It’s the one question that arises every time time travel is brought up: What if you could go back in time and kill Hitler? Well Timecop 2 aka Timecop 2: The Berlin Decision aka Timecop: The Berlin Decision jumps right into that argument, as well as many other paradoxical philosophical arguments surrounding time travel.
This film takes place after the events of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s 1994 Timecop. In this film we follow Ryan Chan (Jason Scott Lee) as he attempts to prevent Brandon Miller (Thomas Ian Griffith) from altering the past, including killing Hitler in the opening sequence. Miller is the leader of the Society of Historical Accuracy (SHA), which is a group separate from the Ryan’s Time Enforcement Commission (TEC), and are a self-appointed group to monitor and record the past so that it can be known what happened in the event of a change. In reality, they are a group of high-minded individuals lead by Miller to go back and right wrongs in the past. Like killing Hitler, or stopping plagues. Unfortunately the TEC sees this as a flagrant violation of time travel, and they arrest individuals from the SHA, try them and either sentence them to prison or death.
This was my first time viewing this film. Initially, I was not terribly interested in seeing a sequel to the original Timecop, and thought that this one (made directly for video) would be a real stinker. But what this film lacks in production value, which by the way is not much, it makes up for in a thoughtful philosophical stance. That’s not to say that there aren’t parts of the film that make you say “What the–?” but I really enjoyed the underlying moral conflict between the two groups.
The SHA’s premise, as delivered by Miller when he was in college, was that if one had the access to travel in time, aren’t we morally obligated to fix the problems and set right the wrongs (see Sam Beckett, Quantum Leap) of the past? His professor, Ryan’s Dad, argues whose moral compass should we use? His? Miller’s? Papa Chan says that it’s the past that makes up what society, and humanity, is. It’s all a part of us; the good and the bad.
I think a lot of the problematic elements can be overlooked in this film, due to this strong polar morality between the hero and the villain. Plus there’s a lot of cool martial arts action with Lee taking on multiple enemies, in varied times throughout history.
The climax puts the TEC philosophy up against the SHA philosophy, with Ryan having to make the proper decision or else seem like a hypocrite. The resolution, appears to not be a resolution, and seems to leave a lot up to the audience to decide what happened. I think that the ending is not as ambiguous as some may argue, as the filmmakers have made a decision about which side they fall on in the debate, and that we continue to follow Ryan back to his present, provides the answers to the posed conundrum. I am glad that I decided to write this blog, as this film would probably have gone unwatched. It will serve as a good template for future analysis of moral questions that arise due to time travel.
NOTE: This entry is the second part of a six-part Time Travel grouping of non-sequential sequels that are time travel related. The next entries will be a part III, IV and so on, until we get to a sixth film. Think of this as a mini-marathon thru several franchises, showing the diversity of time travel in genre film!
There were several other choices that I had for the second entry in this sequel marathon. Terminator 2 and Back to the Future II seemed too important to use in this, potentially, cheesy grouping of films. They will of course, get their own entries later in the year. Then we have Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, which similarly seems like it needs to be part of a two-fer with the initial film. Then we start dragging the bottom of the sequel-barrel with the likes of Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time, Waxwork II: Lost in Time, and The Philadelphia Experiment II. And while I probably will get to these, Timecop 2 seemed to call to me more.