Jarv’s Birthday Series: Millennium (1989)

I can’t properly express how glad I am to see the back of the 80’s. It seems like late August was the dumping ground for no end of hideous shit, and I’ve waded through almost all of it. 1989’s contribution to the river of sewage was Millennium (release date August 17th 1989), and is a film I liked on first watch, but does not stand up to a second viewing. I suspect that I was overly enamoured with the clever premise of this film, because really, looking at it, it isn’t that good. In theory, all the component pieces are here to make a cracking film, but something went wrong, and it is, to be fair to it, an interesting failure.

In the far future humanity has lost the ability to breed. To combat impending extinction, the council authorise Cheryl Ladd’s squad of time bandits to scout back to the 20th Century and shift people on planes about to crash into the future. What a good idea. Unfortunately, one of the planes they are on is actually being hijacked and things go completely tits up, culminating in them losing a device from the future which is found by Kris Kristofferson’s investigator. This causes a “timequake” in the future, and so the council resolve to send Ladd back to seduce Kristofferson and repair the fuck up. She categorically fails.

This is a good idea. A seriously good idea. However, it doesn’t actually work. The problem being that if there’s one thing that time travel films struggle with, then it’s the Paradox effect. I’m going to pick on Terminator 2 here for a second, but if John and Sarah Connor are able to stop Skynet existing then the Terminator wouldn’t have been sent back, which means that Kyle Reese wouldn’t have been sent back, which in turn means that he wouldn’t have porked Sarah Connor which means that John Connor wouldn’t exist etc. etc. etc. It’s brain-meltingly complicated stuff, this paradox business. Millennium to its immense credit tackles the problem head on. Events in the 1980’s that alter the path of history are met with a huge rippling airquake in the future that could rip their reality apart. Therefore, Ladd is on a deadline to try to repair these fuck-ups as soon as they occur.

Actually, I really like the look of the future bits of the film. The gay robot is mildly amusing and the hideously disfigured council members are even better. I also like that it’s all set in a deeply derelict and fucked up world, where humanity is literally falling to pieces. Unfortunately, these scenes are overburdened with an overwritten script stuffed full of “banter” between Ladd and the robot, and it simply doesn’t feel right. The dialogue comes across as forced, and as Ladd isn’t a good enough actress to cover this up. This is a shame, because the look and feel of the dystopian future where everything is being wagered on a final throw of the dice is well thought out and well designed.

The 80’s sections, though, are far less successful. I’m not really sure why Kristofferson is so integral to the future, but the film just asks us to accept it on good faith. I’m also not really sure how he’s able to get as much poon as he gets, but these things are, I suspect, beyond human comprehension. The other problem, is that coming from the future they have specific objectives to achieve- retrieving the stunner thingummy, for example. So, say you’ve got ultimate control over space and time, why not just drop in at 3AM on a Sunday Morning, steal the fucker and zap back to the future? Why bother with the whole seduction plot? You see the problem here?

Then there’s the finale of the film. Ladd, through sheer fucking incompetence, sets of a timequake “Force: Infinity” that will devastate the future, through being dimwitted enough to bring back Bill. However, the proposed solution to this is to teleport everyone that they’ve rescued and everyone viable to the far, far, future. Now, I don’t want to be a moaning pedant about this, but as plans go there’s one fucking obvious flaw in it. A timequake is based on events in the past and as the time stream realigns itself, it rips apart the “present”. Therefore, how the fuck does transporting yourself to the future avoid the effects of the timequake? The quake will still take place, and I imagine will still run up the length of the timeline. It simply doesn’t work.

Nevertheless, the film trucks along at a brisk old pace, it isn’t particularly boring and it is sort of fun. However, Ladd is on screen almost the entire time and is terrible, and the story really can’t get over the enormous self-inflicted problems. As a piece of disposable fluff, Millennium is actually quite passable, nevertheless, the problems come when you think about it for a second and the conceit the entire film is built on collapses. All time travel movies struggle with the paradox problem (even Back to the Future), and the mark of a really good one is how easy it is to ignore. In the first Terminator, it’s very easy to ignore, because the film is so fucking good, but in a film like Millennium which isn’t in the same league, the flaws in the story are open and obvious.

Overall, I’m tempted to recommend this, because it does pass the time quite easily. However, at the end of the day it simply isn’t very good. It’s not a platinum stinker like some of the 80’s films that I’ve sat through on this list, and on a Sunday afternoon it does go down quite well. Nevertheless, there’s no real way around it: Millennium is a shit film, and if you feel the need to watch a Time Travel movie, then don’t watch this one. I give it One Quantum Droid trapped in the time vortex out of 4, and have to say that I’m not ever going to watch this one again.

