October 28, 2004

"Primer" for Dummies

We aren’t the first and we certainly won’t be the last – after the extremely short credits of Primer finished rolling, Seattle Maggie exclaimed, “Holy Ray Bradbury, Batman, what in the Fourth Dimension was THAT all about?”

PRIMER-poster.jpg Let us digress for a moment by saying we are actually very smart. Really. While we admit padding our college GPA with extravagant grades from our theatrical lighting design instructor, we do manage to grasp concepts such as parallel universes, wormholes, and the fact that Universe is gradually going room temperature. Given our science fiction readin’ and role-playin’ gamin’ geekish past, we figured we could approach a movie about time travel without fear. We had not, however, figured on Primer's ability to twist one’s mind into an elaborate pretzel, and we now feel about as smart as a bag of hammers.

The movie follows two young programmers who, disillusioned with the dreariness of office life, manage to invent an incredible box with even more incredible powers. It seems that the box holds the key to the mystery of time travel, and our heroes are now left with the big decision of what to do with this power. What does one do with a day one can live over? Why, play the stock market, of course! Things soon escalate out of control once the time travelers begin to have ideas outside making a little extra cash, and that is just about where our vocabulary was reduced to “Huh?” and “Wha?”
A strange thing happened – even though we didn’t know what was going on, we still kind of liked it. It was like watching someone incredibly smart think aloud.

Even though most of it sounded like gibberish, we couldn’t help but feel smart by association. Unfortunately, the production value on Primer was not the best. The whole movie was a little too dark and smudgy for our taste, and this doesn’t help when there are multiple timelines to keep track of. We are aware that Primer was made with an admirably low budget, and it shows at times. However, we had a special fondness for the box itself, which looks like it was tacked together with tin foil and the remnants of an eighth grade science fair. It has just the right balance of ominous cheesiness, and reminded us fondly of the first season of Red Dwarf, where the enormous city-sized mining ship basically consisted of two rooms and a corridor, filmed from different angles.

At any rate, the parts of our brain that haven’t been fried beyond repair are still thirsty for knowledge. Seattle Maggie will send a free Primer poster (compliments of the Varsity in the U-District) to anyone who can explain the last half of the movie to us, especially the parts about the guy with the shotgun and the comatose boss, what exactly happened with the multiple Aarons, and the whole concept of the Fail Safe box-in-a-box. Please use short sentences and, if possible, avoid using the words “continuum”, “paradox”, and “Weeble” – they still make us break out in a cold sweat.

Posted by seattle maggie at October 28, 2004 8:21 PM

Great write up. I felt as smart as a box of hair after my trip to the Varsity for Primer.

In search of answers, I stumbled across this page. It helped me a bit, but I still have no idea what the scene with Aaron, Abe, and the flashlights were all about. Were they looking for a cat?


Posted by: Craig at October 29, 2004 3:40 PM

Thanks Craig! I didn't know any Seattleites were reading this blog. Word to the West Coast, and all that. The link was very helpful, but of course managed to spawn a few more questions:

1) If Abe also has a double, whom he got rid of somehow to take over his own past, where is the double? Dead, or stuffed in another attic? Also, I was under the impression that there were many MANY Aarons, not just 3, but maybe that was my misunderstanding. Also, if you kill your own double, what does that do to the timeline?
2) Why does Aaron want to perfect the moment with Abe's girlfriend? I mean, if I were going to become godlike and prescient, I would use the opportunity to wipe out some terrorists or cast some extra votes in Florida or something. It just seems to me to be something totally random for him to fixate on.
3) What ultimately happens to Mr. Granger? He just disappears, but maybe we are supposed to lose track of that timeline.

PS For some reason, I thought they were chasing down Mr. Granger with the flashlight, but maybe they were hunting down a wayward double? Eek. Here we go again...

Posted by: Seattle Maggie at October 29, 2004 5:39 PM