Time Travel in the Movies

Hollywood has always been fascinated with time travel, but right now it seems obsessed with the subject. The "The Time Machine" and "Planet of the Apes" remakes, "Kate & Leopold", and the wonderfully bizarre "Donnie Darko" (due for release later this year) all fiddle with the space-time continuum, but they are just the tip of the iceberg.

Richard Donner is shooting Michael Crichton's "Timeline", which sends its hero back to 14th century France, while Universal Pictures is said to have at least four time-travel movies in development, including a sequel to "Time Bandits".

Why all the interest? John Gribbin, author of "In Search of the Edge of Time", puts it down to the publication of Kip Thorne's 1994 book, "Black Holes and Time Warps: Einstein's Outrageous Legacy".

Brad Anderson, director of time-splicing romantic comedy "Happy Accidents", on the other hand, thinks it is because President George Bush is turning the clock back to when George Bush Snr was in the Oval Office. "We are kind of in a time warp," he told USA Today.

Whatever the real reason, time travel films are still having problems getting their facts right. For instance, in "Kate & Leopold", Hugh Jackman's suave Brit comes from 1876, yet has knowledge of "La Boheme" and "The Pirates of Penzance", both of which were written later. His name is Leopold, for God's sake, not Nostradamus!

Due to the so-called 'Grandfather Paradox', however, it's usually logic rather than history that produces the biggest plotholes when a character visits the past.

Why? Because if a time traveller goes back in time and kills his grandfather before he meets his grandmother, then, logically, the time traveller himself will not exist. And if he does not exist, he cannot kill his grandfather. He will therefore be born - to go back in time to kill his grandfather.

The first and third "Back to the Future" pics and two "Terminator" movies (although not "12 Monkeys") are just some of the films whose plots, if you really think about them, are undone by this maddening logic.

Obviously, HG Wells had the right idea when he sent his hero into the future. There you can do what you like, and not have to suffer the consequences.

"Back to the Future"
"The Terminator"
"Time Bandits"
"The Time Machine" (the 1960 original)
"12 Monkeys"