I watched the move Primer a couple nights ago.

As said, it was a movie custom-made for me. Time travel, stock trading, engineering… if one of the characters had done comedy improv on the side, I would have had to assume I wrote it and just forgot.

But I will admit, I was mostly lost by the end of the film. I had a vague sense of what had happened, but I was totally confused on the details. And it pains me to say it, because I consider myself fairly adept at following time travel stories. I ran the movie back and rewatched it from the point I got lost, and still couldn’t piece together exactly what was happening.

Thankfully, wikipedia came to the rescue where someone had worked out what had happened, and explained it fairly clearly.

They used my favorite time-travel convention, which is that the act of going back in time creates a new time branch splitting at the moment the time traveler from the future appears. This resolves a lot of paradox issues, and you can successfully kill yourself without dying. The writer also created a few other conventions that make for a plausible and dramatic story.

The engineering dialog was extremely good as well. It was all gobbledygook, but it was written such that they didn’t use a term in a way that didn’t make sense, or make up any words. They give you snippets of plausible technical dialog that in themselves are reasonable, but adding them all up gives you nothing but the impression that they’re really working on something real.

Back to the Future failed on both of the above accounts (fading pictures? “flux capacitor”?), and and I spent too much time really smashing those films apart several years ago, in the days before IM. Back to the Future created dramatic situations, but only by sacrificing good time travel conventions and creating plot holes large enough to drive several Deloreans through. Honestly, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure did better on the conventions, and they weren’t really even trying.

Anyway, if you enjoyed Memento, I think you’d enjoy Primer.