Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Time Travel Clichés: Funny or Dull?

Thanks to John DeNardo of the ever informative SF Signal website for pointing us to the latest video by the folks over at Funkanomics.com.

As DeNardo noted in his pithy post title, "Every Time Travel Cliché in 3 Minutes," the "Built a Time Machine to Kill Hitler" video by the aspiring internet comedy crew at Funkanomics is not treading much new ground when it comes to the metaphysics of time travel. To be fair, dissecting the various connotations of time paradoxes in great detail isn't the point of the video. Funkanomics are trying to give us a few laughs and build a comedic reputation online.

Do they succeed?

Is "Built a Time Machine to Kill Hitler" funny?

Watch the video for yourself before you read my thoughts. It won't be the worst 3 minutes you have experienced.

"Built a Time Machine to Kill Hitler" is certainly passable as a 3 minute sketch, and I was impressed with how natural the insertion of additional time travelers looked in the film, but it's stuck on "amusing" and doesn't quite leap into "funny." I think that the greatest flaw of the skit is its lack of depth when it comes to its subject matter. We all get the BACK TO THE FUTURE and TERMINATOR references, but I'd have liked to see some A SOUND OF THUNDER, A GUN FOR DINOSAUR, MIMZY WERE THE BOROGROVES, or TIME COP (with regard to the existence of time police) thrown in for good measure. If you're going to go for the cliché gold, you have to have at least one reference to a dinosaur and one to time police. Otherwise, you're just not doing it right.

The basic comic beats are on cue in the piece, but the writers forgot one key point -- comedy is irony. I would have loved for the last time traveler to walk on the screen to be one who says, "you were right, I didn't set my clock forward for Daylight Savings. I guess it didn't work." Then have that character look down, bewildered, as he has to help his roommate clean up the mess left by the other travelers.

All that aside, I do think the film was entertaining and I will definitely be going back to Funanomics.com.

What are your favorite Time Travel stories and clichés?

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