Tuesday, 10 March 2009

The future's not set. There's no fate but what we make for ourselves.

How great is that? I must've watched it about five hundred times now.

Well Watchmen has finally been released. And so this weekend I dragged my sorry self out of bed and took my place in the line of excited comic book geeks that snaked it's way outside of the cinema. An hour later I'd only just made it to the the front of that line. Three hours after that I was wishing I had stayed in bed.

Because, as much as it pains me to say this, Watchmen is really not that good. Now I should probably mention at this point that I love the comic book. No really I do. In fact two years ago I actually forced my girlfriend to read it cover to cover while on vacation in the South of France (Gee Note: Sadly I do things like this all the time. "What do you mean that you've never seen Star Wars?!?! Right that's it, sit down on the sofa and don't move, I'm going to warm up the DVD player. No I don't care if you've got other things to do, this is way more important". I once made a girlfriend watch both Braindead and Bad Taste back to back in an effort to prove that despite the ho hum Lord of The Rings movies, Peter Jackson is actually quite a talented film maker. I'm not sure she really appreciated it though. I don't know, maybe comedy zombies aren't the way to a woman's heart). But the Watchmen movie left me feeling completely underwhelmed.

It's a problem with trying to cram too much in more than anything else. In the comic book Alan Moore throws the reader in at the deep end of an alternative 1985 where Nixon is still President, costumed heroes have been outlawed, and nuclear war is a very real threat. From there Moore builds the story backwards, using flashbacks liberally in order to flesh out his characters personalities and motives. It's kind of like Lost in that respect. The story of Lost kicks off with a plane crash on a mysterious island in 2004, yet chronologically the plot dates back to the birth of John Locke in 1956. Watchmen's story goes all the way back to the formation of a group of costumed heroes known as the Minutemen some 40 years previously.

And the movie does it's gosh darnedest to stay true to all that. The problem is that it fails to get the balance right. We get scenes which feel rushed and forced and scenes that never seem to end all at the same time. For example, at one point a lead character shoots his pregnant mistress to death in what should create a "Wow! What a complete scumbag!" reaction. But it's thrown in there with so little build up that you end up just shrugging your shoulders. Somehow they've managed to make the death of the movie's most vulnerable person a "meh" moment. Contrast this with an amazingly boring conversation that takes place between a giant blue naked guy and a female model in skin tight yellow PVC on the surface of Mars (Gee Note: How could this be boring I hear you ask? Well by the time it rolls around the novelty of watching both the model struggle to construct a simple sentence and the blue guy showing off his birthday suit has worn a tad thin) where ten minutes feels like half an hour, and you realise that pacing is crucial to great story telling. Had they spent less time on one and some more on the other the result would have been far better.

Now if only they had someone behind the camera who knew what to do with time. Like John Titor for example.

Every once in a while something that's supposed to be low key catches on and becomes a hell of a lot more popular than it was ever meant to be. Like, for example, Slumdog Millionaire. Slumdog was supposed to be a small British project that would have limited release in the US before going pretty much straight to DVD. Somehow enough people saw it that the limited release turned in to a nationwide release, and the nationwide release turned in to an Oscar winning entertainment juggernaut. Or like the term 4:20, which was used by a group of ne'er do well students from San Rafael High School in California circa 1971 as a code word for meeting up after school to smoke-a da reefa, and somehow managed to become synonymous with cannabis counter culture the world over ten years later.

Well John Titor is kinda like that (Gee Note: He's a poverty stricken Indian who likes to get high. Nah, I'm just kidding. Actually for all I know he could be. It would explain a hell of a lot actually). Titor became an internet sensation in 2001 after posting a couple of messages on some bulletin boards. Seriously that was it. The guy wrote some stuff on a forum and became a celebrity on the web.

So what the hell did he write? Was it a lurid story of a night of passion with an A-list celebrity (Gee Note: I mean who hasn't done Colin Farrell)? Or some kind of vicious parody depicting the country's leading politicians? Or did he post a video of himself getting attacked and beaten by a hamster?

Well it was none of those actually. Initially posting under the name TimeTravel_0, Titor claimed to be a visitor from the year 2036, a time traveller who was thrown back through the ages by a machine hoisted on the back of a 1967 Chevrolet Corvette. (Gee Note: Obviously he couldn't find a DeLorean).

