In movies, time travel is the quantum equivalent of a Band-Aid, one that cinema often applies to correct futures of the post-apocalyptic variety.
From AI-controlled killing machines to disease-ravaged worlds, righting wrongs by breaking the laws of physics is a popular trope that yields some truly memorable sci-fi. Fox’s blockbuster X-Men: Days of Future Past is the latest film to pull a Quantum Leap, as Wolverine travels back in time to save both humans and mutants from the deadly Sentinels.
As director Bryan Singer’s sequel passes $500 million at the global box office, SPINOFF ONLINE takes a look back at five movies that used time travel to fix terrible futures.
1. The Terminator Films
What’s Wrong With the Future? As cool as it is to have plasma rifles in the 40-watt range, it’s not fun to have to use them on unstoppable killing machines bent on killing anyone by name of John or Sarah Connor.
How to Fix It James Cameron’s bleak look at a future run by Skynet greatly inspired the narrative of the latest X-Men film; Singer even bent Cameron’s ear on the subject of time travel. Days of Future Past employs X-gene-powered means, courtesy of Kitty Pride, to send Wolverine’s future consciousness into his past self, thus hoping to stop a chain of events that unleash the Sentinels on mutants everywhere. Those looking for a happy ending to Logan’s efforts will be very satisfied.
2. 12 Monkeys (1995)
What’s Wrong With the Future? A disease has all but wiped out the human race, forcing the few remaining survivors to live underground and employ plastic, bubble-boy tech to go back into the past to find a cure.
How to Fix It: Sadly, time traveler Cole (Bruce Willis) can’t. He gets caught up in one hell of paradox that results in his efforts to save mankind being what dooms it in the first place – sort of.
3. Star Trek: First Contact (1996)
What’s Wrong With the Future? Earth, population 9 billion – all Borg.
How to Fix It: Captain Picard and the Enterprise crew use time travel to essentially stop time travel, thwarting the evil Borg’s trip to the past in an attempt to assimilate Earth before Starfleet ever existed. The end result is one of Trek’s better uses of the storytelling device – and one of the franchise’s better films.
4. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
What’s Wrong With the Future? It’s not quite “dogs and cats, living together, mass hysteria,” but the 23rd century has a serious problem: A probe of unknown origin is disrupting all planetary operations as it searches for humpback whales. Unfortunately for Starfleet, the long-extinct mammal is the only thing that will stop the probe from crippling Earth.
How to Fix It: Enter Admiral Kirk and his crew of AARP members, who use the slingshot method around the sun (naturally) to travel back in time to 1986. Once they touch down in San Francisco, Kirk and Spock beam up two humpback whales, and slingshot back to the future just in time to save it. Is there anything Shatner can’t do?
5. Back to the Future II (1988)
What’s Wrong With the Future? Twin neckties and water-deficient hoverboards are the least of our problems. Biff runs a Thunderdome-fueled, Vegas-like Hill Valley after using an almanac from 2015 to change his future for the better, while ruining Marty McFly’s.
How to Fix It: Simple. Take a Delorean back in time to the events of the first film and mess around in their periphery to course-correct a Biff-tacular 2015. We just hope those power laces and hoverboards survived the changes.