It’s a Scriptshadow Bonus Day! We get a cool sci-fi thriller ANNND you get to download the script yourself at the end of the review!

Genre: Sci-Fi Thriller
Premise: An economist who travels into the future to help the United States government chart a safer and more lucrative path, must decide what to do when, on his most recent trip, he finds his wife murdered.
About: Today’s script was purchased by Sony back in 1998. It was supposed to be directed by Andrew Davis, who made one of the best thrillers ever, The Fugitive. But it never got to the starting gate. The screenwriter, Gregory Hansen, has only one produced credit – 1993’s Hearts and Souls. The Travel Agent was written at a time when Hollywood was celebrating the box office juggernauts that were Titanic and Men in Black.
Writer: Gregory Hansen
Details: 123 pages – “First Revision” 05/08/1998 draft


Could Statham pull this out of development hell?

Something occurred to me while reading The Travel Agent. We haven’t had a great time-travel movie in over 25 years, when Terminator 2 came out. And before that it was Back to the Future. There have been none in the interim. And if you even TRY to tell me that Primer or Looper are good movies, I am going to wrap you in steak and feed you to a litter of angry kittens.

It’s a reminder that while time-travel is one of the most tempting sub-genres, it’s also one of the hardest to master. I think everybody tries their hand at it once and when they realize how difficult it is, they’re like, “I’m never doing that again.” But there is one thing you can do to make your time-travel script easier to write. I’m going to get to that soon. But first, let’s discuss The Travel Agent’s plot…

Victor Barrick is a 30-something economist who works for the government. He’s a smart guy, friendly, a little shy. He’s got a stunning wife and a beautiful home. Best of all, his job allows him to help people. You see, Victor is a time-jumper.

The Jericho Program has discovered a worm-hole that can send people exactly six months into the future. This allows agents like Victor to look at things like how the economy’s doing, terrorist attacks, natural disasters, and report back so the U.S. can adjust accordingly.

For example, in one trip, Victor experiences a huge earthquake up in San Francisco that kills hundreds. Once the government had that information, they could clear people out of the buildings where the deaths were going to occur due to “a poison gas warning” or a fire alarm that was “accidentally pulled” a few minutes before the earthquake began.

Everything’s going swimmingly for Victor, until, on his most recent trip, he learns his wife’s been murdered. Just as he’s processing that, two men come after him, trying to kill him. And he’s only barely able to evade them before jumping back to the past (lots of spoilers ahead – so read the script first if you don’t want to be spoiled).

Victor needs to figure out who killed his wife and why they want him dead too. Oh, but Victor, you so don’t want to know. Jericho’s playing dumb in the past, saying that they don’t know what’s going on or why Victor was attacked. But they close down all jumps in the meantime. Victor gets his tech guy and best friend, Murphy, to jump him back immediately. Once in the future, Victor discovers a horrifying reality. The person who’s at the center of this is… him. Or, at least, Future Him. Whoever that may be.

We ping-pong back and forth between the past and future as more and more pieces of puzzle are put in place. Victor eventually learns that his wife has been playing for Team Jericho this whole time. And that they need to get rid of him so they can do more nefarious things in the future. His entire life a lie, Victor must figure out a way to save himself and expose Jericho for what it is. But he’ll have to overcome the entire might of the U.S. Government to do so.

The Travel Agent is a fun script if you judge it the way it should be judged: As a 90s spec. It’s a fun premise. It’s a silly but enjoyable hero-on-the-run exercise. It hits with some plot beats and misses with others. But, in the end, it’s enjoyable. And I’m going to tell you why this script didn’t fall apart whereas so many time-travel scripts do.

To write a good time travel script, you must nail one thing:

The rules of your time travel must be simple.

What do I mean by this? Where time-travel movies go south are when they incorporate too many rules. Time-travel is confusing as it is. So you must limit your rules to as few as possible. I’m telling you. Every rule you add, you unknowingly add a ton more complications.

For example, if I said you could only jump to the future once a year, that’s easy to understand. If I then said, you could only jump to the future once a year, and you could only stay in the future for 30 minutes before you had to come back? That’s still manageable but the viewer has to think a little more. If I said you got to jump to the future once a year, and you could only stay in the future for 30 minutes at a time UNLESS you were wearing the Time Pendant, which would extend your stay for an extra 45 minutes… you can start to see how things might get confusing. And how they’d become extremely confusing if I told you that only senior time agents were allowed to wear the Time Pendant.

Take Looper for example, with its unending set of rules. Why would you send people back in time to get murdered? Why wouldn’t you just murder them and then send them back so there was no chance of, you know, them getting to the past and being able to escape? Which is exactly what happens!

