If you are a devotee of time travel...

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Amazing Stories (2020) 1.1: "The Cellar": The Tops

I finally had a chance to take a bite out of Apple TV+'s reboot of Amazing Stories (it's so quiet when I write, you can sometimes hear a pun drop),  and I thought I'd tell you what I thought of it.

First, I should mention that I haven't read any of the reviews.  I really have no idea if people loved or hated this episode. or just felt blah about it, and the same about the other four episodes in this inaugural season.   As readers of this blog will know, I'm often at odds with myopic, dyspeptic critics, and that would be the case for this first episode, because, well, I really enjoyed it.

In part, that's because I'm a sucker for most time travel stories, being an author of same myself, and a fan long before I started publishing.   But there's a difference between liking and loving.   In order for me to really thoroughly enjoy a time travel story, it has to be done right.  Meaning, it has to take some account of the inherent paradoxes in time travel, and make some attempt to deal with them.

So let's begin with the general observation that there are two types of travel-to-the past stories.  One, in which the protagonist tries to do something to improve the course of history, like killing Hitler before he got to power or saving Socrates from the hemlock (a course I chose in The Plot to Save Socrates).  The other is do something in the past to improve your subsequent personal life (as in the movie, Peggy Sue Got Married).  "The Cellar" is the latter.

In order for such a time travel story to work, you have to have appealing, sensitive characters, and if on the screen, played by actors who project that.  Dylan O'Brien does a good job of that as Sam, who renovates houses with his brother, and travels instantly 100 years into the past (2019 -> 1919), when a fierce storm causes some extreme drop in pressure when Sam's in the cellar.  (I think Frequency had some kind of storm as the time-travel or communication back in time trigger.  Fine with me).  Victoria Pedretti who played a completely kind of character in You plays Evelyn in "The Cellar," and does a great job of playing a young woman in 1919, which isn't easy.   The dress, music, and other aspects of 1919 life in Iowa were spot on, as far as I know, and that made for a crisp, colorful, believable narrative.

I won't say anything more about the plot, except the obvious that of course the course of true love never did run smooth, and that's especially true when it comes to time travel.  But the twists and turns are not predictable, and the ending even tucks in an alternate reality which is always nice to see in a time travel tale.

I'm definitely going to watch the other four episodes of this series, and I'll be back here with reviews.

See also Amazing Stories (2020) 1.2: "The Heat": Life After Life ...  Amazing Stories (2020) 1.3: "Dynoman and The Volt!": Sweet Superpowers... Amazing Stories (2020) 1.4: "Signs of Life": Happy Revivals ...  Amazing Stories (2020) 1.5: "The Rift": Time Travel and a Candy Bar


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