[[[[Ed. Note: minor spoilers to come for the premise of various time-looped movies.]
Since groundhog day released in 1993, the title of the film was an easy way to describe any new film or show structured around a character stuck in a repeated day. Russian doll, Happy death day, Edge of tomorrow, and the new comedy Palm Springs are all built around the same time loop vanity, to the point where they have been described as “a twist on groundhog day. This comparison, however, belies one crucial thing about each of them: the time loop stories are all centered on repetitive experiences, but each major new addition to the sub-genre has so far found a new interpretation of this idea. central.
groundhog day Bill Murray lived the same day over and over until he learned to care about others. The other four aforementioned time loop stories also involve self-discovery, but unlike so many other recent restarts and remakes, which tell the same story with nothing new to add to the mix, these time loop stories overlay new elements above the building blocks that the public already knows.
Russian doll added a level of mortality, making it clear that staying in the loop indefinitely was not an option, and would result in death. Happy death day turned the time loop into a slasher movie and a murder mystery. Edge of tomorrow has transformed the ability to close time into a commodity. The latest addition to the genre, Palm Springs, adds the possibility of bringing new people into the time loop, as well as an exit that has nothing to do with morality.
The constant innovation which occurs within this extremely niche sub-genre seems antithetical to the repetition which animates it. But the creative element makes sense, given the specificity of the parameters of the sub-genre. A certain time – almost always just a day – continues to repeat itself. It would be difficult to use this framework without adding a new ingredient to the mixture, or literally just redoing groundhog day. The basic plot is also so simple that it defies being easily franchised – all the aftermaths of a time-looped story require extreme escalation, or else, it’s just a remake.
the Happy death day suite, Happy Death Day 2U, manages the exploit by adding alternative dimensions, so that the characters can run in different versions of each other in their new loop. The film is a wild extension of the basic idea of the time loop, explicitly drawing on the science fiction traps of time loops to make the procedures even more zanier. ((Edge of tomorrow also has a follow-up in the works. Director Doug Liman described it as a “sequel that is a prequel,” but no further details are available.)
Other recent reboot suites like Men in Black: International and Child’s play tried to slow down by telling the same story, only changing the easy details (gender of a character, updated technological and pop culture references), and this surface-level approach has always failed. The concrete lesson from many restarted IP addresses with little or no impact is that there must be a reason to tell a story again, whether taking into account the change in time since the iteration of origin (Nia DaCosta to come Candyman) or by modifying the story so that it presents something really new (Tim Burton Dumbo).
The time loop stories followed this rule through constant reinvention. All comparisons between groundhog day and Palm Springs end up by the fact that the characters repeat themselves constantly one day, and the phenomenon pushes them towards a little reflection. By getting more people to get stuck in a cycle, Palm Springs questions how the equation would change if being trapped did not mean being alone either. It also uses groundhog dayThe popularity of ‘as permission to start the film in the middle of the story. When Palm Springs begins, Nyles (Andy Samberg) has already experienced countless time loops, saving the public the trouble of rehashing an old concept. Her possible explanation to Sarah (Cristin Milioti) about what is going on is fortunately also brief, because even as a spectator, entering the situation, she does not need a thorough explanation to understand all the narrative possibilities of the loop.
Palm Springs is built groundhog day rather than telling it again, just like his time-loop peers. These new chapters do not follow in a linear order; instead, they expand, adding new and different aspects to a genre that could easily be based on the principle on which it is built and repeated. It’s the Mad Max: Fury Road genres – new installments can be based on known concepts and intrigue elements, but they reconfigure them to explore new terrain. Or Fury Road update the Mad Max series by going deep into colors and action, movies like Palm Springs and shows like Russian doll to bring groundhog day in the 21st century by realizing that the central time loop is a vehicle for history, rather than the message itself.
Palm Springs premieres on July 10 in Hulu.