. Excuse me. Time loops are some of my favorites too. I really like “ Edge Of Tomorrow “ with Tom Cruise. Star Trek version of a time loop. It’s trippy. It’s like our minds trying to logically explain possible paradox that makes no sense at all. If you use this in a comic setting, you really have to put your “A” game in writing a time loop. You have to make sure you don’t confuse the reader as your character(s) move through Space and time.

Banes at 6:18AM, April 29, 2021

@marcorossi - Oh, cool! I think I saw that years ago but don't remember much. I'm slowly watching Urusei Yatsura on youtube - still near the beginning. Once I get through it I'll check out the movies, including that one.

Banes at 6:17AM, April 29, 2021

@bravo - I love "Clues," where there's sort of an amnesia plot, and clues left that points to a mystery - that functions as a single loop. You might be thinking of "Cause and Effect", where it's many repeated loops ending with the Enterprise blowing up. I think there's another Twilight Zone aboard a war ship that turns out to be a looping afterlife; some kind of punishment. X-Files did one called...I want to say it was called "Monday" but I don't remember. I really liked "Happy Death Day". Watching the sequel now and it's fun as well. I love this genre!

Banes at 6:13AM, April 29, 2021

@Andreas_Helixfinger - Groundhog day is a great movie, and for a long time it has been the quintessential time loop story. I wish I'd mentioned the trope of the character repeatedly dying - that's one of the major elements of these kinds of stories. "Palm Springs" has a funny moment early on where a character tries the "being a good person and doing everything right" solution to get out of the loop - and it doesn't work. I think she literally wakes up, still in the loop, and says "Yeah. Didn't work. Life is meaningless." haha.

marcorossi at 4:48AM, April 29, 2021

Another time loop story (more or less): Beautiful Dreamer, an OAV from the anume serie Uruseiyetsura. I personally think Beautiful Dreamer is genius.

bravo1102 at 4:05AM, April 29, 2021

ST:TNG Clues. Enterprise is stuck in a time loop. The crew figures it out and starts leaving themselves clues so they can get out of the situation. Twight Zone "Shadow Play" Man has a recurring dream but each time it is subtly different and he knows he is trapped. Each one makes use of Deja vu and how the mind picks up on clues. There are also a couple the use reincarnation that have a person living out the same plot life after life to get it right often with tragic love stories that in one last life ends happily.

Andreas_Helixfinger at 3:26AM, April 29, 2021

The only time loop story that comes to my mind is the 1993 comedy movie "Groundhog Day" starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. It's been a while since I saw it but I remember it using the time loop plot to a very good comedic and dramatic effect, very much displaying the long term problems that comes with a life that has no consequences, as you described. How Murray's character, after having all of the thrills of a day that keeps resetting itself wear off, then tries to commit suecide only to fail doing so again and again as the day just keeps on looping even after death. The only way he manages to break this curse is to change his life and the lifes of the people around him for the better. Learning how to treat today as if it is the only day that could ever be and treat it like it is a blessing to be shared with the rest of the world. It's a good movie.


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