What I liked about The Travel Agent is it just had one rule. You get sent six months into the future. That’s how long the worm-hole is. You come back when you want to come back. I never had to think too hard during this. I could just enjoy the story.

Unfortunately, just because you keep your time travel rules simple, it doesn’t mean you’ve automatically written a good movie. It just means you’ve mitigated potential problems on the time-travel end. You still have to make interesting inspired plot and character choices throughout, and The Travel Agent does so sporadically.

One of my favorite moments was when Murphy needs to send Victor into the future after Jericho has closed down the program. Usually, Jericho sends you into pre-built “vaults” so you don’t end up, you know, arriving in the future with your body half-melded into a car. But they don’t have access to the vaults now.

Murphy tells victor: “Okay, there’s a run down deserted building that hasn’t been touched in years. There’s no reason to think it won’t be there in six months. We’ll send you there.” So he transfers Vic to the building six months from now and, sure enough, it’s still there. Everything’s fine. He dusts himself off like, “What was all the worry about?” Then the camera shifts to show behind him where a giant WRECKING BALL is swinging directly towards him from outside the building. He turns and notices it at the last second, and must run for his life.

I actually wish there were more scenes like this – scenes that were concept-specific. Again, you’re always looking to write scenes that COULD ONLY HAPPEN IN YOUR MOVIE. And this was one of them. But most of The Travel Agent has Victor running around in a, sort of, carbon copy manner to The Fugitive.

I’ve seen The Fugitive. I want The Travel Agent.

They also did a good job with Hannah, the wife. We saw the same plot beat – the wife working for the bad guys – in Total Recall. The difference here was that we really explored the emotional effects of Victor’s marriage and his life being a lie. Victor was truly traumatized. In Total Recall, Arnold Schwarzenegger gets a really confused look on his face and then he’s off to the races, his fake wife a feint memory.

I don’t know if this script has enough “umph” to be produced today. Maybe Jason Statham could get it made. But it’s more likely to be one of these Bruce Willis or Nicholas Cage VOD things. With that said, it’d be one of the better VOD movies they made in a long time. And it’s got a great title to boot.

Script link: The Travel Agent

[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: Credit to Scott Crawford for reminding me of this. Raymond Chandler used to say that when his stories would get boring, he would have a knock at the door, the hero answers the door… and it’s a man with a gun. This is a cheap but clever way to add a bump of energy to your script. Remember, though, that this tip has variations. The man at the door doesn’t have to be showing the gun. It can be hidden. And you get to decide who knows what about that gun. Maybe the audience knows but our hero doesn’t. Also, that “gun” is symbolic. It could be an angry friend with a bone to pick, an ex with a score to settle, an apartment manager saying that rent’s past due. Be creative when you have your character with a gun show up at the door.

  • Poe_Serling

    “We haven’t had a great time-travel movie in over 25 years, when
    Terminator 2 came out.”

    With Cameron back in the fold, it will be interesting to see if the
    franchise still has any gas left in its tank.

    • carsonreeves1

      I can’t believe they’re trying to keep Terminator going. It’s kind of sad. They’ve had four major shots now, if you count The Sarah Connor Chronicles. It’s just not a franchise type of property. Even Cameron has admitted as such. Which is why I don’t understand why he’s backing this. It certainly isn’t because he needs the money. Maybe he’s doing it for his friend, Arnold?

      • Poe_Serling

        Perhaps it’s one of those full circle things – going out on some kind
        of high note with his first commercial and critical hit.

      • Andy M (formerly andyjaxfl)

        Cameron’s creative involvement certainly makes me curious, but I’d rather see that Alien 5 story he was working on post-Titanic and abruptly stopped further development when Fox told him they were passing in favor of Paul W.S. Anderson’s Aliens vs. Predator movie…

      • Scott Crawford

        Cameron only does films for the money, according to Weaver, so he can fund his underwater adventures. She didn’t mean that maliciously, she was just being honest.

        • Marija ZombiGirl

          I recall him saying something in that vein on the SANCTUM commentary… (a “movie” that was made only to experiment with his brand new underwater camera)

          • Scott Crawford

            Sanctum was – and I don’t think this is a bad thing – him experimenting with underwater cameras. I mean, if someone wants to buy MY film script so they can experiment with their cameras, go ahead (I’ve just got to finish writing it).

          • Marija ZombiGirl

            “If James Cameron wants to buy and produce”, you mean ;)
            And sure, by all means!!