Next up is Sam Raimi’s first (and best) attempt at a superhero movie – it’s Darkman, and the 1990’s start here.

Until next time,

Jarv

The full list in this series:

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About Jarv

Workshy cynic, given to posting reams of nonsense on the internet and watching films that have inexplicably got a piss poor reputation.

8 responses to “Jarv’s Birthday Series: Millennium (1989)”

  1. Xiphos0311 says :

    Never heard of this movie and it sounds like it isn’t very good.

    I am going to take a stab at the Terminator Time paradox buckle up it will get bumpy.

    If we approach your example from the accepted standard Einsteinian macro view then yes you are correct, in the sense that the future cycle would be broken provided no other terminator parts were recovered to reverse engineer Skynet from. If as we see in T2 that parts are existent the future has the potential to come back around as Kyle Reese knew it. The major difference though would be the time of Skynet becoming self aware that would change. John Connors(and everyone else) experiences prior to the activation of Skynet so the future would play out different from Reese’s original prospective if he was outside the time line and self aware of time changes.

    Now here is where it gets murky and a bit tricky. If we approach the question from a micro view like quantum mechanics then Kyle Reese could come back and knock up Jimmy Cameron’s punching bag but the future isn’t guaranteed to play out the same way even if parts are recovered. Since Kyle came back in that specific reality it’s fixed that Bale is born but Skynet doesn’t necessarily have to exist in that specific futures timeline. The timeline changes though would effect other times lines along the continuum of realities. These are the ideas that Planck and Schrodinger and others wrestle with due to the varied reality nature of quantum physics. It gives me a head ache a lot of the time and we spent like a month in my basics of quantum mechanics class dealing with this and other time paradoxes in movies.

    I know I’m not explaining this well, it’s hard to put into written words without using math and I fully realize I am not up to the task of explaining this in a coherent manner.

  2. Xiphos0311 says :

    oh and the point I failed to note above time travel backwards, is only “possible” in quantum mechanics. Theoretically forward time travel is possible in Einsteinian physics but that is really more of slowing down time tremendously, for you, if you approach or pass the speed of light(which is also not possible according to Einstein). That was always the among the biggest flaws of Star Trek, they warp all over the galaxy but the planets always stayed in the right chronology.

    • Jarv says :

      I think I get what you’re saying. However, I don’t agree with it. If, as you say, the future splits at certain key times (say, eliminating Cyberdyne systems), then there are two concurrent versions of the future taking place.

      1) The one that allowed Reece to come back and pork Sarah.

      2) The one that sees Skynet eliminated and therefore no evil future.

      I don’t think this explanation works for T2. Furlong should not exist. The best one, I believe is the one in T3, which has time as a river, and you may throw pebbles in to it, but you can’t change the overall course it is on. That’s the only one I can think of that allows Connor to exist.

      • Xiphos0311 says :

        to muddy the waters even more…

        In einestienian physics fate or the future(depending on your perspective) isn’t a fixed destiny it can be changed by choice and the effect that your choices have on events. It’s the discussion of what happens if you had turned left instead of right(a subset of the Butterfly theory) so if under Einstien if time travel was permissible then sending Reese back could happen he could knock up Sarah Conner and have John exist, since at that point it happened it’s a fact. Now if you labor under idea that time is circular, (all that will happen has happened before) then destroying the Terminator and Myles Dyson dying(and to add more confusion to the mix the changes to the time line from The Sarah Connor Chronicles) then T1 could produce JC but in the future when he was suppose to send back Reese instead of being a savoir of humanity from the machines JC might be an accountant in Iowa or a cop in Miami what ever. The difference is though if as I said above time is circular then Reese won’t go back thus changing the direction of the time line for the next cycle. Then JC would not exist. So to sum up current time JC exists next time cycle he wouldn’t.

        To confuse thing even further there is a big belief in Quantum Theory that time travel isn’t linear. You don’t go from current time line A to past time line A instead you go from Time line A to Dimension B and alter that time line.

  3. ThereWolf says :

    I did enjoy this film, but when it back-tracks and starts running through the plot a second time I thought it lost a lot of focus. In the end it’s exactly as you’ve said; file under interesting failure. Don’t know what they were thinking with the design of that robot…

    Now, I need a couple of Nurofen to counter those couple of comments from Xi…

    • Xiphos0311 says :

      Make sure they are horse size pills Wolf. When dealing with Quantum Mechanics a massive head ache of almost migraine like proportions will almost inevitably happen

    • Jarv says :

      That bit of it does NOT help, because it adds nothing to what we’ve seen, and worse than that makes them look dimwitted.

  4. just pillow talk says :

    I sort of remember this one, that robot drums up some memories. I can’t tell you if I liked it or not, that’s how much of an impression it left with me. On this lack of recommendation the memory is not going to be rescued either.

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