Stormtroopers Don’t Know Anything About Lasers

Movies about time travel far too often get bogged down with the actual time travel and paradoxes.  It’s like there is never a way to make a time travel movie where the main focus isn’t the actual traveling in time part.  Sometimes it’s awkward or broken, and sometimes it’s pulled off masterfully as in Primer.

Safety Not Guaranteed is a movie about time travel where the actual time travel isn’t important.  And it’s awesome.  (Which is probably why it won the Screenwriting award at Sundance this year.)

Before I go on, I should probably point out that yes, the film is based on the internet meme famous ad from a magazine that was added to fill space.  They even had the guy who wrote it make a small cameo in the film, which is always awesome.  The whole story of the film is basically, what if that was real?

While searching for articles in a meeting, a staff writer (Jake Johnson) and two interns (lead Aubrey Plaza and Karan Soni) are tapped to investigate the presumed loon seeking a companion to go back in time.  Of course, only the interns go intending to research the story; the staff writer’s motive of hooking up with an old girlfriend occupy the main sideplot, and his pursuit of a high school fling is often done at the expense of helping do the story.

This plotline is actually one of my superficially favorite things about the movie; it has the potential to be trite or sappy by forcing a happy ending that doesn’t match with the real world but they decided to make it feel human and believable.  It adds a nice bittersweet tone against the main plot and characters.  It alternately adds realism and humor to balance the emotional progression in the film.

At the Q&A following the film with the director, he noted that they were careful not to let any portion of the film feel too heavy, and I think they did a masterful job.  It has a good balance and is very, very funny.  It’s also incredibly geeky; I’m not sure if it’s just my generation growing up and creating things or whether we’ve become a large commercial demographic (probably a mix of two, really), but I’m always happy to see geeky and nerdy shit making its way into mainstream stuff.

For example stormtroopers.  They wouldn’t know shit about lasers because, as screenwriter Derek Connolly pointed out in the dialogue, they’re blue collar workers.  The movie is filled with this sort of quip, and that fills my geeky heart with joy.  Actually, pretty much everything in this movie fills me with joy.

I’m hoping it gets a decently wide film distribution because it really is wonderful.  Hell, I’ll probably devote another blog post to the movie once there’s a trailer circulating.  Like Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, this is another example of how what comes out of Sundance doesn’t have to have a strong indie-movie stink* but sometimes can be just awesome gems.

Totally as an aside, I also loved the time machine itself.  It’s a boat.  I have never in my whole life pictured a time machine that’s a boat.  It was also incredibly neat to look at, and apparently was a collaborative art project assembled by local metal smiths and later disassembled by the artists to get their pieces back.

*Not that I don’t like indie movies, but they are definitely not for everyone.  For example, I loved Weekend, but the fact that it had no music during the movie is just one of the indie markers that some people find offputting.

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