During the pandemic, Hollywood was looking at contained stories where the story takes place in a single or handful of locations. The purpose of this was to minimize the need to travel to different locations.
A related way to minimize locations is to reuse those locations over and over again. This often occurs in time loop stories where the hero is stuck repeating the same day over and over again. The most popular example of a time loop movie is “Groundhog Day” but there have been many excellent time loop stories since then including “Happy Death Day,” “Palm Springs,” and “The Map of Tiny Perfect Things.”
What all these time loop stories have in common is that they reuse the same location but show us something new in that location every time. Because the screenwriter had to get creative in reusing the same location while showing us something new, time loop movies tend to be very well-written.
Time loop movies force us to reuse the same setting and often the same characters in that setting. The only difference is that the characters are now forced to do something new to avoid being repetitive. Not only must the screenwriter not be repetitive, but he or she must also show us something different in that same scene.
For example, in “Palm Springs” there’s a scene where the hero takes his girlfriend out to a rich house out of town that has a swimming pool. The hero and his girlfriend relax in the pool in one scene. Then in a later scene, they’re repeating their actions, relaxing in the pool, only now the home owner and his family arrive and stare at two total strangers swimming in their pool.
This scene is humorous because it shows change in the hero’s situation. The first time the hero and his girlfriend swam in the pool, they were stuck in the time loop. The second time they are swimming in the pool, they had gotten out of the time loop and had forgotten until the arrival of the home owner makes them realize that they were now free of the time loop.
Time loop scenes focus on showing change in the hero because without showing this change, the scene would simply get boring and repetitive. That’s why time loop movies tend to be so interesting because the screenwriter absolutely cannot afford to be repetitive. Unfortunately in too many other movies, characters are allowed to be repetitive just by being in a different setting.
For example, the beginning of “The 5th Wave” shows the hero surviving various disasters created by aliens to destroy the human race. In one scene, there’s a tsunami that floods the land. In another, there’s a disease that kills most of the population. Yet the hero’s situation fails to change. All these repetitive scenes show is the hero surviving.
So while time loop movies show the same setting but in ways that demonstrate the situation of the hero has changed, bad movies show the same thing but disguise it under a different setting. That’s a recipe for boredom, yet bad movies do this all the time and time loop movies do not because they simply cannot afford to do so.
So study time loop movies and you’ll notice how every scene always show something new about the hero that’s different from any other scene. That’s the key to why time loop movies are so good and also the key as to why so many movies are so bad. Bad movies repeat the same state of the hero by just changing the setting. Time loop movies repeat the same setting but show different states of the hero.
Huge difference that spells the difference between a good and bad movie.