Recently a friend recommended Primer (2004) to me. Taken the Grand Jury Prize at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival, this movie is the most complex time travel movie I’ve ever watched. It makes Back to the Future trilogy (which is still the greatest time travel movie series ever, period) like kindergarten material in terms of ease of understanding.
Four friends try to invent new electronic designs in a garage in their spare time, and hope to secure VC funding. Two of them accidentally created a time machine, and use it to travel back in time to make a few stock trades. Something goes wrong, then one of them tries to go back in time to stop their earlier selves. Noticing this, the other also goes back in time to stop him.
This is a really important time travel movie because of several unique characteristics:
- There are far more details on how the characters avoid running into themselves, than the average time travel movies
- When they do run into themselves, they do something that nobody else in other time travel movies do, challenging the the conventional time paradoxes we see in movies
- It raises the question of how mobile phones behave when two people with the same phone and the same SIM card exist, and uses it to affect the time travel plot
- The sheer complexity of two people each trying to change the past for more than one time, causing the existence of multiple timelines
- It introduces the notion of more than one oneself existing in the world forever, something that normal time travel movies do not do
This plot is so complicated that even after reading a web explanation I still cannot fully grasp all the details. In spite of its complexity, the filmmaker chose to include as little explanation as possible. For this reason this movie is not suitable for general audience. However, those who love time travel or love to be challenged should watch this.
This is a chart I found from google. See how complicated this thing is.