Tuesday, May 5, 2009


Here’s what’s going to happen. I’m going to type this and you’re going to read it. You’re not going to interrupt. You’re not going to speak for any reason.

Our only glimpse of the original time line is from Aaron. He tells us, as we see in a flashback, that he discovered the fact that Abe had built a fail-safe.Was that, in fact, the original time line? There is no guarantee as this is only the original time line from Aaron’s perspective.

It is possible for a large number of recurrences prior to this point. Aaron could have already been in a repeat of the original time line without knowing it at all since Abe’s use of the box would erase Aaron’s knowledge of the previous time-line. If Abe tells Aaron about his time travel and later regrets having told him, he can reset events and tell Granger about the box rather than Aaron.Abe could opt to tell no one about the box. This time line could turn out even worse than the one before it. Granger could try to steal or sell the device causing Abe to fail-safe. Again, Abe repeats the time line of telling Aaron. This time he will try to control Aaron better, preventing Aaron’s mistakes, guiding him. From Aaron’s perspective, it is the first time line. Abe would know it as the third time line.

There is a basic cause and effect cycle. Abe can tell Aaron about the time machine or he can try to keep Aaron in the dark. If keeping Aaron in the dark leads to suspicion and thus may actually cause Aaron to find the fail-safe, then Abe must start by telling Aaron. Neither Abe nor Aaron can see the entire loop bringing them back to this point because they only can ‘see’ their own time lines. If you were Abe and had the two boxes, you might even travel back in time and pretend that you still only had the Weeble-sized machine, pretend you don’t even know what the box is doing, imitate the original time line.

Did you catch the reference that things were already occurring unbeknownst to Abe and thus, to us?? The birds in the attic are no birds or rats. But something is afoul up there. The sudden shock that time travel has already unraveled and caused mayhem, hidden from even his wife. What about the interest that Abe has with Aaron's wife? Is this some dormant desire, natural protection, or growing paranoia? Then there is the seemingly insignificant ice-maker, a wonderfully crafted foreshadow.. "We have to throw the first couple of batches out." That statement should tell you that the time machine will not turn out well either. There is so much missed in the first viewing. How many times must someone watch ‘Primer’ to appreciate is simplicity and underlying complexity? How addictive a film this has proven to be.


Breathe deep and try to relax. Everyone misses the fact that Abe built the boxes but pretended to still be developing the experimental machine with Aaron. This does not mean that Abe has traveled yet. He may not have used it yet, he may not even realize completely what it does. It only matters that it is in working order and that it is turned on. If your best friend is impulsive and not fully trustworthy, wait. Don't tell him everything. First learn as well as establish the ground rules and safety policies. Insure your survival as well as the invention itself.

We can now arrive at the first major time line where Abe builds the fail-safe box, sets the timer, and unbeknown to Abe,Aaron(2) pops out. That leaves Aaron(1) with four days to find the fail-safe and disappear. However, for this wound in the fabric of time to heal and for Aaron(1) to disappear as in the first play of the time line, all events must continue as before. If there is a serious deviation, if Aaron is interfered with or if Abe moves, locks, or turns off the box; then that time line will be forever altered. It doesn’t matter if Aaron brings the other box on this trip or not. He only needs to gain the upper hand, to gain control, to arrive first. He can always reemerge later with the folded-up box as long as he does so before Abe figures out that Aaron(2) is around. If Abe figures that out, he could fail-safe and move the box to a secret location, which would leave Aaron(1) stranded with no foreseeable exit window.

Once Aaron gets to the point where he exits the fail-safe and turns it off, he will gain control of the Primer universe. At most, Abe can only travel back in time 15 minutes later than Aaron (because of the 15 minute delay switch). A few hours window would even be better. You could fail-safe, turn the box off, take a long nap, and then activate the delay timer. Thus, you arrive several hours before your friend or foe returns. It would appear that Aaron may have left the box on the first time. But quickly, he plots to have his own box and recognizes that turning the box off is a much better means of control. We can explore this idea and its consequences later.