        • Pugsley

          Funny you should say this. Cameron has just begun filming the next four Avatars back to back here in LA — and I’ve heard a lot of the first sequel will take place — you guessed it! — Underwater! So, he gets to scratch his Jones AND commit the rest of the Avatar story to film at the same time.

          • klmn

            Will the audience have the patience to watch four more Avatars? Seems like an excessive risk when they don’t know how number two will perform.

          • Pugsley

            Good question. They’re also building a 17 acre theme park in Disney’s Animal Kingdom to open later this year, I believe. And they’re committing a cool billion $ towards four sequels filmed back to back. That’s a helluva a lot to bank on even though the movie was a huge hit — back in 2009!!

          • Andy M (formerly andyjaxfl)

            It opened a few months ago and it’s okay, but I wouldn’t make a trip out to Orlando just for it. The motion ride is pretty fantastic and cutting edge stuff, but everything else is pretty ho-hum.

          • Pugsley

            Wow, it already opened and it’s under the radar? That can’t be good. Also, I’ve never understood why 20th Cent. Fox didn’t immediately put the sequel into production as soon as the first Avatar became the highest grossing movie of all time. They waited nearly ten years to followup on it. I truly wonder if there’ll still be the same, rabid fanbase that greeted the first one?

            Then again, Cameron’s always been the outlier maverick who’s impossible to pin down. I’ve heard that on Titanic, while the studio was still hemming and hawing over its $250 million + price tag (astronomical at the time), Cameron just went ahead and started filming *before* he even got the green light, figuring (correctly) that the studio would just have to strap in at that point and go along for the ride. It was a highly lucrative move for them, however, and I”m sure they were happy to be taken for that ride.

          • Andy M (formerly andyjaxfl)

            I’m not sure how the advertising was elsewhere, but in Florida they have advertised the hell out of Pandora. It’s near impossible to get a fastpass to the motion ride, even if you try a month out. It’s pretty bonkers, and I think Disney will only get crazier once they unleash their Star Wars world and rides in another year or so…

            Waiting ten years was an odd choice. Hell, remember when it was written in stone that the first sequel was coming out in 2015?

            As much as the first movie is a mixed bag for me, I can’t count James Cameron out and I’ll be there opening weekend–he has earned enough goodwill with me to get the benefit of the doubt. The man knows how to connect with an audience like so few filmmakers can.

          • Pugsley

            I’d never count JC out either. He wrote and directed my favorite movie (ALIENS) and movie line (“Get away from her, you bitch!”) ever. So i’ll always give him the benefit of the doubt.

          • Andy M (formerly andyjaxfl)

            That’s a perfect movie in my book.

            Titanic left a bit of a bad taste after I first saw it, but in my defense, I was 18 and he’d yet to make a movie like that before. It’s grown on me over the years though.

            The only thing I do not like about JC is that I wish he had another 5 movies in his filmography.

          • Pugsley

            If the biggest criticism you have of a filmmaker is you wish he had five more movies, that’s saying something. And the fact we both agree that ALIENS is a perfect movie puts you in my Cool Book, my friend. :)

    • Avatar

      I wish Cameron would jump onto Star Wars – they are ruining that franchise with all these afraid to rock the boat watered down versions.

    • PQOTD

      Were you first, Poe, but didn’t stake your claim?

    • Andy M (formerly andyjaxfl)

      His name above the credits is an automatic $400 million worldwide gross in the bank. Hell, if Salvation and Geniysisysisisys can be average to below average movies and still make that much, the sky is the limit with Cameron!

      I wonder if one of the many reasons Tim Miller is directing the next installment is because he delivered an impressive looking movie on a “small” budget of $60 million, and the expectation is that he deliver something similar here.

      My two favorite directors for delivering an expensive looking movie on a small budget: Kathryn Bigelow and Neil Marshall.

      • Poe_Serling

        A blast from the past and sort of a forerunner to Terminator is the
        off the radar flick:

        Cyborg 2087

        A Cyborg is sent back in time in to prevent an event that will have
        life-altering consequences for future generations.

        Starring Michael Rennie (The Day the Earth Stood Still).

        To make it a real double bill, the same director also did another
        time travel feature:

        Dimension 5

        This time around it involves secret agent stuff.

        • Andy M (formerly andyjaxfl)

          Sold on the title alone!

          • Poe_Serling

            Something kinda fun to watch on a lazy Saturday

    • klmn

      They could send the ol’ Terminator back to an earlier time period, to whack Sarah Connor’s mom or pops, or maybe grandfather. That way they could start with new actors, except for Arnie. Hell, they could send an improved Terminator, so they wouldn’t even need Arnie.

