Time Chasers (aka Tangents) is a 1994 science fiction film that follows the adventures of an amateur inventor who goes through time with his female accomplice to stop an evil megacorporation intent on changing history for profit.
Physics teacher and amateur pilot Nick Miller has finally completed his quest of enabling time travel, via a Commodore 64 and his small airplane. With a teacher's salary, however, this has left him almost bankrupt, but an ominous television commercial for a company called GenCorp inspires him to seek funding from the private enterprise. Nick uses a ruse to bring both a GenCorp executive and a reporter from a local paper on a trip through time, but is pleasantly surprised to learn that his old high school classmate & eventual love interest, Lisa Hansen, is the reporter in question. One unimpressive trip to 2041 later and Gencorp's executive, the fashionable Matthew Paul, quickly arranges Nick a meeting with the company's transparently evil CEO, J.K. Robertson. Impressed by the potential of time travel, Roberston offers Nick a licensing agreement on the technology, over Lisa's misgivings.
Still, the reporter agrees to go on a date with Nick, and the couple enjoys a quick trip to a '50s malt shop before going back to 2041, which is suddenly a total dump. After a close encounter with two bands of wasteland survivors, Nick and Lisa confront Robertson, who stubbornly refuses to not destroy the future and tries to get them arrested. The heroes escape and attempt to go back in time to convince Nick's past self not to give GenCorp the time travel technology, and things become much more complicated.
Turns out Roberston and Paul have a second time transport, and attack Nick and Lisa's plane on arrival in the near-past. Lisa is killed and the plane brought down, so Future-Nick tries to get to Past-Nick before Future-Robertson can. Past-Lisa is diverted from Past-Nick's demonstration and ends up investigating Future-Lisa's death in a plane crash, then she and Past-Nick meet up and start time traveling to figure out what the hell is going on. Meanwhile, Future-Robertson and Future-Paul abduct Future-Nick (and a gormless mechanic) and inexplicably take them back to the Revolutionary War to kill them.
Luckily Past-Nick and Lisa show up with some minutemen to save the day, only for Future-Robertson to counter them with Redcoats, and things really go to hell. Future-Nick is killed thwarting Future-Robertson's escape attempt, leaving all the future duplicates dead, and creating enough of a time paradox to ensure that Past-Nick destroys his invention before it can do any damage, thus undoing the events of the film. On the upside, Nick and Lisa meet in a grocery store. On the downside, Nick and Lisa get an innocent man fired from his job, presumably ruining his life.
Director David Giancola parlayed his sudden fame from the film being featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000, and directed Anne Nicole Smith's last film, Illegal Aliens, which became the basis for the documentary Addicted to Fame, which delved into Time Chasers, its later notoriety, and his attempts to build on that sudden fame. The film was also featured in one of the RiffTrax Live shows, with brand new jokes. Note
- Aliens in Cardiff: Vermont. Yes, Vermont, specifically Rutland, Montpelier, Burlington and Hubbardton. Of course, the film was produced by a video editing service based in Vermont, who decided to try their hands at filmmaking.
- Artistic License – Medicine: Lisa's body is identified by dental records. Except, unlike something like fingerprints, there actually isn't any master repository of dental records; to get them, you first need to have some idea who the person is so you can get the records from their dentist. And seeing as the Lisa of this timeline is still alive, it doesn't seem likely they would think it was her.
- Bad Future: The villain uses his own time machine to cause this. Not so much bad as messy.
- Brick Joke: The skydiving granny, mentioned early in the film as a ruse in order to get people to come see the time machine, actually shows up at the Dénouement.
- Card-Carrying Villain: The tycoon. He refuses not to use the time machine as "a weapon" even though he finds out it results in the future being turned into a dystopic shithole.
- *Click* Hello: How Nick first encounters survivors in the bad 2041.
- Close-Enough Timeline: Apparently, the deaths of several extra minutemen and the appearance of a wrecked plane and several automatic weapons in 1777 had no appreciable effect on history. Robertson notes that there will just be "unaccounted-for war dead."
- Compound-Interest Time Travel Gambit: Nick could have just used the compound interest to pay for his plane and never need to make a deal with an evil corporation or share it with anyone else. When the corporate stooge comes up with the idea, Nick and Lisa have a bizarrely disgusted reaction, as if the guy had proposed something ghastly and evil. This was likely intended to prevent this plot hole from rendering the rest of the plot moot.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: J.K. Robertson. In fact, his face, voice, posture, his entire demeanor, is so forthrightly villainous from the moment he first appears on screen, and it bears out when he discovers that he has destroyed the future, and refuses to not destroy the future. While he does comment to Nick that he is aware of the Bad Future and intends to avoid it, before he dies he expresses that he doesn't understand Nick's obsession with saving the world when he could have just escaped into the past and lived away from it — suggesting that J.K. was probably planning to do just that and not deal with the consequences of his actions.
