Within the last couple weeks I’ve reviewed two different films that both deal with some kind of futuristic war and time travel. X-Men: Days of Future Past is all about a soon-to-be someday where mutants and humans are locked in a deadly winner-takes-all war. And just before losing everything, good ‘ol Professor X and pals decide to send Wolverine’s consciousness back to an earlier point in his life where he can set things right.
Then there’s this week’s release of Edge of Tomorrow, which centers on a reluctant soldier who gets caught up in a 30-hour time loop thanks to being splashed with an alien’s DNA. In this guy’s situation, he keeps trying to improve his skills and beat those scoundrelly aliens at their own time-rewinding ways.
In both cases, though, the idea is that if you could just jump back a little bit you could choose differently the next time ’round and make things better.
Of course, there are a lot of theories in the real world as to why fixing past mistakes is a no-go. One theory is that there is no past, really—that once we move through time, what was our present ceases to exist; or that if we could go back and fix some evil, something just as bad would fill the vacuum; or if you did manage to patch things up nicely, the thing that motivated you to go back in the first place would’ve never happened, so you never go back. Etc., etc.
When I was watching the flicks I mentioned above, though, none of that stuff entered my consideration at all. My mind was on something much more important: You, the Plugged In reader. That’s right, you may think we PI reviewers are grouchy old guys wanting to tell what you should or shouldn’t go see at the movie house. But in reality we’re cuddly softies who worry all the time about what you might think.
In this case I was wondering, “Does time correction make a difference to my Plugged In pals sensitive to violence?”
Both of these films showcase tons of deadly boom-bang-bam and scores of obliterating deaths: Think of everything from a soldier being mulched under a crashing troop transport to an ice guy having his head yanked off like an old school soda can pop top. (Neither film is all that bloody. But intense? Oh yeah.)
But because of the time-traveling weirdness of it all, these people don’t actually die. In both cases, heroes jump back in time, and all the deadly squash-and-slash goes away to one extent or another. In fact, many of those hundreds of people we see gurgle their last can end up happy as clams.
But does it make a difference? Is a movie less disturbing, less violent, if the the carnage you just witnessed never happened?
It’s a puzzler, no question. We see the deaths, but since they don’t actually die, do they impact us as viscerally and emotionally as they otherwise might? If a superhero falls in a forest but doesn’t actually fall, does he make you squirm?