      • Poe_Serling

        Cameron just recently announced that Schwarzenegger and Hamilton
        will both be back.

        Supposedly the story line picks up somewhere after the events of

  • Joshua Tousignant

    Predestination is a very intriguing and high concept time travel film; beautifully directed and definitely the most under-rated, under-advertised.

    • Marija ZombiGirl

      Yes. and so was TIMECRIMES (2007, Nacho Vigalondo), a Spanish movie. Not high concept maybe, but still great.

      • Ninjaneer

        Love Timecrimes.

        There was a ultra low budget time travel movie from a few years ago called Timelapse that wasn’t made very well but the last 30 seconds redeemed it for me.

        I can see why some people don’t like Primer but I’ve always loved it.

        It’s been awhile since I’ve seen Coherence so I can’t remember it that was more of an alternate universe or time travel but it was pretty interesting for an ultra low budget time travel movie.

        **Spoilers** Triangle was another low budget time travel that was interesting.

        • brenkilco

          Predestination also has its moments though it’s mindboggling, gender bending, central conceit may be a bridge too far for a lot of viewers.

          • Ninjaneer

            Agreed, I didn’t buy into the **spoilers** I’m my own grandpa paradox at the end but still enjoyed the movie **end spoilers**. It was def different (even though it was an adaptation) which I appreciate.

            I’m a fan of Ethan Hawk, he usually picks pretty interesting roles. He had another great atmospheric movie recently called Regression.

            There was a huge disparity between how highly I would rate Regression and what it scored on Rotten tomatoes. It got an RT score of 15% but I would have guessed it would have got an 85% RT score.

            I talked with some friends that saw it and they were also baffled at its low rating. It fared slightly better on metacritic (32%). It’s unfortunate because I felt like every aspect of the production (including the script) was pretty solid.

          • brenkilco

            Regression is one that got past me. May check it out. But those reviews are pretty bad.

          • Ninjaneer

            I’d be interested in what you think of it. It’s basically the only time I can remember where I’ve seen something with that low of a rating that was actually well made. At first I thought I was crazy but other people I asked said they were also baffled by the low score.

        • shiv maharaj

          I’m going to be honest, I don’t like Primer simply because I’m too stupid to understand the science

      • kent

        Timecrimes is brilliant.

      • jbird669

        I forgot about this one! Good call.

    • brenkilco

      Yes, but as noted below you either buy the central gimmick or you don’t

  • Avatar

    How do you 1) keep time travel from being redundant and 2) clue people in on what’s happening with each jump? Back to the Future did a great job and it’s probably one of the few I can remember that actually pulled it off. One of the problems I see with time travel is that you get fatigued seeing certain things happening over and over again. Or, the viewer gets completely lost because they don’t remember what happened in the previous jump. Readers and viewers tend not to be catching every single detail, so even if the writer did include it, if that detail wasn’t memorable, the reader/viewer will be like “What was that? Huh?

  • Lucid Walk

    “We haven’t had a great time-travel movie in over 25 years, when Terminator 2 came out.”

    1. 12 Monkeys
    2. Star Trek (2009)
    3. Men in Black 3
    4. Deja Vu
    5. Donnie Darko

    Maybe not great per se, but good.

    • brenkilco

      Don’t know whether MIB 3 was genuinely good. But it’s fifth dimensional stuff was fairly inventive. And that’s pretty high praise for an anything 3.

  • Andrea Moss

    ‘Take Looper for example, with its unending set of rules. Why would you send people back in time to get murdered? Why wouldn’t you just murder them and then send them back so there was no chance of, you know, them getting to the past and being able to escape? Which is exactly what happens!’

    Well, it’s explained in the movie. In the future, the CCTV surveillance, tracking and forensic techniques are so advanced that is impossible to commit a murder or destroy a body, and avoid the punishment. So the Mob send their targets to the past, where the bodies can be easily disposed. “But why they simply don’t send the victim to a unpopulated desert, or drop him in the middle of the ocean?”, I can hear you ask. Because the mobsters need to be absolutely sure that the victim has been killed, and not rescued by some Japanese fisher boat or a bus full of tourists. From there, the need of the Loopers.

  • Lucid Walk

    Super OT:

    Does anyone have John Wick: Chapter 2 screenplay?

    Just rewatched it. So good. Can learn a lot for my next action script.

    • Scott Crawford

      I agree its great but I don’t have it. It seems to have been written in-house, by the same writer Derek Holsted, and no one else, hence no need for the script to be passed around (which I think is how a lot of scripts end up interwebbed).

