nancylebov (nancylebov) wrote,
nancylebov
nancylebov

In Time: the cranky person goes to the movies

In Time isn't a hopelessly bad movie. It has a number of good emotional effects and some moderately intelligent world-building, not to mention an action scene in the middle which got applause during the movie. I can't remember the last time I heard applause during a movie (not during the credits). The scene didn't surprise me (it had been rather well set up), so as a matter of courtesy, I applauded a plot twist later on which did surprise me.

However, the movie is unspeakably stupid and arguably evil.

The premise is that aging has been conquered. Everyone stops aging at 25, but they have a count-down meters in glowing green numbers on their arm because they have transferable time, and when they run out of time, they die. There's no time accounting till age 25, and then they get a year for free. Everything is paid for in quantities of time. Some people are barely earning a day per day, and others have centuries or more in reserve. It's claimed that the time restrictions exist because otherwise there'd be disastrous overpopulation.

The stupid/evil aspect is the idea that death is good for people.[1] Somehow, it's supposed to make sense that the horrible situation for poor people (vividly shown, mostly in the first part of the movie-- salaries drop and prices go up, too) is somehow more vivid and alive than the situation of the rich (heavily guarded, many of them don't have much to do), but the best thing is to get more time for poor people.

You could say that the movie is just saying that immortality is bad for people (I wouldn't mind being a test case to find out, myself) if anyone has to die for it, but there's also a repeated idea that (for the main characters), the true sweet vintage of life is living at a one day per day reserve.

Also, there are competing claims that overpopulation is a real problem, and that there's plenty of time. The contradiction is never explored.

I'm guessing on the "the poor are more alive" thing-- my situation has never been desperate and never been extremely well-off-- but I do know people from a wider range of incomes than mine (though none of the very rich), and they seem to be about equally alive. I will also note that there are a lot more people trying not to be poor than there are people giving up wealth to make their lives more interesting, so the evidence suggests that if there is more aliveness at the bottom, it isn't worth the pain for the vast majority of people.

I don't know where "the poor are more alive" idea comes from. Is it cross-cultural?

Back to the movie: I'm not convinced that there wouldn't be a parallel currency-- the time units are attached to people, or there are little time-holder devices. This doesn't seem like a good way to run even a medium-sized business.

I also suspect there would be people who age the way we do, either because the operation isn't available to them or because their parents don't think the risk of counting down to death is worth the chance of extended lifespan. (This was also a problem for the same director's Gatacca-- there should have been more of an underground economy.)

A minor point-- Salas, the main character who's spent his life poor-- is quite a dangerous hand-to-hand fighter. You don't acquire those skills without a huge time investment, but there's a notable lack of martial arts schools where he grew up.

More generally, it seems to me that a lot of people would be scrambling to acquire salable skills before they're 25, but that's not part of the story. Neither is the idea that at least artists and scientists would be making good use of extended lifespans. Most likely, so would anyone who cared about getting better at what they're doing.

One of the good details is the idea that poor people can be distinguished from rich people because the poor people do everything faster. However this is mentioned rather than (as far as I can tell) shown.

I think the right solution to the problem of time distribution isn't handing out more time (the quantities our two main characters could steal didn't seem like enough to make much difference, anyway), they needed to disable the countdown mechanism so that it couldn't kill. They might have needed to leave the tradable time system in place because abolishing the currency would be too disruptive. If we can get by with a currency based on trusting national governments and nothing else, perhaps they can manage on a purely electronic but hard to forge currency.

First, we have the time keeper (policeman) telling people to go home and putting down his gun (*sigh of relief*), and then we have our two main characters continuing their Bonnie and Clyde career on an impractically grand scale (excitement!). When I say impractical, I mean that they-- just the two of them-- are heading towards a huge time bank. Presumably, the only reason it's so large is that it full of those little time holders. You couldn't steal and transport them without forklifts and cohorts and trucks, oh my! And if it's full of guards, I doubt you could empty it without killing a bunch of people, which might make the moral message a bit less tidy.

An economist who thinks the economics makes enough sense to be worth thinking about.

An economist who doesn't like it, but for reasons other than mine.

[1] There's a tremendous amount of fantasy and science fiction which will tell you that death is good for you. I think it's sour grapes.

If you want some sf about an immortal who likes it, try Centuries Ago, and Very Fast by Rebecca Ore.

If you want sf about living on a short time tether that's more sensible than the movie, try Rachel Caine's Working Stiff. It has the worst first day at work in the history of worst first days at work, and the book might not be a good choice for readers with major medical squicks. The nanotech for creating zombies is a little dubious (magic pixy dust by evil military-industrial pixies [2] is what it is), but the story logic isn't bad if you can live with the nanotech.

[2] Sorry, no actual pixies in the story. It's a shame. If I want the contemporary human race ruled by an inimical outside force, I may need to read David Icke. This entry was posted at http://nancylebov.dreamwidth.org/510294.html. Comments are welcome here or there. comment count unavailable comments so far on that entry.

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