Trade Post: Time Masters Vanishing Point (DC)

TIME MASTERS: VANISHING POINT (DC)
Written & drawn by Dan Jurgens
Collects Time Masters: Vanishing Point #1-6

I’m generally conflicted about how I feel about Time Masters Vanishing Point. On one hand, it’s a really interesting addition to the Booster Gold/Rip Hunter mythos that Dan Jurgens has been working on since he created Booster in the 80s and up through his run on Booster Gold, a book I enjoy. On the other hand, the book never lives up to its mission of finding Batman in the time stream, because that was being done in Return of Bruce Wayne (which I haven’t read all of yet). So, essentially, it’s like paying to see a movie featuring only a few side characters that don’t have much to do with the actual story, but might be appealing to a few people in the room, like if there was a Star Wars flick just about Chewbacca and C-3PO hanging out. It might have fun character moments, but overall it doesn’t really matter to what’s going on in the larger story, assuming the larger story here is the one of Batman’s return.

The idea behind the book is that Hunter and Booster are trying to find Batman after the events of Final Crisis, but they’ve also got Superman and Hal Jordan along for the ride which leads to the typical, “You can’t save those people because they’re meant to die now,” arguments which are boring and tired to me. I can’t be the only one, right? The story also suffers from another plot point I’ve seen a million times where the time travelers get thrown into different periods where they encounter obscure characters some people might be familiar with. In this case it’s Claw and a female warrior named Starfire, but not the Titan. I don’t care about those characters and therefore don’t really care about the adventures featuring them.

However, I really liked the bits that could have just as easily been shown in Booster Gold. Rip talks about his childhood, growing up as the SPOILER son of Booster. See, Rip is Booster’s son, but Rip as an adult is teaching a younger version of Booster how to become a Time Master. There’s also some moments featuring Supernova and Booster’s sister Michelle (who was also plucked out of time before her death, it gets confusing, I know, but it winds up making sense) that I really enjoyed.

I also really enjoyed Jurgens’ artwork, as I have been for quite a while. He was one of the classic Superman artists back when I started reading comics. I think of his style as very iconic and have a fondness for it but also appreciate how he creates these big bold figures that always look as impressive as they’re supposed to be. He has “iconic” down pat.

Overall, it felt like this whole “Let’s find Batman” idea was foisted upon the Booster Gold creative team which might explain why the big story beats are kind of rote and boring while the more specific, character beats are rad. The only bit that bothered me was Hal Jordan’s relentless haranguing of Booster for being a fame whore. How can you be all high and mighty when you’re the guy who tried to restart history? I don’t care if it was because you were possessed, YOU STILL DID IT! I thought that Hal characterization was off, but my buddy Ben has always thought he was a jerk, so maybe it does fit in. I think I’ll be keeping this volume around just because it will work as a good bookend to my Booster Gold collection, but if I read through that book again down the line and don’t enjoy it, I’ll probably bounce them all.

Time Travel Shenanigans: Time After Time (1979) & The Time Machine (1960)

I’m a sucker for a good time travel movie, as readers of the first Time Travel Shenanigans will remember. So, when I saw Time After Time and The Time Machine on the NetBox, they were no-brainers for a double feature.

It seems like I’ve been hearing about Time After Time for a while now. It seems to pop up anytime people talk about time travel movies. “Have you seen the one where H.G. Wells goes back in time to capture Jack the Ripper?” So, when I saw that it was available for instant watch, I had to check it out. And you know what? It’s not as weird as it might seem. You’ve got Malcom McDowell playing Wells and Mary Steenburgen as his modern day (in 1979, mind you) love interest, so you’ve got some recognizable face, plus, the story is played very straightforward and completely avoids camp. The elaborate on the plot a bit, Jack The Ripper turns out to be in Wells’ circle of friends. They discover he’s the Ripper, but it’s too late, he’s already traveled to the future (1979). Wells heads after him and lands in San Francisco where he meets Steenburgen at a bank. There’s the usual round of “what manor of beast is this?” when our hero encounters a car or whatever, but Time After Time mostly just goes for the straighforward love story between the two stars and then the chase trying to grab Jack. It feels more like a TV show than a movie actually. I was kind of hoping there would be more sci-fi elements, but overall it’s a pretty good movie. I’m not sure if I would watch it again, but it was fun for a one-time viewing.