Yep that's right, Titor claimed to be the real life Future Boy. Appearing at first as just your regular crackpot random internet user, John showed up on the Time Travel Institute forums on November 2 2000. For those of you who never knew there was such a thing as the Time Travel Institute you're not in the minority. Apparently it's a website dedicated to discussing ideas about crocheting and cross stitching time travel. Anyhow, TimeTravel_0 started off small, talking about how to build a time machine by using glue, sprinkles and macaroni. Probably. Actually he came up with a laundry list of stuff you need to build your very own flux capacitor.

Two magnetic housing units for the dual micro singularities

An electron injection manifold to alter mass and gravity micro singularities.

A cooling and X-Ray venting system

Gravity sensors, or a variable gravity lock

Four main caesium clocks

Three main computer units

And fiiiiiiiiiiive gold rings.

OK so I made that last one up, but the rest of the list is genuine. People started asking questions, such as “how does it work?” and “what the f*** is a caesium clock?”. According to Titor it would produce a "standard off-set Tipler sinusoid". Which is a bit like saying a toaster makes a maillard compound of yeast, flour and water. Or toast if you prefer.

It didn't stop there however. TimeTravel_0 soon revealed that his name was John Titor, and that he was an American soldier sent back in time to kill Sarah Connor pick up an IBM 5100 computer from the year 1975. Apparently this was to help cure the 2038 Unix problem (Gee Note: Which is kind of like a Unix version the millennium bug, except without the wide scale panic and people freaking out because they think planes are going to fall out of the sky or something), and Titor was specifically chosen because his paternal grandfather was directly involved in the assembly and programming of the original IBM 5100. Although why this would make a difference I have no idea. Surely choosing someone who could pick up and carry a computer to the back of a car and not compromise future events by blabbing about it all over the interwebz would have been more appropriate? I mean you'd have thought whoever was in charge of this mission would have ordered a psyche profile or something. (Gee Note: "OK John, first question. If you were able to go back in time, would you be able to keep the fact that you're from the future a secret?" "Hell no!" "Hmmm, I'm going to put you down as a 'maybe'").

Eagle eyed readers will have noticed two things from the previous paragraph. One is that despite what would have surely been significant advances in technology 30 plus years in to the future, it appears that the world's best and brightest would need a 60 year old computer to help them avert all sorts of technical malfunctions, and sent a man back in time to pick one up. Rather than say use their own computers. Or, you know, build an IBM 5100 for themselves. I don't know, it just seems like an awful lot of effort to obtain a PC with a whopping 64 KB of memory.

The second is that if Titor was sent was back to 1975, what the deuce is he doing posting on a message board in 2001? Well according to the man himself he travelled back to the future (Gee Note: Man I love that movie. Great theme tune as well. Daaa daaa daaaaaaaah da da da da daaa da da da da da da daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah. Magic)  to catch up with some family members and retrieve some photographs that had been lost in the civil war.

Ah yes the civil war. According to Titor at some point in the not so distant future Skynet will become self aware the United States will tear itself apart after civil unrest due to the Presidential Election results in 2004. This will lead to "A Waco type event happening every month" before erupting in to a full scale war in 2008. John himself fought in the war as a thirteen year old in 2011 on behalf of the "Fighting Diamondbacks" who were based out of Florida. The civil war would carry on until 2015 apparently halted by a Third World War (Gee Note: Ah, there's always a bigger fish). When the dust has settled America will have divided itself in to five separate regions. John also predicted that the Olympics will cease to be staged after 2004 and that the European Organisation of Nuclear Research would be able to create miniature black holes by some point in 2003.

So does anyone else see the problem here?

It's OK though, Titor had a built in excuse for being woefully inept at predicting the future. It turns out that according to him time travel is only possible between parallel universes, so therefore Titor's future may be completely different from our own. The parallel universe theory is something that has been debated by Quantum Physicists ad nauseam and is based on the idea that every action has an infinite number of reactions and each of those reactions spawns a separate universe. For example, this morning I decided to wear odd socks (Gee Note: I say decided, it was actually more along the lines of "with bleary vision grabbed the first two items of clothing that vaguely looked like socks"). However I could have quite as easily chosen to wear matching socks instead. At the point where that decision was made the universe splintered in to two, one with me wearing matching socks, one without. The idea being that in the non matching sock universe I'm currently writing this post, but in the matching sock universe I could be having the time of my life flanked by a bevy of bikini clad beauties. Or, as is more likely, trapped in a cupboard somewhere.

