Sunday, February 19, 2012

WORLDVIEWS IN MOVIES: IN TIME

As far as entertaining sci-fi goes, In Time is not bad in spite of some holes in the plot (for example, how is there not an entire industry that keeps track of peoples’ diminishing time and automatically deposits more?). However, I found the underlying worldview issues more interesting.
  • This movie highlights the gift of life.  The idea that people control the lifespan of other people, charging exorbitant amounts of interest for every small life-giving injection, is appalling. Some people are Time Keepers – but the time of others is not ours to keep.  As one character notes, “No one should have to die before there time.”  Beneath the plot is an underlying promotion of inalienable rights, a claim that we as human beings deserve certain fundamental things – in this case, life.  In much the same way the previous movies from the team behind this movie wrestled with pretty serious questions  (The Truman Show and Gattaca), In Time at least attempts to address greed, exploitation, and the commodification of  human life. 
  • Survival is apparently all that drives the majority of people in this film –families, relationships, and pleasure appear only on the periphery.  A scene early on introduces us to a world that values “Darwinian Capitalism” where “the strong survive.”  The movie makes clear (through that and another very specific scene near the end) that survival of the fittest is a brutal way to live.  The ending suggests there is a better way, but how exactly that will be accomplished seems unclear (see #4).
  • There is an odd kind of whimsical lawlessness. Sure, somebody needed to crash the system, but never has playing Robin Hood looked so fun.  Justified rebellion is a serious and moral undertaking.  As the movie unfolds, we see good people trapped within the system, suggesting there might have been another way to fight the man.  In addition, chaos seems to follow the unleashing of time at the end, as factory workers walk away from their jobs and flood the neighboring rich time zones.  In some ways this film felt like V for Vendetta but with prettier people, cooler gadgets, more sunlight, and fewer explosions. Like V, it challenged the status quo, which is not necessarily a bad thing.  Like V, the solution is war.  Violent revolution by the proles, the fall of class divisions, a zero-sum economic game where the rich get richer only by abusing the poor, the shutting down of factories?  Hollywood, meet Marxism.
  • Close to the end, the hero makes an interesting observation: “No one should live forever if even one person has to die.” On the one hand, I can appreciate the sentiment.  One person should not be required to sacrifice their life to extend the life of another. Movies like The Island have explored what life would be like in a world of true human commodification.   On the other hand,  I couldn't help but wonder if there was a deeper religious commentary here.  After all, the Christian believes the death of Christ has made eternal life possible for us all.  I'm not saying the filmmakers intended this meaning, but I imagine Dawkins noting that clip for future seminars.
  • The movie gives no good foundation for hope.  Sure, the time zones crashed, but to what end?  Apparent economic chaos looms;. how many people will die before time gets fixed? Everybody in the world still needs time to live, and now the system that brought time to them doesn’t work.  Good luck.  Social stratum have been bridged, but will geographic equality really change people’s hearts?  The Marxist view of history requires a repetition of the clash between the haves and the have not’s for a long, long time before utopia.  Soon, another group will arise that has to be defeated. This might not make justice futile, but it does seem disheartening.   
The movie closes with our heroes, jobless and on the run, getting ready to continue to crash the system.  All will be well (we are to assume) because they are beautiful and love each other.  If only the world’s problems could be solved that easily.

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