There’s a ‘Back to the Future’ joke in here somewhere.
Writer-directors John Ridley and Andrew Bowler will explore the personal side of time travel. Namely, how to use time travel to fix a relationship. You know, because time is a thief and we need to show it who’s boss.
John Ridley closed a deal with Miramax that has him set to write and direct an adaptation of Needle in a Timestack, a short story by Robert Silverberg. The short story is about a man who uses a time machine to fix his marriage after his nefarious time traveling rival destroys it. Ridley won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2014 for 12 Years a Slave. He’s also the showrunner of American Crime, the miniseries Guerilla, and the director of the forthcoming documentary, Let it Fall.
Meanwhile, writer-director Andrew Bowler is revisiting the past with his own time travel film. The cast is set for a full-length adaptation of Bowler’s 2011 Oscar-nominated short Time Freak. Time Freak is a romantic comedy about a physics student, Stillman (Asa Butterfield), who builds a time machine. Stillman proceeds to use the time machine to patch things up with his girlfriend Debbie (Sophia Turner). Along for the time traveling fun and games is Stillman’s friend, Evan (Skyler Gisondo) because if Back to the Future and Hot Tub Time Machine taught the world anything it’s that you always time travel in groups of two to four.
These films beg the question: what would you use time travel for? Personally, I would photobomb historical events like an anachronistic Where’s Waldo? because, you know, some people just want to watch the world burn. The universal answer is to kill Hitler but that would take, like, what? Ten or twenty minutes? Maybe an hour or two of planning to streamline the whole thing. If you’re not killing Hitler or once you’re done killing Hitler, what are you doing? Probably what Ridley and Bowler’s protagonists will do: fix their personal lives.
In the RPG that is life, we are almost never allowed to see what happens if we choose one dialogue tree over another. It may seem completely narcissistic to use the impossible to do the unapologetically self-indulgent, but don’t we all kind of wish that we had the ability to go back to mulligan a mistake? If only we had said something instead of being quiet. If only we had thought of that snappy comeback when we needed it most. If only we married that person when they asked. Life is full of what-ifs. Time travel is too. The beauty of two talented, passionate filmmakers making time travel films is that we get to see how they effectuate a what-if scenario, because, in actuality, we can’t.
John Ridley’s miniseries Guerilla is currently airing on Showtime this month. Ridley’s American Crime is currently in its third season on ABC. Finally, Ridley’s documentary on the L.A. riots, Let it Fall is set to open in theaters this month. We’ll have to wait awhile for Andrew Bowler’s full-length Time Freak. Until then you can catch the trailer for the original here as well as this fun interview with the L.A. Times in 2011. Think of it as a time travel simulation.