Monday 3 September 2012

That Damn Wall - The Awful Time Cop Method

Yep, I said ages ago that I’d talk about Time Cop and now I’m going to. Here’s a trailer for Time Cop voiced by none other than The Voice himself, Don LaFontaine!

Read more after the click!

It’s important for a civilization capable of time-travel to regulate it (nope) which means you need a time-enforcement agency or ‘time cops’. They need to be quick-witted, educated in history, strong, capable of improvising and blending in.
This results in Jean Claude Van Damme the meat-brained kickboxing Belgian. Jean Claude is Walker, a time-travelling cop working for a covert agency (these things are always covert) whose wife was murdered years ago, who finds himself the only one who can stop the criminal conspiracy of a corrupt politician.

I’ve spoken before about the problems with the time-travel continuity of this film. For example, at one point the younger version of the main villain receives a facial wound. This appears suddenly on the face of the older version of the male villain, which surprises him. If the changes in time manifest physically on the bodies of the travellers in real-time, why don’t their memories change as well? Memories are made of matter and energy too, after all, just like everything else. But the contents of the human skull are protected from temporal changes because of…. Well, because this film is stupid. In lots and lots of ways.

The film is basically more of Van Damme kicking things and doing the splits, since he is a kickboxing champion and incredibly proud of his splits:

Jean Claude Van Damme in Time Cop doing the splits in underwear
In this movie alone, he does the splits 3 times

The confusion over selective non-linear causality is unimportant. My real problem with this film is the time machine itself. There have been some truly iconic time machines over the years from the TARDIS to the delorean, from the phone box of Bill & Ted to the original large-backed brass machine from the H. G. Wells novel. Even that damn hot tub. Whether stupid or amazing, these machines all make some immediate sense. The TARDIS and that other phone box are sealed pods, the delorean and H. G. Wells’ time machine are both vehicles, the hot tub is a portal, etc.

In Time Cop, the vehicle is a pod that gets fired through a portal. There's already too much going on. But the process can sometimes be fatal. Here’s the breakdown: the pod is a sled thing on a rail, powered by a rocket. The rocket shoots it through the time gate thing.

Time Cop rocket sled
 Yes, I feel good about the rocket-powered sled
The agents then appear in the past (but not the future “because the future hasn’t happened yet” - urgh). This is what happens when the agents appear in the past:

Nearly there…

Yes, yes, so close!

Jean Claude Van Damme in Time Cop
 AAAAAAAAAHHhhhh that's good time travel

As he casually walks through the wobbly time membrane thing I can’t help but notice the absence of a rocket-powered sled. This is especially weird when the mission is over and the agent uses a remote control to step back through the wobbly fabric of time. He then appears in his home time, back in the rocket sled:

Jean Claude Van Damme in the Time Cop rocket sled
 What the...?

The rocket-pod goes into the time-gate towards the wall. It exits the time-gate in the opposite direction. Wherever it went while the time cop was in the past, it is apparently a place where it can turn around. Just a bit of explanation would be quite nice; even just a token gesture that gets interrupted comically. Or how about a less stupid time machine?

At one point Van Damme’s character points out the stains on the far wall that are the remains of two agents who didn’t survive the process. The danger is to increase the tension of the scene. But when you look at it another way it's the same with falling out of a plane - the speed isn't what kills you, it's the sudden stop at the end. Now take another look at the wall:

That Damn Wall in Time Cop
I see a butterfly, a bat or a wide mouth with a stubby epiglottis 

Seems pretty arbitrary, doesn’t it? The wall isn’t holding anything up or performing any function besides being the deadly goal net for the rocket pod. There’s a lot of space behind that wall. If you removed the wall, you might be able to let the rocket pod slow down on its own rather than smashing into concrete. You’d think a governmental time-travel agency would receive at least as much funding as NASA. Even if it required several kilometres of track (which it apparently does not) they could surely afford it.

This film has inspired a lot of things, including a crappy TV show spin-off and the 2003 straight-to-video sequel, Timecop: The Berlin Decision (aka Timecop 2). Check it out:

But like I said, Time Cop is the prime example of a lot of other instances of temporal police, from the unexplored origins of Captain Jack in Dr Who/Torchwood to the Deep Time organisation in Starslip Crisis:

Starslip Crisis time traveller war

Go and read Starslip Crisis. It's brilliant. Don't watch the Time Cop sequel.


Unknown said...

They're in a pod, they accelerate at a wall, BOOM, they go back in time and they just walk through the "time wall"? Then they go back to the future, they walk back through the "time wall thingy" and BOOM, they're back in the pod. What the hell happens to the pod in the mean time? Does it just get suspended in the Time Vortex?

Mark Hand The Catchman said...

There was never any kid of explanation for the sled, that should have been deleted from the movie

Mark Hand The Catchman said...

There was never any kid of explanation for the sled, that should have been deleted from the movie

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