Just once, it would be nice to see a story about time travel go well. Everyone runs the numbers, takes the proper precautions, and only time travels to avoid traffic or make sure a steak doesn’t go past medium-rare. But conventional wisdom says movies need conflict. Intersect, written and directed by Gus Holwerda, has plenty, as its characters wrestle with the logistics, ethics, and societal backlash of time travel.
The characters in question are a trio of college scientists. Ryan (Jason Spisak) is the quiet, well-meaning protagonist, who seems to always be under the influence of melancholy. Caitlin (Leeann Dearing) is the one that Ryan is meant to fall in love with. Nate (Abe Ruthless) is the comic relief/ playboy character whose history of hedonistic hubris is destined to get him in trouble. Still, the three of them miraculously discover time travel with the help of a jar of marbles and become the talk of the town. All the while, Ryan begins to notice strange distortions of reality, which are, perhaps, related to manipulating the timeline. I mean, they’re probably not related to the cold front coming on Tuesday.
To the movie’s credit, it doesn’t get too hung up on the time travel storyline, opting instead to explore the characters, which are a far richer source of the material. Unfortunately, the characters aren’t written in a way that makes them thought-provoking or believable. Their entire characterization is built from the ground up on clichés and fake-sounding dialogue, particularly from Nate. When the characters speak, you feel the writer attempting to make them sound like a certain type of character. It’s highly artificial and sweeps the legs out from under the movie.
“…its characters wrestle with the logistics, ethics, and societal backlash of time travel.”
In a similar vein, how you get to know the characters is a bit awkward, as well. Halfway through Intersect, there’s an extended flashback of the three characters as children. They’re exactly the same as the adult versions, with the Nate character still being the “cool dude” of the trio. It reminded me of the baby Looney Tunes—he’s still Bugs Bunny, just, you know, now he’s a baby. During this time, you’re supposed to grow closer to the characters, especially Ryan, but everything plays out in the most heavily dramatic, maudlin way, to the point where it’s hard to take anything seriously.
A good example of the screenplay’s central weakness is a short sequence involving a group of protesters. They’re opposed to time travel and hold signs that have the word “Science” crossed out. Their leader holds a Bible and proselytizes the public on how science is Satan’s plan. To put this group truly over the top, it turns out the leader was Ryan’s childhood bully, just in case you haven’t already got it into your head that you’re not supposed to like these people. This kind of spoon-fed storytelling is all over the movie. More importantly, it’s not difficult to imagine opponents of time travel having legitimate concerns and more thought-out objections than the cartoon picket sign of “God Creates Time.” By having interesting antagonists, a movie becomes more interesting. That should be the goal, not to make the protagonist as likable as possible through contrast.
While there’s nothing wrong with the broad strokes of Intersect, the way in which it’s told prevents anything from gaining traction. They might be able to time travel, but the characters aren’t able to enter the third dimension. Much of the story’s connective tissue is made up of sentimental developments that try too hard to hit their mark. Choosing to eschew the normal time travel conventions for a character-based movie—while retaining the sci-fi intrigue—was a valiant choice, but one that required more tending than was given.
"…it’s not difficult to imagine opponents of time travel having legitimate concerns and more thought-out objections than the cartoon picket sign of 'God Creates Time.'"