Credit: Fantasia Fest
by Ayeen Forootan Featured Film Horizon Line

Timescape — Aristomenis Tsirbas

March 24, 2023

Viewers these days are fortunate that movies about nerdy science kids, time and space travel, and all manner of other adventure-fantasies are no longer a relic of the past nor are they exclusively within the purview of big-budget blockbusters. In fact, it’s fair to say that any “revival” of the sci-fi genre has long since completed, given that such works are such a constant and recurring part of our cinematic culture. And yet, the dinosaur flick, almost like the grand creatures themselves, has felt extinct for a while now, wiped off the face of silver screens. Obviously, we’re not talking about the ongoing Jurassic Park franchise, but rather more of the B-movie sort that was at one point en vogue, works like Karel Zeman’s Journey to the Beginning of Time, Irwin Allen’s Lost World, Kevin Connor’s The Land that Time Forgot, etc. But here we are in 2022 with Timescape, the sophomore directorial feature from Montréaler Aristomenis Tsirbas, who previously worked as a VFX artist on James Cameron’s Titanic and Guillermo del Toro’s Hellboy, among many others. The film follows Jason (Sofian Oleniuk), a young loner with a curious and bright mind, who one night in the woods happens upon and becomes trapped on a spacecraft with a girl, Lara (Lola Rossignol-Arts), who claims to be from the future. Soon, the two find themselves catapulted back to the Mesozoic era, all the whole accompanied and assisted by an onboard, floating-air robot called M.I.A.

Roughly 20 minutes into the film, it’s quite obvious that Timescape is striving to be a collage of many things: a kind of fusion of Spielberg’s E.T. and Jurassic Park, a combination of Joe Dante’s Twilight Zone and Explorers with Richard Donner’s The Goonies, and even some Home Alone sprinkled in — particularly when Jason pulls a Kevin McCallister by screaming directly into the camera. But what’s quite vague, at least in the beginning, is whether — and if so, in what way — Tsirbas intends to pay tribute to all of these at-hand millennial nostalgias. Unfortunately, as the film progresses, all viewers are left with is a very unimaginative, inauthentic series of winks and nods that do nothing but flirt with overfamiliar clichés and mimic everything from the dialogue to the drama that we’ve seen played out multiple times in much better works. Even when the kids find themselves spacecraft-wrecked in the prehistoric setting (only hours before the asteroid strikes the earth) and anticipation for some entertainingly perilous events or hilarious adventures ratchets up, Timescape instead heads toward mild field-trip flick territory where Jason and Lara shape a predictable and bland friendship.

Deprived of any successful thrills, action, or humor, and plopped into a pastiche of very lo-fi visual effects (which at least recall that unassuming B-movie quality of earlier films), minimal set design, and a discordant and oddly epic musical score (composed by Mateo Messina), Timescape seems content to be single-viewing fare, a safe and harmless but hardly challenging escapist romp for undemanding audiences to pass the time with (the young Rossignol-Arts at least shows considerable promise). Still, it’s nearly impossible to imagine that the film will satisfy any millennial nostalgia, and even harder to think it would please any younger viewers, given the bevy of superior sci-fi works that have saturated their formative years. If you’re being generous — AKA loose and lazy — you could still dub Timescape a “family-friendly movie,” though it’s far closer to an 80-minute, well-executed Super Bowl commercial than a fully-conceived or visionary, even if low-budget, film. Given its modest designs, it’s tough to be too hard on Timescape’s, a film that occasionally delivers mild pleasures, but suffice to say that kids, robots, and dinosaurs all deserve much more in the future.

Published as part of Fantasia Film Festival 2022 — Dispatch 6.