I know that Time Chasers has got a reputation. It was featured on one of the most brutal (and funniest) episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000. That, in fact, is probably how most people know about this film. (Some members of the MST 3K crew subsequently revisited Time Chasers for Rifftrax.) It’s true that MST 3K was known for taking apart bad films and it probably hasn’t helped the film’s reputation that it’s been reported that some members of the production were not amused about being mocked by Mike Nelson and the bots.
But that’s all in the past and I think that today, we can finally admit that Time Chasers is not that bad.
It’s certainly one of the few films to suggest that time travel can be achieved by an airplane, five oversized floppy disks, and a Commodore 64. Nick Miller (Matthew Bruch) is a scientist and amateur airplane pilot who has discovered how to travel through time. He hopes that we can use time travel so that we can figure out a way to “stop killing ourselves.” Lisa (Bonnie Pritchard), the local journalist who went to high school with Nick, is impressed, especially when Nick takes her on a trip to the future (which does indeed look much like a mall food court). Lisa is less impressed when Nick decides to sell the idea to J.K. Robertson (George Woodard). J.K.’s a rich businessman and that automatically makes him evil. Lisa understands this. Nick does not.
J.K. promises that he won’t use time travel to develop weaponry but, when Lisa and Nick take another romantic trip to the future, they discover that the world is in ruins and it no longer looks like a food court. Instead, people are shooting at each other. J.K. lied! Nick and Lisa go back to the present to confront J.K. but J.K.’s not willing to give up time travel that easily. Soon, as a result of all the time travel, there are multiple Nicks and Lisas and J.K. Robertsons all over the place. It all ends with a trip back to the American Revolution, where many of the colonists wear wrist watches and modern-style eyeglasses.
It is easy to poke fun at something like Time Chasers but I’m going to defend it. The plot is actually more ambitious than you would expect from a low-budget sci-fi film and there are some clever touches that indicate that the director actually did give some serious thought to what would happen if you had multiple people jumping from one time to another. (I like the fact that, when Nick meets his past self, Past Nick can’t understand why Present Nick won’t stop talking about Lisa.) For all the ribbing that they took on MST 3K, both Matthew Bruch and Bonnie Pritchard are likable as Nick and Lisa. Bruch may not look like a conventional hero and, in this film, he’s got a mullet that’s goofy as hell but there’s a lot of sincerity to his performance.
I love MST 3K. When I first saw the Time Chasers episode, I laughed so much that it hurt and it’s still a favorite of mine. (I cannot see an empty field without saying, “Hey, Children of the Corn.” Lisa — our Lisa, not the film’s Lisa — is usually kind enough to reply, “Hey,” so my joke isn’t just left hanging in the air.) But taken on its own, without Mike and the bots riffing on it, Time Chasers is not that bad. It’s goofy take on time travel and, dammit, I like it.