A Primer Primer

Thursday, April 15, 2010

It's the kind of movie you'll either love or hate. I know this because it's currently rated a meager 6.9 out of 10 on IMDB, with almost 16,000 votes.

If you ditch this work this afternoon and promise to do the few small things that I ask of you, I will in return show you the most important thing that any living organism has ever witnessed.

Whereas to me, Primer is hands-down one of the best science fiction movies ever made. And every science fiction movie I've seen since Primer has disappointed, with few exceptions.

Yes, including Moon.

Primer is so good I'm not actually going to write about the Primer story, on the off-chance that somebody hasn't seen it, even though it's been out for six years.

So instead I'll just say: if you haven't seen Primer, what the heck are you doing reading this crappy website? Rent it and watch it immediately. (Or check it out on Netflix instant.)

If you have seen it, though, you may not have grokked it on your first viewing, or your fourteenth. Probably because, in the words of a friend of mine:

Primer defies all attempts at understanding beyond a fourth-grade level. Understanding Primer is like coming up with a fucking consistent Grand Unified Theory of physics, or figuring out how to transmute lead into gold. Maybe it can be done. If anybody ever does do it, the rest of the world will know about it. But it hasn't happened yet.

And who's to say movies like Primer and Donnie Darko are even meant to be understood. Even if you could, would you really want to? Maybe you gain more by not understanding. Sometimes understanding gets in the way.

Still, if you insist on trying, this Primer infographic (SPOILER ALERT) might be of use. I have no idea who built it, or why, or whether they were under duress at the time.

All I know is that I still don't understand Primer.

And maybe that's the thing about good sci-fi, as opposed to the campy-but-enjoyable stuff: it doesn't surrender its secrets easily. Years later, you're still chewing on the enigma. The original Matrix was that way, at least before the sequels. Donnie Darko was that way. Primer is that way, in spades.

Tags: sci-fi, movies

23 comment(s)

primer is a piece of garbage. i hate that movie. hate it. put me down in the "hate" category and so far we're 1 and 0. donnie dark was much better.

Mulholland Drive is impossible to understand too. Watching it a second time didn't help at all

I watched primer the first time because of this XKCD comic and fell in love with it. I've watched it probably a dozen times, and the infographic only helps somewhat. Subtitles are important because you catch interesting things with verb tenses. I heard one person say that it helps to watch the film backwards!

Another interesting, under-rated, under-appreciated movie I saw recently was Memento

Damnit! I was just about to suggest the same link. The XKCD Primer is classic. Classic.

Primer is one of my favorite movies, along with Memento, for similar reasons, I suppose. The sheer mind-fuck quotient of both movies is extremely high. The Wikipedia article on Primer tries to explain the plot, and does a fairly good job of it, although I take issue with a couple of details.

Once you realize that the Abe you see the first time is actually the Abe from the 2nd timestream, it leapfrogs from there. You almost never see the two main characters from the same timestream together in a timestream. It's always Abe(2) and Aaron(4), etc.

I remember plotting it out on paper once. If you do it that way, it makes sense (mostly). There are parts of Primer though that aren't consistent. Ie., the writers are tricking you a bit, and counting on confusion to carry the effect, which it does.

Primer had an interesting story and premise and script, but I think its poor production has to be taken into account when rating this movie. I understand the film was made for like $6,000 and was the first ever film made by the director, which is awesome and all, but because of this there are some major problems with sound. In many scenes its hard to hear or make out what the actor is saying. I know this was done intentionally in some parts, but in others it was just too distracting. In the director's commentary version (one of the bonus options on the DVD), the director said how every shot but two (IIRC) was done in one take. And due to sound recording problems they had to dub over a lot of the dialog during the editing process. Plus the acting leaves a lot to be desired.

Finally, if you watch the directory's commentary the director gives away the plot a bit. Not all the way, but he clearly answers some questions. So if you want to remain in the dark and figure it all out yourself, avoid it! Ditto for Donnie Darko. In that director's commentary the director spells out the whole meaning of the film within 10 minutes of its start. It really was a let down to have that entire film spelled out like that, and there was no warning from the director before he spoiled it!

I love Primer, but Scott's objections are valid. James, I think calling Primer "one of the greatest sci fi movies of all time" is going a little far. It's useful, intelligent, no-nonsense sci-fi. And that's commendable. But it's not a Star Wars, and it's not the Matrix.

Dude,

Wtf... Is this the twilight zone? I am just trying to decide whether to read your blog.... or choose from a number of pictures we just downloaded.... I guess it will be primer))))

I agree with you 100%

I been waiting forever for the director of Primer to make another movie, but it doesn't look like it will happen

Holy S* there is a lot of spam here. I watched the movie and got it the first time. I'm guessing a background in EE and quantum mechanics helped.

WTF are you doing watching a movie for the first time w/ the director's commentary on anyway?

C

Great to hear somebody talking up Primer. Another good one is the Lost Room (mini series).

I love Primer. I love Shane Carruth. Please release A Topiary yesterday! Although, once I've watched Primer for like the 1347th time, I realized that time travel in the film, or how the characters used it, is a bit silly. Still, I love Primer.

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I love Shane Carruth. Please release A Topiary yesterday! Although, once I've watched depakote side effects Primer for like the 1347th time, I realized that time travel in the film, or how the characters used it, is a bit silly. Still, I love Primer.

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Moon was far better than Primer.

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