Aaron thus creates a new time line, one that is untethered from the original. The original time line has been lost forever, that is, the box cannot be used to enter into a time line where time travel does not exist (as was the case in the original time line). Abe will later regret this when he sees what a mess the time line becomes, thanks to Aaron's impulsive decisions. Abe wants to go back in time, exit, and disable the box. However, this serves no purpose if Aaron(2) is there with his own box hidden somewhere.

Aaron(2) must behave as Aaron(1) would anytime he is around Abe. He also must  insure that Aaron(1) finds the fail-safe and gets in to avoid a paradox that could erase his existence.(This is obviously what Aaron acknowledges although this does not necessarily mean that he could not survive a paradox) Aaron will have to try to speed things up with helpful assistance since Abe is stalling on his progress on the experiment so he has more time to work on his box at the U-Haul. Abe and Aaron both need each other in these early stages. The power of time travel though, has already unraveled their trust in one another. Both of them have become selfish, secretive, sly.(In fact, from some perspective Aaron(2) and Abe(2) may both have influenced, unseen to us, the events we see, be it Aaron(2) speeding things up or Abe(2) attempting to thwart Aaron's efforts, even those of Abe(1).


"The Weebles are stupid." Yes, two Weebles, symbolically representing Abe and Aaron. They convince themselves of their own intelligence.. It is during the Granger Incident that their foolishness and over-confidence is unmasked. Their personalities are, like all of us, flawed. Abe is very cautious and methodical. Still, he makes several errors, some of which Aaron later points out. "There are not one use only." Aaron acts imprudently with the thought that any errors can be detected and merely need to be over-written.

What about the fungus that grows on the Weeble? It is essential for the discovery of time travel.Without it, time travel will remain out of their grasp. The audience has Abe's perspective. 100,000 fans could not figure out the secrets of the fungus. Here are some obvious points. The fungus can only grow in a dark and damp environment. The process takes several months. Even this rate of growth is only due to a cool environment and being "stirred" and "sweetened" by adding pure Oxygen. The garage is not cold nor damp. The box is flooded with Argon. Argon greatly inhibits the growth of molds and fungus. There isn't enough Oxygen for a living creature to survive. Why does the fungus grow on the Weeble? The box is not covered in fungus. The watch was not covered in fungus.It obviously is not really growing.

Abe's concludes that the device is essentially time travel. Abe, using the watches, discerns a ratio of time inside the box to be 1:1300. While not exact, he can predict the outcome as odd or even. He feels that the time of the Weeble in the box, 1300 minutes, is generating the fungus. 1300 minutes is 21 hours and 40 minutes. "Wow, you got that fast". Twenty two hours is definitely not enough to incubate fungus. Now, if this was accurate, then to travel backwards in time 21 hours and 40 minutes would require only one minute in the box, not 21 hours and 40 minutes. Traveling for 3 days and 14 hours would be a four minute trip, hardly long enough to require lots of Oxygen, food, water, and an empty bottle. The real ratio is 1:1. When Abe travels 6 hours backwards, he stays in the box for exactly 6 hours. So how does fungus grow in a hostile environment in such a short period of time?


It was a joke. Shane told you upfront, and you still got fooled. Watch for the question, "How did you know it was a joke?" The technician looks to Aaron, who in turn gives a slight shake. No answer, not in front of Aaron. Blame Abe. He fell for the red herring, therefor everyone else did. Originally, Aaron may have put the fungus there as a joke. True, the original time line #2 has been replaced and the first play of it can not be truly known. The truth is, Abe discovered this that the box was causing time travel, built two boxes, and Aaron came out without Abe's knowledge. Very likely, Abe may not have even finished the second box yet. As soon as the first box is working and turned on, someone will exit. 

