Director: Shane Carruth. Starring: Shane Carruth, David Sullivan, Casey Gooden. USA, 2004. IMDB: 7.0. My rating: 1/4.
Abe: Did you notice those? When you were controlling the feeds, did you notice the parabolic? Hey, it’s important. Parabolas are important. Here, look at this.
Aaron: I don’t know, Abe.
Abe: Now, I’m gonna start it up and let it run for sixty seconds with, with nothing in it, okay, it’s empty this time.
Aaron: [watching the time] That’s twenty-two.
Abe: In all the equations that describe motion and heat…
[They start to cross-talk over each other]
Aaron: Now, just one minute, just a second…
Abe: …in all the Feynman diagrams, what’s the one variable that you can turn into negative and still get rational answers from?
(a conversation between main characters)
Aaron: You know that story, about how NASA spent millions of dollars developing this pen that writes in Zero G? Did you ever read that?
Aaron: You know how the Russians solved the problem?
Abe: Yeah, they used a pencil.
Aaron: Right. A normal wooden pencil. It just seems like Philip takes the NASA route almost every time.
(a conversation between main characters)
Primes is one on remarkable examples of where independent ultra low-budget science fiction can get. It was made by Shane Carruth for just about $ 7,000 (he also wrote the script, the soundtrack, played one of main characters and lots of other stuff as well). It gained good recognition on festivals (including Sundance grand jury prize, oh yeah) and still holds 7.0 with almost 80.000 votes on IMDB. Sounds like a great deal for a true low-budget sci-fi fan? I also thought so. But it’s fascinating to see how high a movie like “Primer” can get, gaining recognition between geeks.
I really wished I loved this movie. The premise had everything that was necessary. I even feel quiet ashamed. I spent actually more time on thinking why so many people loved it than the movie itself. Why?
That’s the main question. “Primer” is complex, because…it’s story line is so freaking awfully complex. But the concentration of complexity is so high, so extremely nerdy and geeky, that there is no more pleasure in unfolding it. It may offer one of the greatest riddles ever, but it’s made in such a dull, tedious, boring and tiresome way that you just don’t give a damn about it. You just don’t care. I think this is exactly that kind of independent sci-fi, that should be used as an example in some cinema manual.
The story tells us about four tech guys who experiment to build some new technologies and then sell them. One day, they realize they got closer to something bigger they had ever planned.
What is wrong with it? Almost everything. The dialogues are mostly incomprehensible because of continuous use of some technical vocabulary. The photography, the acting, the action are not something that terrible (many movies are much worse), but they just don’t get you anywhere. At a certain point in the middle, the movie bores you so much that you just don’t care anymore about solving the puzzle. Most of the plot you see some guys, doing some technical stuff, moving from one place to another, building some mechanisms, then they realize they built a time machine and…nothing. We have no idea who these people are. The tagline is “If you always want what you can’t have, what do you want when you can have anything?” Great, but I doesn’t see how this comes out of the movie I’ve just watched.
“Primer” is excellent movie for people who don’t like movies. I knew few guys like that. They were obsessed with paradoxes, science, technology, riddles, math, etc. They didn’t care much about how something was done, but what was it about. In this case, it’s a perfect movie. You can watch it again and again, trying to understand all the story. But for me, cinema is something bigger. You can’t reduce it to solving puzzles and paradoxes. Why the visual is needed then? The sound? The acting? Why not a book then? How you tell the story is as important as the story itself. I have always enjoyed Azimov. The dry style of this story would have a similar feeling somehow.
Worth watching? A movie for people who don’t like movies. Or don’t care how the movie looks and feels. There is difference between saying more by saying less and just saying less. If you are searching for some time paradox riddles, choices and human nature and don’t care that much about photography, acting, set, locations, costumes, light, sound, editing, then watch it. Otherwise, just skip.
Watch instead: “Timecrimes”, “Predestination” or “Time Lapse” instead. ”Coherence” was probably the most brilliant take on the things all these movies want to discuss though.