  • Andy M (formerly andyjaxfl)

    LOST handled its time travel philosophy with a simple, yet informative line: “Whatever happened, happened.” Any additional questions on the physics of the show’s time travel were referred back to that line for prompt answering.

    • Marija ZombiGirl

      Yes, well… That’s more of a cop-out than anything informative, no? :)

      • Andy M (formerly andyjaxfl)

        They certainly copped out in other areas (cough–mystery boxes galore–cough), but I wouldn’t put their time travel explanation up there.

        But….. It may have been the creators making it as easy as possible on themselves so they had carte blanche to take whatever zany direction they wanted with the time travel storyline. I am so confused now! Damn you, time travel!

  • brenkilco

    Looper is not a good movie. Silly and inconsistent. That scene where they chop off a henchman’s limbs to incapacitate his future self is a particular eye roller.

    But Primer, while not a ‘good movie’ by commercial Hollywood standards, is still a marvelously inventive think piece. How many movies inspire obsessive fans to create flow charts? All time travel moves that aspire to be more than juvenile adventures eventually trip over the loose shoelaces of their temporal contradictions. It’s a matter of how long the plates can be kept spinning. And none manages more complexity with more intelligence than Primer. In the comic book desert Primer was a genre oasis.

    • Scott Serradell

      Whereas I agree that “Looper” is, by and large, a bit goofy, I always thought it did have some underlying ideas that, once they worked their way into the sub-conscious, showed the work of a filmmaker at least TRYING to add some nutrition to popcorn entertainment.

      In fact, the scene you mention (Paul Dano’s death) was interesting to me because — once you step back and understand the sheer brutality of what’s happening — it turns into something truly horrible. But none of it really shown; it’s all implied. It burrows into your head and let’s your imagination fill in the gaps. That’s pretty good film-making.

      Another perspective: I have a friend who is a Buddhist teacher, and she showed the film to a group of her students. She felt that you had to view it as though the “loop” that Joe/Old Joe were stuck in basically a Hell (or suffering) they would never escape. It’s not until Joe decides to change his actions (his karma) by his sacrifice and ends the cycle, the “loop”.

      Not an explanation everyone can get on board with, I sure, but I always find it interesting when a movie can elicit so different of reactions.

      Incidentally, there’s another movie my friend has shown, one she feels illustrates the idea of Karma much better: “Groundhog’s Day”.

  • brenkilco

    Once in the future, Victor discovers a horrifying reality. The person who’s at the center of this is… him. Or, at least, Future Him. Whoever that may be

    But that presupposes a future Vic who has not previously gone into the future and learned of the murder. And how can that be?

    There is no such thing as a simple time travel movie. There are only time travel movies that ignore their own complexities. And this invariably breeds frustration in thinking audiences.

  • JasonTremblay

    11.22.63 was a great time travel series written by Stephen King and starring James Franco who travels back to stop the assassination of JFK. The time travel rule was simple: you can always go back to one specific time, but if you do, everything you’ve done previously is erased.

    • Andy M (formerly andyjaxfl)

      Have you read the novel? It’s pretty good, but it does drag for a good 100-200 page chunk in the middle before picking up again for an amazing finish. Act One in the book is top notch as well.

      • JasonTremblay

        I did. It was a fast read despite the length.

  • hickeyyy

    OT: For all you TV writers out there wondering how to make a great series bible? Check out this one for Stranger Things!

    Grab it from my Drive and save this bad boy. It is seriously great resource and absolutely nails the tone of the show. You can use this bible to see the show inr your head, which you can’t do with many other Bibles I’ve read. No wonder this got picked up and made!

    Spoilers for the first season; interesting that Nancy and Jonathan were originally going to get together. I like that they changed that, as it gave us something fresh. I also like that they lessened the impact from the teacher and added more agency for the boys.

    • Scott Crawford

      I’ve seen a few bibles in my time, I’ve even known some amateurs to write them (not a stupid move).

      TONE is the KEY word; the bibles are MOSTLY about making sure that any writer hired to work for the series is onboard with the tone and subject of the series and isn’t going to, I don’t know, what a sitcom episode (unless asked).

      Hmmm… I wonder if one could write a bible for a FEATURE. Actually, I’ve seen similar ones in Ken Attchity’s book on selling treatments that sell… essentially the basic story of the script along with short character bios and discussions of the film’s THEMES. But that was AFTER the script was written (most of these bibles are written AFTER the pilot or first few scripts are written).

      • hickeyyy


        I worked on a bible after I completed a pilot, and after checking this out, I really did NOT do a good job on it. Nice to see something that was clearly well done for next time.