How did the fungus not prevent Abe from climbing in the box? It should have left Aaron in complete control. Granted, in an earlier concept, Aaron(1) could be clueless. The technician would not know that there is an Aaron(1) and Aaron(2). Thus, in front of Aaron, the technician does not give an answer to Abe’s question. In the original time line, Aaron(1) may have planted the fungus as "a joke." or Aaron(2) could plant the fungus which would make Aaron(1) innocent, surprised, and clueless.Since we don't know when Abe built the box, its hard to know for sure. We see, however, that Aaron is 'finding out' this information allegedly the day after Abe finds out. This is hard to believe Abe, since if he just found out, how would he have had time to build the box already? Abe is not being completely honest.

So Abe’s first reaction was correct, "What did you do to this thing?" Part of the proof that we are watching Aaron(2) or Aaron(3) is the joke that Aaron starts to tell in his office. Thus, proof of the time loop, whether Aaron repeats this joke from memory or a recording (in the time line, he hasn’t heard it yet). There can be no debate though, Abe is definitely talking to an Aaron who has traveled back in time.

What does the fungus accomplish? It insures that Abe will build and store his boxes in the U-Haul storage center, a climate-controlled environment.(Since no fungus is found in the larger boxes, one can say that it was not in the experiment from the time travel itself.) It is certainly safer out of town so that no one may see them and their doubles. This step is essential to their success. It may also be an attempt to convince Abe not to get in the box (from Aaron’s perspective). This would allow Aaron sole control over the boxes. It is easy to believe that Aaron hasn’t traveled in time yet, because Abe is still under that belief. It is very hard for many people to grasp this on their first viewing, even after reading the explanation. But, Abe built a box early on. Long before most fans realize it, even after several viewings. How else would he know about the shock and other details if he had only made one experimental trip? When would he have had the time to make rules and plan the oxygen and the timing? Abe is tricking the audience, because he is misleading Aaron.


Abe has been working on the small experimental box. Aaron balances the feed. Abe learns of its function for time travel. He builds a large box. He does not use it. He plans on building a second box. Unbeknownst to himself, the first box actually works, Aaron has exited the box. This is Aaron(2) who has been convinced by Aaron(3) to leave. He calls Abe and tells him about the time travel boxes. Now Abe uses the fail-safe box,.only it is after Aaron(3)and(2) already arrive.

First, we have to understand that Abe was capable of building the boxes, even if he thought it was for gravitational experiments. He made the first time travel box. It is possible that he turned it on and his future self exited. Actually, nothing happened according to what Abe says. He viewed it as a time machine and installed the timer to prevent ever meeting his future self (or his past self). Otherwise, he would get in the box at 3:00, and then a stunned Abe(1a) met the exiting Abe(1b). That makes Abe(1a) a temporary Abe, as long as he repeats himself from the former time line and gets back in the box at 3:00.

If Abe recognized that he built a time machine, he may have decided to keep it secret for a little while, learn control, make rules, then let Aaron know. But, since the time lines overlap, as illustrated above, then, as we see in the end, Abe builds the box and gets a call from Aaron(2). Now even if Abe(2) sabotages the box, Abe(1) will not stop until he experiences making and using the box.

Abe should recognize that, since he got a call from a future Aaron, that the cycle is repeating itself. But instead of calculating that there is another Aaron running amok and that he can not gain the upper hand, Abe assumes with the knowledge he gets from Aaron(2), that he will get and keep the upper hand over Aaron(1). And this could be true, unless Aaron(1) gets thrown into the attic and escapes to find the fail-safe. Or if Aaron(3) meets Abe, which puts Aaron(1) into the attic just as Aaron(2) had done the time before. Poor guy. In Abe's defense, it would be a lot to absorb. This is probably why Abe feels he can keep Aaron from causing such a disruption by slowly guiding and teaching him. (If it was only Aaron(1) but, of course, it isn't.)

