I was very quick to see this movie originally. And, as it is definitely a movie that is in the center of my wheelhouse, I even created a post for it. But I never actually published it. When I went back to find my post all I found was a link to the short story “‘—All You Zombies—'” by Robert A. Heinlein which at first was baffling until I realized, ah, that is the short story that the movie is based on. Which, you can download and read from here if you’d like. It’s a very slim 9 page story, but it’s interesting to see the internal framework that made up Predestination.
The reason my not writing about Predestination is so baffling to me is because this movie is nigh on inscrutable. Even with my graph paper and my rulers I am having a hard time pulling all the pieces of this thing together into a coherent timeline, and I would assume that many of you would appreciate the help! hahah. Well, now I am finally going back and righting this wrong. Needless to say, this is a spoiler filled walk through and discussion of the movie Predestination. If you haven’t seen this movie… please… back slowly away from this page – go see the film, and then come right back.
After deciding that I needed to do a review again I decided I definitely needed to watch this mind-job of a movie all over again. And so, for all of you who have lost your way and arrived here without having seen the film… here, watch this trailer which will give you a quick overview of what we are talking about here:
So to kick off the unwinding of this fantastic Mobius strip of a movie, why don’t we just do a high level walk through of the movie’s events. Might help some of you remember what exactly happened through the progression of the film.
Predestination Movie Overview
The movie starts in the middle with the quote: “What if I could put him in front of you, the man that ruined your life. If I could guarantee that you would get away with it, would you kill him?” Then we see the Fizzle Bomber placing a bomb in March of 1975 and leveling 10 blocks of New York and killing over 10,000 people. And more importantly, we see someone in a hat, raincoat and gloves have their face caught on fire. Reconstructive surgery fixes their face and the doctor says, “Your grafts are healing nicely, it’ll take some getting used to.” And then the person who underwent the surgery says, “I’ve changed so much, I doubt my own mother would recognize me.”
Which, is the definition of irony. But we’ll get to that.
And that is when John begins to tell ‘her’ story as Lucy (Sarah Snook) at the bar to the ‘Barkeep’ (Ethan Hawke). She was a foundling. Dropped off on the doorstep of an orphanage. As she grew up she had a multitude of problems, but she realized she was unlike others around her. So Lucy applied to work for Space Corp. Her job would be to service men in space who apparently couldn’t handle the stress of space sans servicing?!? But let’s not get bogged down on this point, shall we? Because that only turns out to be a fairly lame cover story.
But during her physical health testing at Space Corp. something came up that disqualified her for the job even though she was the number one candidate at the time. Lucy then left the program and decided to go to school. And it was during this time at school that Lucy met a man, and this man was exactly like her. She understood him. They apparently made love, and Lucy became pregnant. And it was during her pregnancy that Robertson from the Space Corp. program came back and told Lucy that he wasn’t truthful about what they did at Space Corp. Which was to “fix wrong doings.”
After she delivered her baby the doctor came in and told her that they discovered her internals were completely jacked up. That she had had two sets of sex organs, 1 female and 1 male. But during delivery they had to give her a complete hysterectomy and remove her ovaries. They then needed to create a male urinary tract. They also told her that she would need to become a male through extensive therapy and more surgeries.
So, John, her new name, decided to call her baby Jane… naming her after herself in order to pass on her female legacy. Then a man came and snatched the baby and there were no clues as to who did it or why. So Jane has become John. The baby is gone. And John reapplied for Space Corp. once again, but was yet again denied. Eventually John arrives at the bar with the “Barkeep” and they begin talking. And eventually the entire story is played out. Woman meets man, has a baby, that is stolen and then has surgeries to become a man.
But that is when the story kicks it up a notch when the Barkeep tells John, “What if I could put him in front of you, the man that ruined your life. If I could guarantee you that you could get away with it, would you kill him?” John says yes, and the next thing he knows, is that he is time traveling backwards to April 3rd 1963. And just like that – this movie went from a strange story to a complete mind-job of epic proportions. And from there John goes, accidentally meets Jane in his attempt to kill the man that screwed him up. And in so doing realizes that the guy he was going to kill… was himself. Meanwhile the Barkeep bounces out to March 2nd 1970 and has a shootout with the Fizzle Bomber attempting one more time to catch him. But after being knocked out, he sees that John also jumped to this time and had his face blown off. The Barkeep assists John to get to his time machine device. And he jumps out to Feb 2nd, 1992 in order to repair his face and heal.
The Barkeep then jumps back to March 2nd 1964 in order to nab Baby Jane and deposit the child at the orphanage on Sept 13, 1945. And this Mobius strip is a Mobius strip of a Mobius strip eating itself, eating itself, eating itself. And on goes the Barkeep to June 24, 1963 in order to pick John back up (after impregnating Jane)… and then jumping forward to 1985 to meet Robertson. John is now picked up as a temporal agent (or whatever the heck fancy name Space Corp. calls their employees.