    • Pugsley

      Thanks, Hickeyyy, this is great!

    • Andy M (formerly andyjaxfl)

      That is a good one. Have you ever read Paul Dini’s bible for Batman: The Animated Series? Definitely worth tracking down.

      • hickeyyy

        I have seen that one! That one is really well done, too. I loved it.

      • jbird669

        I’ve got it. Give me your emails and I’ll send it your way.

        • Adam McCulloch

          Please send it my way, if you don’t mind.

        • Malibo Jackk

          Would like to take a look, if you have time.
          malibujackk at gmail dot com

    • shiv maharaj

      That is awesome, thank you for the share!!!

      I currently don’t have any intentions on working on a pilot, I’m still trying to write a solid feature spec. But that said If I was given the option to be a Showrunner on a TV show or the Executive producer on a film franchise, I would take Showrunner, so it’s really good to have this even if it’s going to just sit in my files for a long time.

      Do you have any others that you think are brilliant to share?

      • hickeyyy

        I don’t have them myself, but if I’ve seen them online, you should be able to find them, and here they are; Someone below mentioned the Batman Animated Series. I’ve also seen the Wire and Dirk Gently and both are good.

    • Adam McCulloch

      Brilliant resource. Thanks so much for posting.

    • Malibo Jackk

      Much thanks.

  • Kane

    “About Time”. That was a great film. I suspect the lack of killer cyborgs or assassins trying to assassinate future selves kept it off of a lot of watch lists.

    • Scott Crawford

      Things in its favor (to those who hadn’t seen it):

      * Written and directed by Richard Curtis who wrote and directed Love, Actually (and The Boat That Rocked/Pirate Radio, but we don’t talk about that).
      * Starred the beautiful and talented Rachel McAdams and UK national treasure Bill Nighy.

      Things against it:

      * Nobody had heard of Domnhall Gleeson and no one could pronounce his name.
      * It looked very middle-class, set in Cornwall (?), all very idyllic.
      * Advertising focused much on the father/son relationship, which put people off.
      * Few laugh-out loud jokes.
      * Not great reviews.

      In fact, the movie made hardly any impact when it came out over here; I don’t remember any actors coming on talk shows to sell it. It MAY have been that the money men just decided to bury it?

      • shewrites

        I hate to say it but the romantic male lead was an awful choice. He’s one of the most unexciting actor I’ve watched. Very hard to root for him to get Rachel McAdams.
        And yes, I absolutely adore Bill Nighy. Thank you UK for giving us him!

      • wlubake

        In the US, they ONLY advertised the relationship with McAdams. I was surprised when the movie was really about his relationship with his dad.

        A few things that make it fail as a time travel movie (SPOILERS – is this necessary 4 years later?):

        1. It was all way too easy for the protag – any time he screwed up, into the closet he went. Always a 2nd chance.

        2. It broke its own rules (I think) – one of the most emotional concepts to me was that, once you had a kid, you couldn’t go back in time to change anything prior to that kid being born, or else the kid you later had would be different (it is a true lottery result, which sperm and egg combine, after all). Gleeson does so to save his sister from a bad relationship, and sadly, discovers a new kid later. Imagine undoing your kid that you’ve grown to love. That is one of the most devastating things I can imagine as a father. Except, see #1 above. Gleeson is back in the closet and goes back to undo the ripple he created. Poof – his kid is back (zero consequences).

        That said, the film was emotionally enjoyable/rewarding. I found all characters likable. I enjoyed the romance and the father/son relationship. I mean, you have the power to time travel, and all you want to do is have time to play ping pong with your kid before you die. That has impact.

        That said, I can see why Carson would exclude it as a great time travel movie.

    • Andy M (formerly andyjaxfl)

      I love this scene. Eyes get a little misty every time.

      • Jarrean

        This was a great indie.

      • Midnight Luck

        Oh, I forgot about ABOUT TIME, that was an awesome TT movie as well!

  • Erica

    Great to see a time travel article as it’s what my current project is. Carson’s right, Time Travel is freakin hard to do!

    I started out thinking this will be easy, I’ve seen Back to The Future. Wow, was I wrong. I ended up doing a lot of research to try and understand it a bit better. Of course when writing a fictional script about time travel, the real world science can’t always apply. What does apply is keeping it simple and what ever rules your time travel script uses, you need to keep it consistent. This one one of the plot holes or errors with the movie Project Almanac, they didn’t stick to their own rules.