Is this already a paradox? It may seems to be because of the overlapping of the time lines. It seems almost like Dr. Brown's line in Back to the Future, "Time machine? I haven't invented any time machine yet." And this is Abe, only there is a four day gap instead of thirty years. Since Abe is unable to comprehend that Aaron exits the first box turned on, he doesn't understand how the Argon is leaking out. Obviously, some leaks out when Aaron gets in at the B end and opens the door once again when he arrives at the A end.(plus any residual leaks over an eight day period. This is why Abe is concerned, "There's always leaks." Aaron is truly surprised by this, "There's leaks!". Since neither of them takes an Argon bottle to replenish, one must assume that there is enough Argon in the box at the B end to facilitate the full trip back to the A end. It should also be noted that the fungus is never brought up again.


Who is the narrator? Aaron. Undebateable. Who is he calling? Why is he calling? Let's start with which Aaron is calling. It is Aaron(2). Aaron(3) is trapped playing any number of past Aarons, whichever ones he has on his recording.(More about him later.) Aaron(2) is the one who fights with Aaron(3) and decides to exit. He leaves to go to France, which is shown only at the end of the film. (This way, we don't find out about Aaron(3) until the film's grand revelation.)

Aaron(2) calls Abe(1). He does not need to identify himself, Abe knows his voice. Abe listens. He does not interrupt. (Something Aaron could never do.) Aaron is clearly attempting to control Abe. Why would Abe believe that Aaron is a real time traveler? It is due to Abe being gassed, drugged, and locked in a bathroom for at least a day. If Aaron is hoping that Abe will be content to know that he already built a time machine and not go any further than that, he should realize that it is beyond man's ability to retreat so near to such an achievement. Aaron(2) has learned that Abe(2) may have corrupted Abe(1)'s box."He's got it wired wrong. It doesn't work." Abe is attempting to prevent time travel from occurring in the current time line. "You can't watch them forever." Abe(1) will work in secrecy, rather than in the open. Sounds like the beginning of our story, doesn't it?

"They'll be building their own boxes in another day. And yours already knows what they've built. You're not going to be able to watch them forever." Here Aaron is relating that Abe knew it was capable of time travel long before Aaron did. Thus, Abe(2) can not travel back to the moment before time travel occurred to stop it. He can fail-safe, corrupt the box, and delay events; but prevention is out of his control. Abe can only perform damage control. Aaron(2) is indebted to Abe(1) for his creation of the box and he seems instrumental in overseeing its recreation. (Call it a Safety Paradox: One exists and insures their own future existence) Aaron is angry at Abe(2) and recognizes that Abe(2) has already attempted to prevent Aaron(2) from existing. Abe(1) made Aaron(2)'s life possible. The debt has been repaid.

When I first started to discuss this topic on line, I was the only source. Everyone was determined to believe that Aaron(3) was calling Aaron(1). I didn't have the book written back in those early years. When the book was released, more and more fans started to grasp the significance of this detail. Some refused to accept this. Later, while promoting the DVD release of Primer in France, Carruth actually admitted that the narrator was the second Aaron. Asked if he was calling Abe, Shane replied that it could only be Abe. End of discussion.


If you can understand that from Abe's perspective in the second time line, he turns on the fail-safe and 15 minutes later Aaron(2) pops out (but he is not identified as a time traveler until later). This immediacy helps us to see how Aaron(3) and Abe(2) are present simultaneously as well (from an outside perspective). So as Abe builds the box, it is quite possible for Abe(2) to try to sabotage it. Also, Aaron(3) can act to repair the box. So the box can work for a few hours, then suddenly not work. In the second time line, it seems that Aaron(2) was capable of repairing the box, even if Abe(2) had tried to contain future time travel (or at least the box Abe(1) constructed).

Aaron(3) seems to feel that his survival is dependent upon not creating a paradox, especially since he personally experienced the Granger incident and fears something similar could happen to him.. If Aaron(2) will not get back into the box, then his survival could be threatened. Aaron(3) could also be just a past rendition of Aaron(4). Aaron(2) realized, as he stated at the gas station, that he is living in a repetition where all of his actions are virtually programmed. Even if he would alter his course from the previous unremembered time line (now in revision), then Aaron(3) could always just reset the day and insure that Aaron(2) is not able to disrupt his plans again. Perfection has a high price.