Barreling down the home stretch… the Barkeep ends his commission and decides to retire 2 months before the big bomb goes off. Except, the time machine doesn’t decommission at all. And as John’s first mission is launching (on August 13th, 1985) the Barkeep goes after the Fizzle Bomber with the information he found earlier about the bomb switch. Finding the Fizzle Bomber he realizes that it is himself… OF COURSE IT IS, that has gone mad from all the jumping. Roll Credits.
Predestination Relationship Infographic
Here, I’ve designed a Mobius strip of my own to show the relationship of the players throughout the entirety of Predestination:
The Rules of Predestination
Most of the time, when it comes to time traveling movies, there are lots and lots of rules. Don’t look at yourself. Don’t touch yourself. Don’t jump more than 3 times consecutively without an infusion and a diffusion. Right? Think about even the simplest of time traveling movies, Back to the Future – there were oodles of written and unwritten rules that held that movie together. But here? I think there is one that I can figure out. Time jumps can only happen 53 years plus or minus of 1981. So, in essence travel is possible between 1928 and 2034 if I have my math straight. Wracking my brain and trying to come up with another one. But no – not only do all the normal time traveling rules get broken here, they get shattered here. Obliterated. Not only does the world not end if you are near yourself, but on more than one occasion we have characters having sex with themselves. Seriously. So let’s get to that…
The Details of Predestination Explained
If you came here wondering what hit you… then this next paragraph is for you. I’m going to try and explain this movie to you as succinctly and simply as possible. Ok? I’m going to jump straight to the point of the movie and skip all the extraneous nonsense:
In Predestination – Space Corp. is constantly in search of the perfect Chrono-Cop, one that leaves as little a wake of chaos on their comings and goings as possible. And to do that, Robertson comes up with the idea when he meets Jane that he is going to create a person that exists solely inside a paradox and not inside time at all. And by using his ability to let someone time travel he creates someone that impregnates themselves, gives birth to themselves, and then gives them reason to exist by giving them their own cause or problem to solve. And in so doing, Robertson then is able to task this person with extraneous and side time traveling jumps that will constantly give him the perfect time jumper to solve his riddles and the crimes that have haunted the century.
Did that make sense at a high level? And because it is a paradox, it’s nearly impossible to explain in detail. Let me give you a high level timeline:
1. Baby Jane is placed in an orphanage
2. She leaves the orphanage and meets ‘John’
3. They court over two months
4. John impregnates Jane and then disappears
5. Jane gives birth and converts to a man (John)
6. John time travels back to kill his nemesis
7. John meets Jane and they court
8. John impregnates Jane and disappears
9. In trying to catch the Fizzle Bomber his face is destroyed
10. Cosmetic Surgery changes how he looks (Barkeep)
11. The Barkeep goes mad trying to find the Fizzle Bomber
12. One day Barkeep catches the Fizzle Bomber only to realize he is the bomber
Is that more clear? Some of you guys like exposition more than timelines and some vice versa. Maybe one of those will clarify exactly what happened in this movie.
The Detailed Timeline of the Time Jumps in Predestination
I was going to give you guys another list of the dates and the details of each of the jumps so that you can walk this cat back and see all the details inside and out. But after I typed it out I realized it was utterly boring. So I figured. Let’s create an infographic of the jumps and the reason why each was made. There are a number of jumps that I could have added here – these are just the basic ones that I am showing you here. For example – I could have concurrently shown you how one side of the Mobius strip (Jane) connected in to another (John) while yet another one was still on going (Barkeep and even Fizzle Bomber). Because there are constantly going 4 different threads all happening simultaneously. So take what I have below and multiply it by 4, stagger them, and you then see how the time traveling works in this movie:
Predestination Final Thoughts and Theories
I’ve already given you my biggest theory – and that is that Robertson is the one that created Jane and her paradox from scratch. Seeing an opportunity I believe Robertson manipulated her into becoming his perfect Chrono-cop. I guess I’ll call this one the Robertson Theory.
But it is probably equally as plausible that it was just an accident. A Paradox that arose out of capability and also fortune. (It was after all Jane that had the parts necessary to make this happen. Whoops!)
I personally think that the movie was pretty predictable. Anytime you cover someone’s face from the beginning, that person will turn out to be you in the end. Right? And man, does the director and writer use shadow, and fedoras, and burnt faces to enormous effect throughout this movie to keep us from know who really is who.
I enjoyed Predestination the first time I watched it… in a sort of – oh, no they aren’t going to… yeah, they already did… way. It’s a fun little time travel movie that is fun whether you have it figured out in advance or not.
Edited by, CY