    My script is moving along nicely, I’m at 54 pages now and feel like I’m over the hurdle of “can I finish this”. Funny part is as Carson mentioned in his “What I’ve learned” I had just implemented in my current script. Without getting into too much detail, as the kids discover the time machine and figure out how to use it. Rather then give them time to, suddenly, headlights are spotted as someone is now coming. This way it creates tension and pressure to figure it out fast and get out of there before who ever it is finds them.

    • Justin

      Will we see it in AOW someday? I’m working on a script that I’m planning on submitting to it — I’ve written three different outlines/treatments for it, but I can’t imagine how frustrating a “time travel” script must be.

      • Erica

        That’s what I’m aiming for. It is rewarding when you think you figure things out and it seems to work. Fingers crossed until I get to the end. If not I may have to go back and fix things again…

        It’s a fun concept, well at least I think it’s a fun and somewhat unique one.

  • RS

    I always liked it, though why did they have to get into the big car to go back in the past but just press the button to go back to the future? But on the plus side, they dealt with the whole same matter can’t occupy the same space pretty well. The boss guy says, “I don’t understand it; it’s in the technical manuals.” And wah-la, after that you don’t question it or worry about it too much.

  • RS

    Have you ever seen the Outer Limits episode on which The Terminator was based and the writer was, grudgingly, given credit for? It’s super cheesy by today’s standards, but maybe they could go back to that and reboot or continue the franchise using that original idea.

    If I recall, in the future all the soldiers were half-engineered men (kind of like Soldier with Kurt Russell), programmed to kill each other without mercy, but in the midst of a battle two get swept into a vortex and come back to our present. One is captured immediately and studied, while the other does what his programming tells him to do, seek out and kill the other. In a beyond silly move, the lead psychologist studying the captured cyborg brings him to his house so he can live more normally. The cyborg bonds with the family and then protects them when the other soldier-robot shows up. It wouldn’t quite work now the way it was written then, but maybe they could use that concept to bring something fresh to the franchise, though I like your take on the reboot possibility.

    • brenkilco

      Experts can correct me. But I believe Ellison based his claim against Cameron primarily on the Limits episode Demon with a Glass Hand and his Star Trek script City on The Edge of forever. It was the time travel elements he claimed were purloined.

      • RS

        I think it was always a bit of a thin case, but tell me if the opening 30 seconds of this does not seem A LOT like the visual opening of The Terminator.

      • Pugsley

        I believe the claims were from “Glass Hand”. All he wanted was the line “Acknowledgment of the ideas of Harlan Ellison” placed at the end of Terminator. AFAIK, Ellison has never made a dime off the franchise.

  • deanb

    Oh, God, I wanted to like Looper so badly, and then it fell prey to the “weird kid” trope with The Rainmaker. I fell asleep through most of the second act and woke up somewhere toward the end, so the film certainly succeeds in simulating actual time travel.

    Other than that, X-Men: Days of Future Past kicked ass, though it does follow a Terminator-ish formula.

  • wlubake

    Time travel movies to consider as greats between Back to the Future and today:

    12 Monkeys
    Safety Not Guaranteed
    Midnight in Paris
    Donnie Darko

    I left out time loop movies as a separate genre (such as Groundhog Day). Also deep freeze movies (like Captain America or Idiocracy) are out. But I think each of the above are successful for what they sought to accomplish.

  • Devil.Fear.Dark.TRIO.GO

    When plots involve a bit of skulduggery… who better than N. Cage to start in it, right? All aboard for The Travel Agent.

  • Midnight Luck

    Best Time Travel movies ever:

    #1. 12 MONKEYS (no contest) – and it is more complex than most, yet works beautifully
    #2. TERMINATOR / TERMINATOR 2 / BACK TO THE FUTURE – nothing more to say
    #3. SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED – by eliminating actually having to see the time travel aspect, they managed to make an awesome “time travel” movie that was so much fun, and didn’t get bogged down in the problems of it

    I would’ve loved it if they figured out how to make ALL YOU NEED IS KILL into a much better movie than EDGE OF TOMORROW (LIVE. DIE. REPEAT). It had possibility, and I really enjoyed the first 3/4 of the film, but then it all fell apart in the ridiculous convoluted conclusion.

    –DONNIE Darko is also in there somewhere, not sure where to put it. But it does a brilliant job of making everything work. For the most part.
    –11.22.63, even though it was a TV show, I thought did a fantastic job of dealing with the time travel stuff, and was a great show.

    I love time travel-y stuff, and so looking forward to somebody making a new one that is not only fun to watch, but actually works and makes sense. SAFETY was so awesome, because it was an indie movie, yet was so much fun and I didn’t expect it to be so good in the least.