Now The Time Machine doesn’t disappoint when it comes to sci-fi goodness. I have never read The Time Machine, but the movie does use elements from the book like the futuristic Morlocks and Eloi. What I like most about this movie and the time travel that goes on in it is that the machine stays in the same place while traveling through time. So, he sits in it in his study and then turns it on and can see the neighborhood and specifically a mannequin in a shop window across the street. This means that as he travels forward through time, stopping in 1917, 1940, 1966 and finally in 802,701, he’s seeing the immediate effects time has on his surroundings. Usually these things don’t span such a great period of time or follow those same kind of rules. I guess, technically, Back To The Future does, but his time machine moves. This whole thing takes place over the equivalent of a city block. Again, I’m not sure if that’s how it was done in the book, but I liked the usage here. With each stop, Wells (again, our main character) gets more of a story that, at first mirrors reality, with mentions of WWI and WWII, but by the time he stops off in 1966 history has taken an interesting turn with ongoing fear of the atomic bomb. In the far future, the human race has split between the underground Morlocks who keep the beautiful, but stupid Eloi around for food. Wells can’t handle that kind of nonsense, so he does all he can to put a stop to it. I was also impressed with the special effects. There’s a volcano at one point that encases the time machine in rock that’s pretty impressive and even though everything looks like a set, the future looked lush and full of interesting characters. I do highly recommend checking this one out if you’re jonesing for a time travel movie featuring H.G. Wells as the main character. This is also a good one for fans of The Big Bang Theory who remember the episode “The Nerdvana Annihilation”  in which they accidentally purchase a full-size prop of the time machine from the movie. That’s really why I added this one to my queue and I’m glad I did.

Time Travel Shenanigans

This Sunday was kind of an unusual night now that I think about it. As a complete coincidence I ended up watching three movies that night dealing with time travel in in form or another: Terminator (1984), Primer (2004) and Next (2007). And oddly enough, I watched them in chronological order. Weird.

I actually didn’t watch Terminator alone as I usually do with rad movies from the 80s. Thanks to the sick looking trailers for the upcoming Terminator Salvation, Em wanted to check out the Terminator flicks. I had recently added the movie to our Netflix Instant Queue, so we finally checked it out.

The first Terminator movie I ever saw was T2 on TV with my parents. I remember them letting me stay up late and watching the end of the movie in their bedroom. Later, when I got my Family Video membership, I checked out the original and wasn’t too impressed. Stupid kid. Even though some of the Arnold masks don’t look that great, first off he’s a robot and second off it was ’84. And damn those exoskeletons and robots look real, even if the stop motion gets a little shaky. Plus, I like to think that Linda Hamilton’s crazy hair is a special effect all its own.

[Potential LOST SPOILER coming up if you haven’t been watching this season.] It’s actually kind of funny that the time travel mechanics are very similar between Terminator and Lost. You’ve got people heading back in time and affecting the future. Reese heads back and fathers John Connor. He always did that, he just didn’t know his role yet. It’s the “Whatever happened, happened” idea (which I have to toot my own horn and say I voiced a few weeks before the saying popped up on the show).

From there I went on to finish Primer, a low budget (supposedly made for $7,000) time travel movie that I heard about on both Horror Movie A Day and The Totally Rad Show. I won’t pretend like I understood the movie (I had to look it up on Wikipedia to get a better idea of the plot and mechanics), but it made me feel like I did when I was 16 working at Barry’s and Drew (whose last name I don’t know and haven’t seen in almost 10 years now) told me about Reservoir Dogs and The Usual Suspects and then later when I saw Lost Highway and Clerks and some other flicks. Aside from feeling incredibly original and new, Primer showed me you can make an amazing movie that doesn’t talk down to its audience. Now, the above-mentioned movies don’t seem to have much in common on the surface, but the all showed me different ways of looking at movies, from a story standpoint and general presentation to how much you need to let your audience know.

Primer’s beautifully confusing (there’s so much jargon and science in there, it’d make my freshman year roommates jump for joy, what’s up Bryan and Hatem, you guys especially should check this one out). One piece of advice I’d give anyone trying to watch Primer (and understand it), is, don’t drink too many beers and try not to fall asleep halfway through. I fell asleep and then tried watching it a week or so later and had an even hard time remembering the whole story. I can’t wait to check it out again.

I will not, however, be watching Nic Cage’s Next again. As I’ve mentioned again and again I have a strange relationship with Nic Cage movies. Sure The Rock and Con Air are awesome, but somewhere along the lines, Cage seemingly went crazy and has been playing a kind of caricature of himself since then. Or has he? Maybe I’m the one that expects him to be crazy (there’s good crazy like in the National Treasure movies which I love and bad crazy like the amazing Whicker Man YouTube video).

Well, the last two Cage movies I’ve watched from the past few years (Next and Bangkok Dangerous) have just been boring. Even Cage’s craziness can’t save a fairly boring movie with some really bad CGI effects that breaks my cardinal sin of storytelling: don’t make everything I’ve just seen pointless, even if it is a tale of what could happen.

You might be wondering how this fits in with the time travel theme and it kind of doesn’t. But it kid of does, because, as Cage explains early in the movie, he can see a few minutes into his own future and just by seeing the future you’re changing it. Sure, it’s a tenuous connection at best, but it’s there.

Now I’ve just got to get Em to watch T2 which I have on DVD. But the last time I tried watching it, I wanted to rip Edward Furlong’s squeaky vocal chords out of his throat and feed them to the T-1000. Ah well, I’m sure I’m a lot more mature now (eh, not really, this was only a few months ago). Also, I might mine these flicks for a Live Blog post or two as I took copious notes.