Why Help the Time-Traveller?
One of the problems with the film — a common problem I think in time travel stories — is what lies outside the moment-to-moment events. Because you follow the narrative from one perspective, you don’t question what happens from any one else’s perspective. But once you think about the other points of view, you get very odd situations and motivations. The question which highlights the oddness is this: when the protagonist goes back in time, where does everyone else go? And why the hell would they help him?
As an example of the issue, there is a training scene where one character ‘re-starts’ the main character deliberately so that he can come back in better condition. Protagonist A injures himself so badly he is out of action. B knows this about A and that A needs to go back in time to be better. A can only go back in time by dying. So B kills A. The story then continues from A’s perspective: A wakes up back at the beginning of events, ready to go again. But what about B’s perspective?
I think one can ask a number of questions about what happens from B’s perspective:
(a) What happens to B after B shoots A? What does B experience next?
(b) Does time just stop or cease to exist for B and everyone else like B, i.e., the rest of the human race and aliens (and trees, cats, dogs, the sun, etc. etc.)?
(c) Or does time go on? In that case, how does it go on?
If it just stopped, this would be effectively consigning everyone at that moment to oblivion. Why would you help that happen? Here’s why I wouldn’t help A:
If A’s death consigned everyone else to oblivion, I would do my best to keep him alive, not to kill him. I’d lock him up and put him in a coma. Even if that meant being defeated by the aliens, at least there’s a chance against them. But there’s no chance once he dies.
Yet, if it continued on, that would be equally as odd. Consider the situation just after B has shot A. B now knows two things:
1. A is gone back to some past time with the knowledge of these events. B is not gone back. Instead, B is still stuck in this course of events.
2. Whatever happens after that past time to which A has gone is not what leads to this (A has gone back to avoid them). So whatever happens after this is — what? Not really happening? Is that comforting for B when they are stuck with a dead body (and having to explain why A made the body dead)? Is it comforting when the aliens invade? “Oh, in some other universe/timeline/whatever, this isn’t happening. I’m sure glad I shot that guy.” says A as the sky darkens overhead with the still overwhelming threat.
Next page (page 3 below): Reverse Physical Processes