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Time Travel Film 2067 Can't Match Its Grand Ambitions

A crop from the poster for 2067.
A crop from the poster for 2067.
Image: RJLE Films
io9 ReviewsReviews and critical analyses of fan-favorite movies, TV shows, comics, books, and more.

Filled with interesting ideas and surprising twists, 2067 has all the elements of a classic sci-fi mystery. Ultimately though, it’s stifled by that ambition, unable to tie everything together in a cohesive, satisfying way and never living up to its full, grand potential.

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Written and directed by Seth Larney, 2067 stars Kodi Smit-McPhee (X-Men: Apocalypse, Dark Phoenix) as Ethan Whyte, a blue-collar worker in a near future that looks all too inevitable. Climate change has burned all the plant life on Earth and in the final human city, most people live off artificial oxygen, which is not entirely safe. Many feel without a cure, it’ll kill everyone off soon. Which is when the future sends a message to the present: “Send Ethan Whyte.” Why him? For what purpose? And will it work? 2067 aims to answer all that and more.

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Though there are larger, human relationship issues at play (including problems with his wife, best friend, and the fact that he has deceased parents), eventually Ethan does decide to go to the source of that message. He travels 400 years into the future to hopefully figure out how save the world. What he finds instead is more mystery and an Earth that has, somehow, healed itself.

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Kodi Smit-McPhee ready to time travel in 2067.
Image: RJLE Films

If I continued explaining what happens, you’d probably get more intrigued—like I said, the film’s basic ideas are super solid and derive from very relatable modern anxieties. Plus, as Ethan continues to discover more about the future, he also discovers more about his past, and everything gets super twisty. This is, after all, a time travel movie, and Larney makes sure to take full advantage of the complex story possibilities that entails. Some of what gets sets up is awesome and potentially very exciting. The problem is none of that every really lands.

As the questions posed slowly get answered, those answers are overly convoluted, at least on an initial viewing. They make sense in an “I have a vague enough idea to keep watching” way but not in an “If you asked me to explain it to you, I could” kind of way. Ideas about Ethan having to save the world, why he specifically was called there, what happened to save the Earth, as well as the ties into his past, all get muddled as they’re weaved in together. That’s then exacerbated when Ethan’s friend in the present, Jude (Ryan Kwanten), ends up traveling to the future to help him. Things instantly go from confusing with one character to confusing with two.

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Ethan and Jude stunned in 2067.
Image: RJLE Films

At least with two characters, though, they can talk. And boy do they talk. The back half of the movie is basically just Ethan and Jude walking between the same few locations in the future, trying to explain everything that’s happening. It can get monotonous and frustrating, even when they’re digging into some of the bigger questions the film asks. Once 2067 finally reveals all, it’s simultaneously not 100% clear how everything ties together and somehow, also exactly what you probably guessed. Maybe even simpler than what you were expecting, all things considered. Basically, the film plays out like this: Act One, I’m interested. Act Two, What the heck is going on? Act Three, Oh, that’s it?

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It doesn’t help that the film’s main two leads, Smit-McPhee and Kwatten, aren’t great here. Neither performance comes off as particularly sympathetic, even when the film dives deep into their personal lives. As a result, it’s hard to really care what happens to either of them. Most of the time they just look very tired, very scared, or very angry and either whisper or scream their dialogue to convey that. Maybe with stronger performances, 2067 could’ve felt a bit more cohesive, instead, it feels like overacting to compensate for unclear character motivation.

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Okay, but the world itself is cool.
Image: RJLE Films
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While the crucial emotional and story elements of 2067 are a mixed bag, the film is rather impressive from a technical standpoint; the world of the year 2067 feels lived in and scary, costumes are cool and unique, and sets and production design, minimal as they may be, are used very well and in clever ways. Best of all, the score by Kirsten Axelholm and Kenneth Lampl is not only powerful, but it’s also catchy and will be in your head long after the movie ends.

2067 isn’t nearly as interesting as it wants to be or thinks it is, but sometimes a film that takes a giant leap and falls is more noteworthy than a film that plays it safe and works. I’d put 2067 into that first category. Even a subpar time-travel movie can be fun to watch and dissect, so even though this one is more flawed than not, the attempt is admirable.

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Time travel film 2067 is now on-demand.

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Entertainment Reporter for io9/Gizmodo

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DISCUSSION

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I mean, there are a few things I thought wasn’t entirely thought thru, even taking into account timey-wimey logic. I still don’t get how he came across his own body right off the bat. I initially thought there would be time loops and multiple jumps from the past to the future and back (like the movie Triangle). But that wasn’t the case, and it was just a plot device to allow him to hear the future. And then the scene inevitably plays out as it was recorded, but obviously in the present instead of the past (but still the future) before he arrived and found his own body. What?

And I’m not sure how I feel about the ending either, in the sense that he stayed put in a future that basically rewrote itself around him. I guess there’s precedent (for instance Marty’s girlfriend in BttF 2), but it’s still weird.