So if Titor couldn't predict the future, what exactly got folks excited about him in the first place? Well outside of the fact that people are crazy (Gee Note: No really they are. Hell even Ultimate Thor has people believing in him, despite the fact that he's obviously a fruitcake. He does have a monkey though. Which, you know, is kinda cool I guess. Also, how the hell has this guy, the dude that claims he's a freakin' reincarnated alien, have more followers on his blog than I have? Oh wait. I get it. A Swedish guy with long blonde hair and a silly beard is cool, but a Welsh guy with long ginger hair and a silly beard isn't, right? That's it isn't it? Jeez, it's like being in high school all over again), it was mostly a couple of pictures. Namely a laser pointer beam “bending” due to the woovy berserk powers his time machine had over gravity, and a pic of the time machine, both of which are hardly distinguishable due to the poor quality of the photographs. Still it got them nerds buzzing apparently.

And, um, that's pretty much it. On March 21 2001 John Titor announced that he was hanging up his boots and making the leap home. And as he disappeared off in to the sunset, a breathless world was left wondering, “just who was that masked man?” (Gee Note: By the way my dad shouts at the television whenever Zorro is on. “How stupid are they?” he yells. “He's the only man in the village with a bloody moustache. How could they not know?” You have to admit, the man's got a point).

So was Titor a visitor from some other universe's future? Were a few souls lucky enough to pick the brains of a time traveller via the wonderful world of the internet? Well probably not. Titor had contradicted himself in his posts so often that by the end his credibility was shot. And most believe him to have been a hoax.

But to this day there are still some out there who think John Titor was the real deal. And you know we can always hope. I mean that way there may be a chance to go back in time and fix the Watchmen movie.

Either that or someone could go back and tell me to save myself the effort and stay in bed.


Anonymous said...

I wonder if he came back to pick up a sports almanac?

Naveed said...

Honestly, I think he came back to meet up with Ultimate Thor (IX-777). Probably so they can start some sort of a superhero/philosopher/time traveler group. And IX-777's monkey, well he's actually one of their super soldiers.

Alex Logan Lee said...

Did you like the movie itself?

Scumbag Sam said...

Gee... why did it take me so long to read this blog? Its a good one. Damn my tardy blog reading. Anywhoooo - I watched Watchmen and thought it was good - bar the first 30-40 mins of useless flash backs. When it got into it I enjoyed watching rorscach (sp?) beat the crap out of people (take note: he was ginger. You are cool after all!).... I even slightly smiled when porno silke spectre seduced Night Owl... I mean, come on... he is hot stuff!

I am hoping that Time Travel Boy does start up some sort of gang. I would join. Unless you have to do some stupid initiation thing.. then I might not. It just depends.
The 'many world theory' might be the only thing that can save his street cred. I really wish I could just have a sit down with him and ask him loads of good questions... did Busted get it right, are we living underwater? do women really get 3 boobs? sure, they were singing about the year 3000... but still, the future's the future. its gotta happen sometime.

Future boy - if you are reading this (you know, when you Google yourself in the future and find all these comments about you), will you look me up?

LJP said...

Damn, I was hoping "Watchmen" would be good - you can't trust films nowadays!!

Strange that a fellow from 2036 has a "time machine" that looks about the same vintage as a 1975 IBM 5100. Maybe they made the time machine to go with the 1967 Chevy.

Or it could be that it's a box, a CB radio and torch stuck on the top...

Also if we all build time machines from his designs won't we all mess up the space time continuum? Like you did with your socks?

J. Thomas said...

Pfah. Comedy zombies are always the way to a woman's heart.

Or just something with Simon Pegg in it, at any rate.

I know how you feel about Watchmen. Well, sort of. I still haven't read it (it's on the list!), but I did do a comprehensive review about how I felt about the movie over at my blog.

I enjoyed it, but I enjoyed the idea of the story more than I enjoyed the actual film - which means I'll likely love the comic.