(I'm adding some information here 5/13) I was asked how would it be possible for Aaron to 'redo' the party 20 times without creating 20 Aarons? This is something that confuses everyone. What we see Aaron(2) and Aaron(3) do is just the opposite. But, perhaps Aaron(3) learned that drugging Aaron(1) wasn't the best idea. Except now, he can not "go back and tell myself not to." Aaron(3) confronts and struggles with Aaron(2), but perhaps he learns a valuable lesson. That being: to relive the timeline, he must be humble enough to believe his future self and quietly leave the timeline by getting back in the box.

So, exit the box at 9:15, turn it off, turn it back on again because if this version doesn't work out as well as you want, you can go back to 9:30 and get the 9:15 version of you to get back in the box. As long as he gets back in the box and disappears, then you are in sole control with all of the knowledge of the past timelines. (It isn't necessary to turn the box off and on. But that would mean you would have to use a different box because when the self you supplant leaves, he has to turn off the box. I would keep the number of boxes to a minimum and risk the loss of 15 minutes.)


Abe and Aaron have a unique friendship. They are computer geeks with shirts and ties to prove it. Abe typically is uneasy around sport jocks. These guys have to try to fit in. It is much easier for the average kid to identify with these two than with some ‘hero’ like Rambo or Rocky. There is a strong bond between Aaron and Abe; a deep trust, ripe for exploiting. Carruth has created two great characters and friends. I put them right up there with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Hawkeye and Hunnicut, Han Solo and Luke Skywalker. Like the boys, Primer fans often obsess over minor details, agonize about technical terms. They study deep paradox theories and plot intricacies. To some, reading this is cheating, admitting mental defeat. It is in the true spirit of Abe and Aaron. Use your mind and try to figure it out yourself.

I must admit, once you learn the solution to Primer, it is easy to lose perspective. Carruth said he never intended Primer to be so difficult to solve. Remaining objective is difficult. A lot of fans have been misled into believing well-intended but flawed theories. Others have become disillusioned and feel that the answer is unknowable.

What is complicated is that Abe and Aaron play against each other. There are a lot of dishonest statements. Some of it is hidden by future versions repeating lines from past versions. Also, some of your future selves can be your ally or your opponent. They might even travel back, punch you in the nose, and erase your memory of the whole ordeal. Either way, it is very easy to get a bit dazed when trying to break the whole timeline down. I will try to go one step at a time.


In the same manner in which a released hostage has to be debriefed, you may need some time to adjust to the bright light of the cause and effect timeline. It was described as a feedback loop. When you look into a series of mirrors, you will see an infinite number of reflections.

So, if Abe told Aaron about the box and it turned out to be a bad decision, he could go back and change that event. This new cause will produce a new effect as, Aaron’s response to not being told about the boxes. Aaron may attempt to steal them or use them in an unsafe manner. If Abe goes back and tries to relive the first timeline, he may unwittingly be starting a loop where he continually tries to change that event. Even if Abe has a third or fourth option, it just complicates matters if the final option leads back to reliving the first option.

But, you may say that Abe would be aware of the infinite loop. Aaron would not be aware of it. Remember though, that very quickly, both Abe and Aaron are using the boxes. Thus, neither one is aware of what the other is doing. This allows both of them to be in a continual loop without recognizing that fact. There are much more than one or two events in Primer. Keep your sunglasses on.

Both Aaron and Abe are controlling time. If everything was discussed openly and honestly, there would be no problems. Every time one of them uses the box, they erase the previous timeline from the others memory. They need to trust one another. It is hard to prevent the other person from using the box. So they continue to deceive one another, pretending to be their past self. Abe doesn’t realize at first that when he exits his fail-safe, Aaron(2) is already in the timeline.


