Directed by Michael Anderson
August 25, 1989
An NTSB investigator learns that time travelers are replacing the victims of plane crashes just before they die with copies.
I admit to being a bit of a sucker for time travel movies. I love the idea of moving from the past to the future to the present with ease, so I eagerly walked into Millennium. I cut some films/concepts more slack than others and I cut time travel films more than most save for ANY Star Wars film. Here they added in the twist of nabbing the about to die and bringing them to the present of the travelers. It is a really great premise that should have a really great end product.
The whole plot by the time travelers is necessitated because the future is extremely polluted and humans are apparently sterile though this revelation is rather rushed. They drop it and move on and it should get a little more attention since it is the reason for everything. It does beg the question if the environment is so contaminated that that it has ended humanity then how is bringing humans to this hazardous waste sight of a future a good idea? You are only putting a Band-Aid on the problem since in a few generations you are back right where you started.
Kris Kristofferson is okay as the creatively named lead character Bill Smith. They could not do better? And by “okay” I mean he would be great if this was a TV movie of the era, but this was a theatrical release. He feels like he just does not know what to do in this movie and his delivery is flat.
I think it was a combination of poor script and bad direction on the part of director Michael Anderson. Anderson had a solid if uneven resume up to this point. By this point he had directed such films as the 1956 version of Around the World in 80 Days and the dystopian science fiction movie Logan’s Run in 1976 along with Jaws rip off Orca in 1977. Variety I guess. Still though he did not seem to have a real handle on things here.
Cheryl Ladd is a little better. She looks like she is trying but not sure herself of how to handle scenes. Maybe Anderson let the cast improvise and they just were not that good at it. She plays Louise Baltimore, chain-smoking time traveler. Apparently because of the future one of the things that our time travelers have to do is smoke cigarettes because their lungs are not accustomed to the cleaner air of the past. I like that. It should be a small detail, but they hammer you over the head with it.
I like in the story how the events for Louise are not linear in relation to the events for Bill. For instance, her past is his future at least when it comes to them interacting. It is something that does not occur often enough in these types of films. Too often the timeline of all involved, including the travelers, is very linear. I appreciate that. It was an interesting narrative choice that helped the film.
In Millennium they are very concerned about not affecting the timeline. Doing so would alter the future. Duh! This is brought into focus when Smith comes across a weapon that one of the travelers accidentally dropped prior to the plane crash he is investigating. Somehow in the wreckage of a passenger plane he found a tiny weapon that fits in the palm of his hand. Be that as it may, he finds it. This is bad because if he learns where it is from and what it can do that knowledge could change the future. I would think that problem would be avoided by not saying or doing shit because he has no direct link to the travelers. There is no person that he can talk to in the present to lead him to Louise Baltimore because her life is separated from his by 1000 years. But they must interfere to fix things rather than avoid further mistakes.
This causes ripple effects that shake things (literally) in the future and it is all very bad. What gets me though is with all this talk of maintaining the timeline and avoiding paradox by preventing him from finding the device and all that they should already know that they did not retrieve the device and that paradox will occur because of their failure. That is a logical outcome here. Louise when she first encounters Bill does not know him but he knows her so these future people already know something went wrong and they did not retrieve it. If they had they would not know of the need. You follow?
Louise and Bill develop a deep and passionate love. How? Some really great sex in a hotel room while she was trying to locate the weapon. The booty was that good that he fell head over heels with his woman that he just met. Cheryl Ladd is stunning but still.
The character of Dr. Arnold Mayer (Daniel J Travanti) is introduced early on and is certainly implied to know more than he lets on about events of the film. He is a physicist with this whole theory on time travel that works rather well from a logical perspective. Connected to all this, at least I assumed when it came to Mayer specifically, is also discussion of Louise and friends having to go back to a doomed flight in 1963 and get the people off of that which is a moment they show in the film.
The viewer is certainly left believing that the child they interact with on that flight who survives the crash is Mayer, but you would be sorely mistaken. It turns out it is Bill Smith who after his mother remarried took his stepfather’s name. After this development the physicist’s interest in all this and his knowledge of everything is bordering on inexplicable. He found a weird device in a plane crash that does not work yet he knows something strange is going on. How did he come to that conclusion? Travanti and Kristofferson are only four years apart in age.
Millennium is based on the 1977 short story “Air Raid” by John Varley who, starting in 1979, also wrote the screenplay and eventually released the expanded version of the story (a variation of this movie’s story) in book form in 1983. It took ten years and multiple versions through multiple directors before we got this version, and all those changes and visions show.
The costuming is odd. What I am talking about is the gear that Louise Baltimore and friends wear. They wore these sashes or whatever you wanna call them with random pieces of tech and junk glued on. Nothing lights up. It is just some random stuff that the costume makers or prop designers decided to attach to the outfits. Weird future outfits are fine but you would think that what appears to be a uniform might have items of purpose on it.
And what was with Bill Smith and Louise Baltimore in front of that sunset naked at the end? What was that supposed to symbolize? Mayer dies and time is reparably altered because he was important in developing the very technology it is based on so everybody needs to go into the extreme future to be safe. Why? I do not know exactly. Reasons I guess. Why were they nude in front of a setting sun? It was weird and it is obvious the director was trying to be deep, but it was just weird.
Yet Millennium has some kind of charm that I cannot quite put my finger on. I find it enjoyable. It is a fun premise even if it is executed poorly. It is a fun and cheesy ride if it is clunky. The potential it has holds your attention even if they do not quite take advantage of it. And the premise of the doomed being snatched before they perish is just great. And it is intriguing that there is no central villain to battle but rather a mistake that causes issues to be fixed.
In the end Millennium is a good idea hampered by poor execution. It is a fun film that you will need to forgive some stuff to enjoy. I will give this an if you want.