Movies You May Have Missed: Primer

When the worlds of science and cinema collide, one can expect an endless number of possibilities. The two share an almost limitless range of exploration and can open the viewers eyes to a whole world of wonderment and adventure. The constant scientific theme that has been used since the early days of film making is that of time travel. Everybody at some point in their lives has flirted with the idea of traveling back through history and even changing events that have occurred in their own lives. It is a consistent fantasy intertwined with the human condition to go back to a time in their life and undo a decision they regretted making or even re-experience a single moment of love and happiness that they hold dear. Whether it be for financial gain or to simply learn a truth that has been debated since the dawn of civilized man, the concept of time travel will forever be an attractive thought for every generation to ponder over. We have seen these dreams come alive time and time again in books as well as film; from the writings of Jules Verne to the Back to the Future series. Sometimes approached in a humorous light, other times a serious drama, time travel is a fascinating venue for moviegoers both young and old. Though few films have ever approached this concept in a very realistic setting. Enter Primer.

At its core, Primer asks the question “What if time travel is possible?”.

Filmed on a shoestring budget, Primer explores the reality of making a time machine and the consequences presented when traveling back in time. The plot revolves around  friends Abe and Aaron, two engineers who fund their own scientific projects in Aaron’s garage. While working on a machine designed to lessen the weight of a particular object, Abe and Aaron accidentally become the creators of the first working time machine.

"Whoa" indeed.

Once fully convinced of their discovery, Abe and Aaron set out to explore their limitations with this newly discovered technology. They learn what must be done to time travel, how far in time they can travel, and what happens to them on a physical and mental level if they travel too much. Of course, having this ultimate power is something that becomes more and more difficult to avoid abusing, and therein lies the conflict of the film. The question of “What if?” quickly turns into a question of “Should we?”, which in turn asks the audience “If you had this type of power, could you avoid abusing it?”.

The tone of this film is that of a documentary setting. You don’t get the feeling that what you are seeing is a movie. It’s a very “Fly on the Wall”-esque experience. You hear them talk to each other in what can be best described as an engineer’s language. To put it bluntly, the film does not dumb down the dialogue for the audience. And this element gives Primer its very realistic qualities. The theory of time travel in this film is explained to a degree, but don’t expect a simplistic “Get in the phone booth and dial a year” explanation. To be honest though, in this setting, explanations don’t necessarily need to be provided in order to understand what is happening to our main characters. Though this complicated dialogue may turn many mainstream audiences off, I feel as though it helps the viewer realize the amazing amount of genius it requires to accomplish what the characters have done. Furthermore, the incredibly detailed theories that were developed for the film are truly an accomplishment. The amount of effort that was put into making such a realistic world is even more inspiring when you realize that Primer was made for roughly $7,000.

To put things into perspective, emo Spiderman cost $258 Million to make. Really let that sink in...

Primer is a beautifully complex journey into a world of morality and consequence. The film deserves very high marks for its technical approach alone. It is a great study of the breakdown of friendship brought on by greed. An essential for any aspiring filmmaker as well as anybody who is fascinated with the world of the scientific. It is my hope that Primer will remind people that there are no limits to what can be accomplished through film. It’s reassuring to know that there are filmmakers out there who still care about putting effort into creating a truly original film.

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RATING: 8/10

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~ by Brandon Gnuschke on July 29, 2011.

3 Responses to “Movies You May Have Missed: Primer”

  1. I’m going to have to watch this movie now. Thanks!.

  2. This film is one that I have held dear since its release. As a film geek and a huge physics nerd, the combination of two of my biggest loves is a treasure trove of things I absolutely adore. The fact that the stars/filmmakers who put it together are, in fact, engineers definitely helped bring added realism to the project. So glad you got around to doing this one, man.

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