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1%% New image selected per Image Pickin' thread: https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/posts.php?discussion=1317449977000617700²%% Please do not change or remove without starting a new thread.²%%²[[quoteright:350:https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/primer_film_3810.jpg]]²[[caption-width-right:350:''[[{{Tagline}} What if it actually works?]]'']]²²->''"Look, everything we're putting into that box becomes ungrounded, and I don't mean grounded like to the earth, I mean, not tethered. I mean, we're blocking whatever keeps it moving forward, and so they flip-flop."''²-->-- '''Abe'''²²''Primer'' is a 2004 independent science fiction drama film famous for a number of things:²²# Its production being mostly handled ([[CopiouslyCreditedCreator writing, directing, producing, editing, cinematography, music, and a co-starring role]]) by one man -- Shane Carruth.²# Its [[NoBudget shoestring budget]] of $7,000, most of which went towards buying film stock.²# Its deep, philosophical deconstruction of TimeTravel [[RealityEnsues in a realistic scenario.]]²# Its TechnoBabble-laden dialogue and [[KudzuPlot experimental structure]] making for some of the {{nerd}}iest, [[MohsScaleOfScienceFictionHardness hardest]], and [[MindScrew most incomprehensible and mind-numbing]] science fiction of recent memory.²²The film opens with two engineers and entrepreneurs, Abe and Aaron, building tech projects in Aaron's garage. After achieving some success with their latest project -- a room temperature superconductor -- they discover it has an unexpected side-effect: [[TimeMachine creating time loops]]. Everything they place inside the Box exhibits temporal anomalies, proceeding normally then go backwards for a continuously repeating sequence, so that whatever is inside the Box can leave in the present, or at any point in the past.²²By scaling up the Box, they're able to use it as a means to travel into the past. The device has its limitations:²* As it does not laterally bypass temporal mechanics, but rather inverts its progression, they have to take TheSlowPath: to go back in time two hours, one has to remain in the box for the same duration.²* As it alters time only within its own dimensions and during operation, and offers only one 'exit node' back into standard temporal progression, they can only travel back to the time that it was turned on, not before or after.²²Even with the limitations, however, they figure out how to use time travel to make a nice profit, through effectively living through the same period a second time with foreknowledge of the stock market.²²Then something goes wrong. And that's when things get really confusing.²²The ''plot itself'' is non-linear, and most of it -- including several crucial events -- is neither shown nor described, just ''implied''.²²!!! Some helpful, spoilerific, graphs:²* [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Time_Travel_Method-2.svg A graphical representation of how time travel in the Box works.]]²* [[https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/PrimerTimeline.gif Abe and Aaron's paths through time.]]²* [[http://unrealitymag.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/primer-chart.jpg The timeline(s) of the entire film.]]²* [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tUzy-xPf0MI Step-by-step breakdown and explanation of the film's plot.]]²* And to top it off, it's so complex that it even frustrated [[Webcomic/{{xkcd}} Randall Munroe]], as can be seen at the bottom right of his [[https://xkcd.com/657/large comic about movie narratives]].²²Yes, this is a movie that requires graphs to get a handle on. ²²Shane Carruth later went on to direct (and write, produce, star in, etc.) ''Film/UpstreamColor''. He also starred in and was one of the producers for ''Film/TheDeadCenter''.²²%% General explanations of the subtle intricacies of time travel don't belong on this page. ²%% Things which directly appear in the movie itself go here.²²----²!!This film provides examples of:²²* AnachronicOrder: Maybe! It's difficult to tell when a linear plot would be going back and forth in time as well.²%% * ChekhovsGun: [[spoiler: Aaron's headphones.]];[[spoiler: Rats in the attic.]]²* CheckPoint: Non-video game example; the Box's limit that you can only travel back to the point where it was turned on is similar to the function of a checkpoint.²* ClockDiscrepancy: Abe suspects that the Box is a time machine, and he confirms this by placing a digital watch inside it for a minute. Upon removing the watch, it's about 21 hours fast.²* CloneDegeneration: WordOfGod for states that [[spoiler:doubles created via TimeTravel are imperfect copies. This is the reason for Aaron and Abe's earbleeds and the degradation of their handwriting when they begin altering their past. It may also account for their personality swaps.]]²* CorruptCorporateExecutive: Platz is hinted to be one. At first, it seems like he's just your typical BadBoss but a bit of dialog earlier in the movie refers to an event that happened "last year" and one of the characters saying he knew someone with a legal background that knew about "cases like ours." Suggesting Platz took an intellectual property invented by the characters (probably claiming that it was developed on company time with company resources, which is often covered in employment contracts) and kept the profits for himself while cutting out the people who developed it. ²* DeadlyNosebleed: A symptom of improperly performed time travel. Granger leaped out of the box late (early from his perspective) because he didn't understand the precise mechanism.