What would you do if you had a time travel device? Would you visit the Cretaceous Period and ride a dinosaur? Or would you hunt down and kill baby Hitler? Maybe you’d just go back far enough to tell your younger self not to sign up for a certain dating app — I’m totally not mentioning this because of a certain something that happened to me back in the 90s — but the possibilities are virtually endless, that is, unless you are a complete idiot, one who is so far out of his depth that the eventuality of drowning in one’s own stupidity is an almost certainty. This brings us to writer-director Tim van Dammen’s fantasy/comedy Mega Time Squad, a nice little cinematic jaunt through time and space.
The protagonist of Mega Time Squad is a small-time New Zealand flunky named Johnny (Anton Tennet), who works for a local crime boss named Shelton (Jonny Brugh), who is very concerned about a Chinese gang muscling in on his territory. Now, Johnny fancies Shelton’s sister, Kelly (Hetty Gaskell-Hahn), who we first see as she is constructing an explosive vest for her brother, and it’s her advice to John that he leave Shelton’s little gang and step out on his own, stating, “Your nuts are probably bigger than you think,” which leads to Johnny and his best mate Gaz (Arlo Gibson) deciding to double-cross Shelton by robbing the Chinese gang and keeping the money for themselves. The size of Johnny’s nuts is certainly debatable, trying to knock over a Triad establishment is more a matter of stupidity than courage, but things get even weirder when Johnny also steals an old Chinese bracelet/amulet for his wannabe girlfriend Kelly, as this bracelet also happens to be an ancient device that allows the wearer to travel back in time.
Before departing the Chinese antique store/Triad establishment, the proprietor (Tian Tan) warns Johnny about the amulet: “Listen, temporal dislocator, very dangerous, if you use it, a day will come when the demon will consume you.” As Johnny is a rather dense individual, cryptic warnings are wasted on him, and he just asks “Hey bro, if she doesn’t like this can I bring it back, like exchange it?” I’m not sure Johnny understands how crime works, and this leads to the fundamental flaw in the film: Johnny is so incredibly moronic that one has to wonder how he manages to dress himself in the morning without written instructions, and thus what follows is a little harder to swallow.
When Gaz betrays Johnny to Shelton, there being no honour among thieves, things go south rather quickly, and Johnny finds himself on the run from both his old friends and Triad operatives, but lucky for him, it turns out that the charm bracelet is actually a primitive time machine, which permits the wearer to be transported back far enough to avoid whatever trouble they were facing. It also “duplicates” its user — as in, if you go back in time, then run over and stop your earlier self from activating the device and going back in time, you end up both staying — and this results in Johnny being able to create numerous “clones” of himself, who aid him in getting out of a variety of jams. The problem I have with this stems from the fact that these other Johnnies aren’t any brighter than the original, so them putting any kind of plan together is rather suspect, and their creation of the “Mega Time Squad“ is even less believable than the idea of a time-travelling bracelet.
The key issue I have with Mega Time Squad was that writer-director Tim van Dammen seemed more interested in the comedy aspect of his movie while giving almost no thought to the mechanics of his story’s time travel element — I’m not sure if Dammen has even heard of the word paradox — and this undercuts any tension the film was trying to build. If the viewer doesn’t understand the rules, and anything is seemingly possible, it becomes harder for the viewer to be invested in the events. Now, I’m not saying your time travel movie has to be as intricately thought out as something like Shane Carruth’s Primer, or as complicated as the Spierig Brother’s Predestination, but you should at least strive to work harder than those who put half-assed drivel like Project Almanac together. Mega Time Squad does go into interesting areas, such as John discovering that he can’t trust the other versions of himself — this leads to some particularly nasty and fun moments — and the relationship that develops between Prime Johnny and Kelly is rather sweet, but with the film being only eighty-minutes long, Dammen doesn’t have much time to explore anything thoroughly.
Where the film does work best is with the comedy, not a Back to the Future level of comedy, but Dammen’s oddball collection of morons and misfits are all quite entertaining, and seeing a film depicting some of the true dangers of firearms, from repeated ricochets to how loud they are in confined spaces, gave me quite a few chuckles. And as the film dealt with a “magic” bracelet, some of my time travel objections aren’t as heavy as they’d normally be for a film in this genre, so it gets a bit of a free pass there … but just barely.
Will Johnny get the girl? Can his gang of temporal clones survive the demon of the amulet? What about that explosive vest we saw Kelly making? All these questions and more are delightfully answered in Tim van Dammen’s Mega Time Squad, a film that may not have nailed the science fiction element all that well, as it leans heavier on the fantasy than the science, but it hit the comedy stuff right out of the park.
Mega Time Squad (2018)
Movie Rank - 6.5/10
Mega Time Squad is an old fashioned farce, one that is all dolled up with time travel, temporal doppelgangers, and ancient demons, which happily resulted in a rather fun romp. The direction is solid, the cast is great right across the board, and if Mega Time Squad is not the most thought out time travel movie it easily wins points for being one of the goofier entries.