- "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: While it's not outright stated, it is danced around. The reason Nick enters a contract with GenCorp is he needs money to continue his research. While demonstrating the transport to Lisa and Matt, Matt gives an alternate solution: go into the past, deposit some money into a bank account, and in the present the interest would make Nick a millionaire. Nick doesn't even give it a second thought.
- Covers Always Lie: Let's just say that despite the poster art above, this movie is not the rip-roaring action flick it might seem.Crow: The Adventures of the Average People!
- Drives Like Crazy: Nick steals a car...and promptly crashes it.Nick: I don't drive!
- Doubles as Epic Fail as he manages to drive about 100 feet before crashing into a pile of bicycles and flipping the car on its side. The actual owner of the car easily catches up to him, on foot. Nick then hops on a bicycle, which is what he should have done in the first place.
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: After crashing J.K.'s plane and stranding them both in the past, Nick is shot dead by Robertson — who is then promptly killed by falling plane wreckage. All within the space of 10 seconds.
- Empty Fridge, Empty Life: Nick Miller's fridge is empty except for a head of lettuce (of indeterminate age). And, of course, maple syrup.Crow: Loser status confirmed.
- Epic Fail: Nick manages to catch up to J.K. Robertson's plane (on horseback, no less) before takeoff. Nick even delivers a Pre Ass Kicking One Liner. Robertson then promptly punches Nick out of the plane.
- Fashion Dissonance: Lisa's business attire consists of a blazer and skirt with mismatched plaid patternsnote . Matt's carnation-pink suit could also count, though one could argue it was never in fashion.
- Future Badass: First timeline Nick from second timeline Nick's perspective. Sort of.
- Genius Bruiser: Subverted — Nick looks like a bodybuilding nerd, but gets beat up fairly easily and doesn't seem nearly as smart as inventing the time machine would imply.
- Genre Deconstruction: One of its saving graces. Nick is the film's action hero but he's just a physics professor who rides a bike everywhere and flies planes. So he can run around real good but isn't much good in a fight and crashes a car moments after stealing it during a chase.
- Help Yourself in the Future: Thanks to Split Screen technology.
- Hero Stole My Bike: Nick steals a car and immediately crashes it because he doesn't drive cars. He does better on the bicycle he steals next. He then steals a boat.
- Historical In-Joke: The major Revolutionary battle shown was the Battle of Hubbardton, the only American Revolution battle fought in Vermont.
- Hollywood Costuming: Several of the Revolutionary War soldiers are wearing 20th century eyeglasses.
- I Lied: When Matthew has reservations over killing in cold blood, J.K, initially lets him go — then promptly kills him.
- Improbable Aiming Skills: J.K. shooting up Nick's aircraft (and Lisa). It's not impossible, but the reason fixed armament was added to fighter aircraft is because hand weapons (like pistols) were almost impossible to hit another aircraft with — and planes not much larger or faster than the Citabria piloted by Nick. Amusingly he seems to assume Matthew has these too; when he hands him the gun and tells him to shoot Nick the plane is so high that we can clearly see that even the boat he's in is just a tiny speck. Matt doesn't even bother to try at such an impossible shot.
- Insistent Terminology: It's not a time machine, it's a time transport.
- Is That a Threat?: Delivered by Robertson when Nick tells him he's going to end his part of their deal.
- Lantern Jaw of Justice: Nick Miller, when he makes out with Lisa.
- Laser-Guided Karma: J.K. Robertson shoots Future!Nick to death. And is immediately crushed to death by his own falling aircraft.
- Magic Floppy Disk: Eight of them hold the key to time travel! On a Commodore 64!
- Maybe Ever After: The movie ends with Past!Nick approaching Lisa in the store, in exactly the way Future!Nick did before they went on a date. The implication is that they get together, but it's never actually shown happening.
- Negated Moment of Awesome: Nick chases Robertson on horseback and throws open the door to the transport with a cool one-liner ready. An unimpressed Robertson simply sucker-punches him off the plane and shuts the door for takeoff.