²* TheEndingChangesEverything: The second act of the film involves the use of very limited Time Travel. However, [[spoiler:in the third act Abe learns that his friend Aaron has already used the time machine to change the past. So during the entire aforementioned second act, Aaron had actually been Aaron-from-a-week-in-the-future, manipulating current events for his own ends.]] ²* GambitRoulette: When you've already seen events play out, you can make plans work that involve [[JustifiedTrope things that would normally be completely unpredictable]], but sometimes even having seen it happen once [[ForWantOfANail doesn't mean it will happen the same way again]].²* GambitPileup: Two {{Chessmaster}}s, a TimeMachine, and no need to worry about causing a TemporalParadox. Things get complicated.²* HeterosexualLifePartners: Abe and Aaron, [[spoiler:but the events of the plot seem to push them apart]].²%% * HomemadeInventions: The time machine.²* HourglassPlot: Aaron starts off as a family man and rather risk-averse (note the scenes where he worries about needing eye protection and warns his wife against using the first batch of ice from the new fridge). Abe starts off unmarried and rather more devil-may-care. Over the course of the film, access to a TimeTravel-powered ResetButton makes Aaron become more aggressive and willing to take risks, and he eventually leaves his family. Abe, on the other hand, becomes increasingly worried about the side-effects of time travel and oddly protective of Aaron's family.²* IronicEcho: ''They/he took from his/their surroundings what was needed, and made of it something more.'' Overlaps with MeaningfulEcho.²* LimitedWardrobe: Abe and Aaron's work clothes might as well be uniforms. At one point, Abe is shown sleeping in them.²* MametSpeak: Abe and Aaron speak in high-level technical jargon while frequently interrupting each other and making no attempt to dumb down what they're saying for the audience.²* MeaningfulEcho: ''They/he took from his/their surroundings what was needed, and made of it something more.'' Overlaps with IronicEcho.²* MindScrew: Between the multiple time-travels, the non-linear plot and the sea of TechnoBabble that the main characters spout at each other constantly is no wonder that most viewers can't keep things straight. It got to the point where the film actually needed ''[[UpToEleven graphs in order to explain what was happening]]''.²* MisappliedPhlebotinum: Abe and Aaron could have made money in a number of ways more efficiently than playing the stock market, though the movie shows that they go about it this way because they're trying to be as careful as possible about the impact they have on causality, as they don't know which rules apply to their type of time travel, and they're trying to hide their invention's existence until they fully understand it.²* MistakenForGay: The pair speculates that this is bound to happen, what with the extended time they spend by themselves in a hotel room waiting to come out.²* NarratorAllAlong: [[spoiler:Hooded Aaron's]] phone message.²* NoEnding: We don't know whether Abe's plan succeeds, what Hooded Aaron is doing, or what Aaron Three is doing.²* NoodleIncident: Whatever drove Mr. Granger to use the machine.²* OrbitalShot: Seen when Aaron realizes Abe wants to make a bigger box.²* {{Prelap}}: An ice machine is triggered on a refrigerator, but the sound is a piece of construction equipment from the next shot.²* ReedRichardsIsUseless: They invent a workable TIME MACHINE and the best use they can think of is to make money in the stock market? It is justified, however, since they're intentionally trying to keep as low a profile as possible (and avoid any possible paradoxes or issues with causality) with their time travel exploits until they fully understand what they're dealing with, and are also trying to raise funds for further experimentation. Besides which, using a time machine for profit is hardly an ''impractical'' use of such a device. ²* ResetButton: Various characters have back-up boxes going from the beginning of the story in case something goes wrong. Then they start folding up more boxes and bringing them back in the fail-safe one.²* SdrawkcabName: Abe Terger comes to regret his work at Emiba which leads to a ''mise en abyme.''²* SecondHandStorytelling: Half the reason the film is so {{mind screw}}y is because several key events are described rather than shown -- and the characters doing the describing would rather be laconic than descriptive.²* SetRightWhatOnceWentWrong: The plot involves [[spoiler: Aaron going back in time twice to save Abe's girlfriend, Rachel, from her psychotic ex-boyfriend. Thomas Granger, Rachel's father, is believed to have come back for similar reasons, but we never find out exactly what his motives were.]]