‘Hot Tub Time Machine’ Nails The Dangers Of Time Travel
Movie time machines have come in all sorts of different forms; a phone booth, a cocaine trafficker’s luxury car, a broken toaster that one time. But there has arguably been no goofier cinematic vessel for temporal displacement than that of the hot tub in the appropriately titled Hot Tub Time Machine, in which a group of buddies hop in a Jacuzzi and, as a result, are whisked back to the year 1986, instead of simply getting dry skin and a staph infection like you’d expect.
Look, Hot Tub Time Machine is obviously riddled with scientific inaccuracies; at the time, physicists pointed out that a hot tub with an energy drink spilled on the controls would lack the power necessary to open up a “gateway through space and time” – as would the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, by the way. But at least the characters are aware of certain time travel-related dangers, thanks in part to Ashton Kutcher. The gang discusses the possibility of the so-called “Butterfly Effect,” that any minor deviation from their behavior could radically change the future, and so they decide to recreate their original 1986 actions so as to not monkey with the timeline.
This also drew criticism from scientific experts who were also John Cusack fans, one of which noted that there would be consequences to the timeline no matter how careful they were because: “Tinkering with history isn't a matter of ‘close enough.’ Once things are changed, however slightly, they're changed for good.” Also, “any changes wrought in the past would have so changed the future that any foreknowledge would quickly become worthless.” Meaning that their ability to anticipate future events would eventually be non-existent because of their presence.
But at the same time, the film does give us a good example of Chaos Theory in action; when they first arrive in the past after a night of heavy drinking, Rob Corddry’s character Lou immediately goes full Exorcist pea soup on an unsuspecting squirrel. You may not want to watch this clip if you’re an emetophobe and/or a squirrel.
Later, Lou tries to win a sure-fire bet on a football game, the outcome of which he remembers in detail, but loses. How? Because of that same goddamn squirrel, which was apparently so agitated by the vomit incident that it disrupted an NFL game like a common Philadelphia sports fan.
That being said, recent experiments in the field of quantum physics have found that the Butterfly Effect, in regard to the flow of time, may not actually be a thing. But regardless, from a narrative standpoint, movies so often present situations in which time travelers are able to alter the future through their actions in the past, but the extent of these changes is shockingly minor. Like in Back to the Future Part III, Marty and Doc disrupt an entire train route in the Old West, and it is of seemingly little consequence to the future. Not to mention how the protagonists of both the old and new Quantum Leap spend long stretches of time in the past and only end up changing the things they intend to. For all its other faults (and there are many), at least Hot Tub Time Machine adeptly illustrates the futility of trying to predict the future of a timeline one is in the process of disrupting.
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Top Image: MGM