"Paul Levinson's It's Real Life is a page-turning exploration into that multiverse known as rock and roll. But it is much more than a marvelous adventure narrated by a master storyteller...it is also an exquisite meditation on the very nature of alternate history." -- Jack Dann, The Fiction Writer's Guide to Alternate History

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Predestination: Treat for the Intellect and the Senses

Just saw Predestination on Google Play.  The movie is based on Robert Heinlein's "All You Zombies," in some to many ways the best time travel story ever written. Accordingly, a movie in most to all ways faithful to the original story should be in many ways the best time travel movie ever made.  Predestination was and is.  I enjoyed it just immensely.

Of course, I saw it having already read the story - how else would I be able to say it's in many ways the best time travel story ever written.  I therefore can't quite fathom what it would be like to see the movie without having read the story first - which, to spell it out, means you know the secret that ingeniously weaves its way throughout the entire story.   The last thing I'll say here without getting into that secret - which is to say, the last thing in this review which will be spoiler free - is that possibly the best way to see the movie if you haven't read the story is on Google Play, or some other suitable site that allows you to stop, ponder, and re-wind if necessary.   That, combined with the fact that the movie is largely narrative, with no big action scenes involving armies or mountains, may mean that the best way to see this movie if you haven't read the story is not in the theater.

And that secret, so brilliantly executed in the story as well as the movie, is that all the major characters except one - Mr. Robertson - are the same person.  That includes people who look not at all alike, male and female, baby, child, teenager, and old man.   And the story that ties them together - literally - is not only plotted perfectly, but given to us in just the right details.

My favorite touches in time travel stories are those that are almost casually dropped, having no seeming earthshaking significance at the time, but turn out to be major pointers to what is really going on in retrospect.   Shortly after we meet the character played by Ethan Hawke, whose face is badly burned, we come to see that he looks like Ethan Hawke because of the plastic surgery to repair his face. Not long after the hermaphroditic character played first by Sarah Snook claims her->his manhood, he gets the good news that he's no longer "shooting banks".   This sets up the biggest payoff in the story, in which he (still played by Snook) sleeps with her (younger) self, she gets pregnant with a baby that is her (yes, both her and hers, and, for that matter, also his, making the baby a kind of clone), and eventually she turns out to be the he who becomes Ethan Hawke.   If all of this sounds a little awkward and a lot complicated, it is, but the magic of both the story and the movie makes it mostly mind bogglingly wondrous.

Indeed, the story is so seamless, and seamlessly portrayed, that even Mr. Robertson (a Mr. Smith ala The Matrix kind of character, not in Heinlein's original 1959 story) looks a little to a lot like Ethan Hawke, which only increases our growing awareness that almost everyone is everyone in this time looped masterpiece.   The environments are filled with nice touches, as in the bar scene with the lady's and gent's rooms right next to each other in the background, subtly symbolizing that the lead character - who in the bar is literally talking to himself  (Snook, now a man, with Hawke) - is both a man and a woman at one time or another.    And the scene between Snook the man and slightly younger Snook the woman is also perfectly played:  he falls for her because he's in love with him/herself, the supreme narcissist, and she falls for him because he knows her so well, something everyone wants from someone they've just met.

I have no idea what you'll think of all this if you don't have a taste for time travel.  But as a connoisseur and practitioner of the genre - I wish I could say of the actual activity - I can tell you that if you are similarly inclined, you'll find Predestination a preternatural treat and feast for the intellect and the senses.  

podcast review of Predestination and 12 Monkeys

 three time travel novels: the Sierra Waters trilogy

two time travel stories (with more to come)

The Chronology Protection Case movie

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