²* SmallRoleBigImpact: Platt and Rachel's psycho ex-boyfriend. Platt's role is so small that [[TheGhost he never actually appears onscreen]], and it's only stated that he stole one of Abe and Aaron's inventions in the past. Their wish to punch Platt in the face then go back in time and stop themselves results in them noticing the future Granger and becoming scared that something horrible must have happened in the future that resulted in him finding out about the box. Rachel's ex, meanwhile, only ever appears twice, but he is apparently so insane that he brings a loaded gun to a party full of people and Aaron and Abe spend multiple time-jumps ensuring that he's not just scared off but properly arrested without possibility of coming back.²* TheStoryThatNeverWas: [[spoiler:When the power of TimeTravel proves too dangerous and too confusing for anyone to use, Abe Terger travels back as far as he can and interferes with his past self's experiments, hoping to stop the past versions of himself and Aaron from pursuing time travel any further. The future versions of Abe and Aaron, who went through all that character development, continue existing--since time travel in ''Primer'' results in the travellers cloning themselves unless they're careful to maintain a StableTimeLoop.]]²* ShownTheirWork: And once you've seen the movie, you'll be asking for their cheat sheet just so you can understand it.²** They researched what would happen if you had [[spoiler:two copies of the same cellphone. Turns out, some networks just look for the first one, and others ring both.]]²** Research into the physics of time has suggested that if a time machine was built, it would have at least one similar restriction as in the movie: it would only allow you to travel back to the point at which it was turned on.²* SpannerInTheWorks: [[spoiler:Granger's surprise time trip (given the place and time he shows up, he's probably there to prevent a disaster resulting from the punch-Platts experiment). Abe tries to fix the Granger problem two different ways, once with one of the Thursday 5:00pm boxes (we see him running to get into place behind the house before the other Abe leaves the car), and then with his fail-safe box. The former trip left him with a quantum entanglement with Granger, since he had a 50/50 chance of using the same box Granger did -- thus Granger lost consciousness whenever he got too close to Abe).]]²* TheSlowPath: In ''both'' directions. To go back two hours, you have to sit in the box for two hours. This causes enormous problems when Abe and Aaron use the failsafe boxes. They travel backwards for ''days''.²* TechnoBabble: In the absence of any solid RealLife physics supporting time travel, their hypothesizing about the technicalities can't be anything else. However, the language of mathematics and engineering has been leveraged to maximize plausibility. Within the framework of the film a lot of work has been done to keep things consistent.²* TimeIsDangerous: Excessive time travel causes strange physical problems in the protagonists: mysterious bleeding from their ears and deterioration of their handwriting. WordOfGod is that this is also a case of CloneDegeneration. In a more subtle example, repeated time travel also seems to cause Aaron and Abe to take on elements of each other's personalities. ²* TimeMachine: Closest it comes is to a ''{{Franchise/Terminator}}''-type, but it's really in a category all its own.²* TimeTravel: The central premise.²* TimeTravelForFunAndProfit: Abe and Aaron never got around to publicizing their time machine, because [[spoiler:they were too busy using hourly time travel to make money day-trading stocks.]] ²* TimeTravelTenseTrouble: "Man, are you hungry? I haven't eaten since later this afternoon."²* VanityProject: Shane Carruth (who plays one of the lead characters named Aaron) wrote, directed, produced, edited and composed the music for this film. However unlike most Vanity Projects, it has [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primer_(film)#Reception managed to earn good reviews and win two awards]]. (And he only acted in the movie after being unable to find anyone who could "break... the habit of filling each line with so much drama.")²* ViewersAreGeniuses: The film leaves the viewer to figure a lot of the very complex plot out on their own.²* WhamLine: [[spoiler:"I hope you're not implying that any day is unimportant at Cortex Semi." A WhamLine not for the words itself, but for the fact that Aaron says it even though Abe had failed to remember the line that prompted it, revealing that he was reciting the conversation from memory, too]]. The lines before that also count, such as the fact that [[spoiler: Abe has a secret backup time machine which has been running for most of the movie.]]²* WhiteMaleLead: Abe and Aaron. Phillip, the one major character of color, is quickly sidelined out of the action, and the female characters never emerge from the background.²* WrongGenreSavvy: Abe comes up with a very thorough plan to avoid causing {{Temporal Paradox}}es, which turns out to be completely unnecessary [[spoiler:(or not, depending on your interpretation of Granger's fate; the idea that he is suffering from temporal paradox -- that the consequence of paradox is that the universe destroys you, rather than vice versa -- was put forth by Carruth himself, [[DeathOfTheAuthor whatever his opinion's worth]])]]. Still, points for trying.²²----

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