- Non-Action Guy: Nick is owned in pretty much every physical confrontation in the entire film. He tries his hardest, but it almost never works.
- No New Fashions in the Future: Everybody in the 2040's dresses like it's The '80s.
- Obviously Evil: J.K. Robertson. His favorite outfit is a pitch black suit with blood red tie, and he practically oozes smarm at all times.Mike Nelson: "Hi, I'm Bob Evil."
- Offscreen Teleportation: Near the end of the movie, when Nick forces Robertson's plane to crash into a tree, we're treated to a two-minute scene of Nick slowly climbing down as the plane creaks and threatens to fall. As soon as he gets to the ground, Robertson comes out from around the tree like it was no big deal.
- Our Hero Is Dead: Several of the principal characters are killed in the course of the film...except that because there are multiple timelines active, the final timeline sees all of these characters survive and thus preventing time paradox duplicates from running around and ruining things. To be specific, the present versions of the main characters (Nick, Lisa, Matt, and Robertson) all end up dead, but their past selves live on.
- Our Time Travel Is Different: It involves a lot of planes, for starters.
- Plot Hole: Where did Nick get the gun that he pulls on the two fishermen? It also disappears as suddenly as it appears.
- Pre-Mortem One-Liner: J.K. loves these.
- Precision F-Strike:
J.K.: Oh shit!
- When J.K. is refusing to stop the project, Nick calls him a "Son of a bitch!"
- Another happens when J.K., trying to escape a small squad of minutemen Nick has tricked into believing he is a British spy, ends up running into the entire colonial army.
- Protagonist-Centered Morality: Huzzah, Nick prevented big business from using the time machine for evil. But he also put the rather nice guy who agreed to give him a shot and was nothing but friendly throughout out of a job.
- Punch-Clock Villain: When Lisa fakes an imminent plane crash, GenCorp mooks rush off to offer assistance, allowing Nick to sneak into the airport.
- Actually, they were ordered to by airport security, and one of them remained to deal with Nick.
- Matthew Paul is either this or an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain. He's not malicious at all; he just wants a promotion.
- Real Men Wear Pink: Matthew Paul, action executive and often seen wearing a bright pink suit. Subverted in that he's mostly a wuss. Though our action hero wears a pink button down for part of the movie.
- Resignations Not Accepted: J.K. shows how much of a Bad Boss he is to Matthew.
- Reverse Polarity: How the plane travels back through time...apparently.
- Set Right What Once Went Wrong: Nick learns that his time travel technology and the sale of it to J.K. Robertson will cause havoc on the world and destroy it within the next fifty years due to its abuse. He and Lisa attempt to find a way to prevent the event from happening, creating the conflict of the film.
- Shown Their Work: The battle in Vermont on July 7, 1777 was the Battle of Hubbardton, which also happened to be the only Revolutionary War battle in Vermont. Naturally, they'd be very familiar with it since the Revolutionary War re-enacters are a real group that were used for the film.
- Shut Up, Kirk!: After Nick's big speech about how everyone is connected, J.K. shoots him dead.
- Take Our Word for It: We only see a grainy, computer-screen image of future Rutland's magnificent skyline, while Lisa comments that "it looks like there was a war here" in the bad future, despite a conspicuous lack of rubble, craters, bullet holes, bodies, derelict tanks...clearly, the film didn't have the budget for anything else.
- The "normal future" scenes were shot in Burlington — Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks are clearly visible through the windows in a way they aren't in Rutland (which is south of Lake Champlain) at a Papa Gino's that didn't make it far past the year 2000.
- Temporal Paradox: Actively sought out by the protagonist to keep everything from going wrong, though he refers to them as "tangents."
- Title Drop: The original title of the film was Tangents.
- Teetering on the Edge: The time machine crashes in a tree canopy. As Nick climbs down from the tree, the branches begin breaking, threatening to drop the plane on him. The plane ends up falling on the villain instead, killing him.
- Time Travel: Kinda the whole point, really.
- Took a Level in Badass: Future-Nick, who loses his glasses and watches his girlfriend get shot and blown up, is considerably more hardened by the end of the movie than his past-self. Tragically, it's this version of him that dies.
- Train Escape: Done with a tractor and wagon.
- Universal Driver's License: Parodied. Nick attempts to steal a car in order to escape pursuers who are driving a truck... then immediately wipes out because he doesn't actually know how to drive.
- [Verb] This!: Connect Me To This!
- You Have Failed Me: When Matt won't commit murder for his boss, his boss kills him.