Phil is in a continual loop of the same day, over and over. He can learn from his errors, anticipate what others will do, and continue his path until he finds success. Rita and Larry are stuck too. However, each day erases the previous one for them. While each rewrite is unique, they react in a similar fashion, even saying the same exact things. They are completely unaware of the repetitions. For them, it is one day.

Knowing Rita’s personality allows Phil to manipulate events, earning her praise and affection. Phil also learns how to help others despite his selfish personality. Aaron displays some of the same emotional conflicts, loneliness, fate and destiny. He has become untethered. Phil would understand.

When Aaron uses the time machine, he carries the knowledge of the previous timeline with him. At the same time, he will erase Abe’s memory of that timeline. When Aaron relives the party 19 times to get it just about perfect, Abe remembers only one time, the 19th version for Aaron. When Abe uses his box, it has the same effect on Aaron. They continue to learn and erase the others learning process. This is why their use of the boxes leads to actions and reactions that allow them to relive the events over and over again without realizing it.

Abe and Aaron need to understand that this is the cause of the feedback loop. Only then can they begin to figure a way out without causing a paradox disaster. There simply is no way to control the power of the boxes. It is quickly becoming like an arms race between two superpowers, each one trying to achieve and maintain superiority over the other. It seems the only way to win is not to play the game. The scene where Aaron is talking to Abe at the gas station shows he is beginning to gain valuable insight that he is living in a revision caused by himself or someone else.


Abe doesn’t realize that he is talking to a time-traveler, not for a long time. Aaron doesn’t know that Abe has received a phone call from another Aaron and knows that he has built a time machine. Aaron hopes that Abe will never use the two large boxes he has secretly built. Aaron slyly suggests that all they have built is an incubator for fungus. Notice how Aaron drops in the sentence, "Where is it?"  Abe tells Aaron that he took it to the shop. Now is Aaron repeating this scene from memory, recording the conversation, or reliving it with the recording?

When anything is repeated, it is impossible to know what the original timeline was like.(Obviously, since Aaron has the recording, this is not the original or first time through. Aaron has exited the box, so he should know where Abe has everything. Thus, he is repeating what he has on the recording.) The idea of building a bigger box; was it really Aaron’s idea or was it Abe’s? If Abe originally said it in the timeline, then in the rewrite of it, Aaron must be sure that Abe comes to that same conclusion, even if he has to suggest it. This will insure that Abe will continue on the same course as the previous timeline. (Unless, Aaron is trying to deliberately alter something, such as Abe becoming suspicious and moving or locking the box that Aaron's previous self must use to repeat himself to avoid a paradox.) Aaron(1) must insure his safe travel through to become the present version of Aaron(2).

Aaron also suggests keeping it someplace safe, safer than in a closet. Some place climate-controlled. Amazing that not a bit of the fungus appears at the, right behind you, U-Haul. Aaron(2) has thus insured that the box will remain at the U-Haul where Aaron(1) will re-enter allowing the current version of Aaron. The U-Haul is now the very center of the Primer Universe.

It’s just too bad that the doors of the storage unit should never be locked. Otherwise, how would you get out from the inside? If you cannot lock it, you cannot control who is going to use it. Even if you never tell anyone, they could always follow you or look up the information on the storage manifest.


 Why does every math geek want to publish his discovery? He wants the recognition of his ability. Aaron may say this out of sheer exuberance originally. He may say it in the rewrite so that Abe does not become suspicious that Aaron is plotting to gain control of the boxes. To do that, Aaron must not only use the fail-safe but bring back a box with him, thereby duplicating it. However, that will not last since Aaron(1) will take the box and disappear with it. In order to have a lasting duplicate, or third box, Aaron(2) must stop Aaron(1) from taking that box. Also, if Aaron(1) finds the third box, he will have no need to use the fail-safe. Then Aaron(2) will have created not only a duplicate box but a duplicate Aaron.

