Primer (2004)

PrimerEvery once in a while, I read some article or hear someone talking about Primer, saying it’s a must-see science fiction flick. Given its availability on Netflix instant, we of course took the bait. Who doesn’t like a good time travel movie, anyway?

So, there are these four guys. They all have full-time professional jobs that require them to wear ties. They also spend an inordinate amount of time in one of their garages building technical things that supposedly will make them money some day. Two of the guys, Abe and Aaron, break off secretly from the other guys to make some other technical thing that they think will make them money.

It isn’t until some time passes that the two guys realize they’ve actually created a time machine. They aren’t smart enough to know what to really do with it, so they decide to put themselves into these time machines and gain knowledge about the stock market they can use when they go back to the time they came from. Or something.

It’s complicated. In fact, The MindHut calls it “The most complicated sci-fi movie ever made.” There’s a lot of talking, and a lot of time travel. As a result, it’s hard to know just when anything in the movie actually takes place. That part could be interesting, or completely irritating, depending on what you’re into, I guess. And, I guess, I was not into it.

When I say there was a lot of talking, I mean there were huge stretches of this film where it’s just these two guys talking to each-other. The camera makes funky angles to make us feel like something is actually happening, when really it’s not. Being that the film was made on the super-cheap, sometimes the sound quality isn’t so great, and one of the more important conversations actually takes place next to a very loud fountain. Who decided that was a good idea?

Perhaps what I found most offensive of this movie was its treatment of female characters. They were pretty much just window dressing. We know at least one of these guys is married; his wife shows up two or three times, maybe says five words. But we aren’t shown in the slightest how her husband’s obsession with his new gadget, and all the time he must be spending away from home and their child is affecting her life. Why even bother having the character in the film at all?

Look, I’ll be the first to admit that time travel movies almost always confuse me. But, that’s okay; sometimes being confused by a film is an awesome feeling, and gives you a puzzle to solve. That is fun! I didn’t walk away from this movie feeling like I’d just enjoyed myself, though. Instead, I wanted to shake some sense into these characters, or at least put tape over their mouths so they’d stop talking for five fucking seconds and think about what it is they’re about to do. I can see why some folks think this is worthwhile; after all, anything low-budget that can convince you it isn’t is impressive, but I’m not bought in to this in the least. I’d rather watch Timecrimes any day.


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