    I hope someone else finds a way to make a time travel movie that brings it.

    • Erica

      I think one that often gets overlooked but is a Time Travel Gem is:
      Frequently asked Questions about Time Travel.
      I love this movie!

      • Midnight Luck

        I haven’t heard of it, but I’ll check it out. Some absolutely great people in it. Awesome. Thanks for the heads up!

    • Justin

      I’m still bummed out about the title change. “All You Need is Kill” was such a badass title…

      • Midnight Luck

        it absolutely was. I swear, with that title, it would’ve done 3x the bank.

        I’m sure someone somewhere was afraid it would scare people off or make them think it was a horror movie.

        But it was badass.

        Edge of Tomorrowland? WTF? an absolutely banal forget-me-now title.

      • Avatar

        Yeah, I was intrigued by the All you need is kill title back then. It sounded like some cool comic book title. Edge of Tomorrow, what does that even mean? That’s what happens when you have a bunch of suits who are not creative oversee the final decision. No guts.

  • CJ

    Thanks for calling out Looper. It had lots of logic problems and just kept doubling down on them. For example: If everyone is GPS tracked in the future (hence the need to time travel to kill them) why don’t the authorities ever just go to the last location of the tracking signal (i.e., where the freaking time machine is). Also, since everyone is tracked, they’d also have the IDs of everyone nearby the victim when his tracker went dark–i.e., all the suspects involved. The mob’s plan would work exactly once, then they’d all be killed or arrested and the time machine confiscated.

  • Brainiac138

    Wrap me in steak, because I really loved Primer, Looper and Time Crimes.

    • klmn

      I doubt if kittens can chew steak. Now, if Carson had written “puppies” you might have something to worry about.

  • jbird669

    Primer is a masterpiece. If you don’t like it, you don’t get it.

    You forgot Van Damme’s best film: Timecop. It’s not T2, but it’s still so bad it’s good.

  • Jack madden

    Just watched Aronofsky’s ‘MOTHER’.

    An awful, pretentious, mess. That film would try the patience of Gandhi.

    • Avatar

      Yeah, it was really bad. I kept waiting for it to redeem itself or payoff. But, during that baby scene, I was like ugh.

      • Jack madden

        I had drank a bottle of wine and smoked a big J before going in, I had a greedy bag of pick and mix and a pretty girl by my side. I was in an easy going mood and my standards were pretty low. Hey, I’d’ve been easily pleased with any old shite… or so I thought.

  • Justin

    It’s a manga title. And it’s badass. No idea what it means though. Probably has to do with all the killing.

    • Oscar

      Well, yeah but… it doesn’t really make grammatical sense. Didn’t know about the manga, but it still sounds like a bad Beatles pun or a rejected Bond song to me.

      • Justin

        It’s all about taste I suppose. I think it sounds badass.

  • Adam McCulloch

    Do you happen to have a copy? I’d love to see it.

  • Poe_Serling

    Giving a slight spin to the old John Wayne line:

    “Looks like the conversation just kinda dried up.”

    • Jack madden

      when struggling for conversation, one should always talk about the weather.

    • klmn

      Sure, now. But if you travel ten years into the future this site’ll be busier than a one-armed wallpaper hanger.

      • Jack madden

        “it was easier than just waiting around to die”
        Townes Van Zandt

  • ScriptChick

    Anime movie “Your Name” to be made into American Live Action Film by JJ Abrams. As much as I didn’t like the movie, having Eric Heisserer working on it I think works due how he handled the time-bending on Arrival (which I really liked).

  • Mr. Blonde

    “We haven’t had a great time-travel movie in over 25 years, when
    Terminator 2 came out. And before that it was Back to the Future.
    There have been none in the interim. And if you even TRY to tell me
    that Primer or Looper are good movies, I am going to wrap you in steak
    and feed you to a litter of angry kittens.”


    A) Primer is a good movie.

    B) 12 Monkeys.

  • JasonTremblay

    How can you ignore Hot Tub Time Machine???

  • Midnight Luck


    The almighty Hef just died, unbelievable.

    R.I.P. Hugh Hefner (91)

    • klmn

      I think he’s been a zombie for the last decade or so.

    • Justin

      What the f…

  • J.C

    Disagree with you on Looper. A top time travel flick. Also if you murdered people then sent them back there is a chance you would leave evidence. of that murder in that timeline. You murder someone’s older self in the past it’s like it never happened because let’s say you found some DNA you would trace it back to there present day selves who are alive and well. And there ends your murder investigation.

  • Adam McCulloch

    Thanks so much.