As it turns out in the timeline, Aaron(2) exits the fail-safe with the other box. Abe does not know anything about this box.. Abe's boxes are identical, the fail-safe has been running longer than the other box.

The second major timeline has Abe building the fail-safe with Aaron immediately exiting with his very own box. This can allow Aaron(2) to be in control of the box that is running the longest. He can go back in time at least 15 minutes farther than Abe can, even more if he turns the fail-safe off and restarts it at a later time than in the original timeline.

Having hindsight into the past may give one some insight on what to do. But how do you decide what to do when you become the past self? As Aaron(2) is about to find out, it is not easy to trust your future self, Aaron(3). When Aaron(3) tells Aaron(2) to get in the box and allow Aaron(3) to become the ‘present’ Aaron, how would Aaron(2) know if this is true or if he is being tricked so that his use of the box will result in his disappearing from the present timeline?


How does Aaron(2) escape the cause and effect loop? Consider his actions. He, at first, uses the fail-safe and does not interfere with Aaron(1). This is why he does not expect Aaron(3) to fight with him. But by the time Aaron(3) has the struggle with Aaron(2), Aaron(2) cannot be simply convinced that his entrance once again will create Aaron(3). Aaron(3) has the recordings of the day that Aaron(2) has experienced, but he seems to be more than one jump ahead. Aaron(2) fights because he is convinced that his use of the fail-safe will not reset events of the timeline, but rather, cause him to vanish.

Deep in the loop, Aaron(2) may go willingly back in the box. Yet, this allows the loop to continue. For Aaron(2) to step out, he must stop his use of the boxes. This is where and how Aaron exits. However, Abe’s use of the fail-safe keeps resetting events back in time to a point before Aaron(3) meets with Aaron(2). This would erase any knowledge that Aaron(2) has gained. Therefore, Aaron(2) must meet with Abe(2) and teach him to stop the feedback loop. First, the Granger incident must be avoided. Second, Abe must drug his double, which Abe was determined to avoid. This is working the timeline backwards. Abe and Aaron can relive the party together. Since Aaron(2) is determined not to fail-safe again,when Aaron(3) decides to fail-safe with the recordings and confront Aaron(2), he will vanish into the past. Time will finally go forward, with Aaron(2) and Abe(2) exiting and surviving.

Aaron(3) seals his own fate by giving so much information to Aaron(2). This allows Aaron(2) to understand what he must do to exist as a permanent rather than a temporary version. He must trust Abe enough to tell him what has been happening. Abe(2) will fail-safe at the point where Aaron(3) has nearly perfected the party 19 times. Then, the boys rewrite the party scene together, the final version that everyone else will remember.


A cell phone’s antenna gives off radiation. It damages the acoustic nerve, forming cancers that can cause bleeding. It also does damage on a cellular level, damaging the DNA that allows the cells to repair themselves. Abe and Aaron use their cell phones while in a continual loop, dosing themselves with radiation over and over. Note, the only ear that begins bleeding is the one they use with their phone. Abe was right. You should avoid all electronic devices.

Aaron’s bleeding, which precedes Abe's own ordeal, is a sign that he has been doing a lot more time traveling than Abe. It is a sign for the audience as well. By the time we see Abe’s ear bleeding, we should know that they are both doing a lot of traveling, just like the Weebles.

Aaron should avoid making the narrator’s phone call heard at the beginning and the end of the film. It would avoid another cause and effect feedback loop. The ending is significant. It shows that Aaron knows that Abe(2) cannot guarantee that he will prevent Aaron(1) and Abe(1) from successfully building and using the time machine. It may even cause a paradox, eliminating both Abe(2) and Aaron(2). Abe(2) could even cause greater problems by his attempts to thwart their destiny.


At the end of the film, Abe(2) thinks he can prevent Abe(1) from building the boxes. He thinks he has changed the future by stepping out of the feedback loop. He does not realize that Abe(1) is himself, about to receive the phone call from the exiting Aaron(2). True, this is a different week, but the main characters are essentially the same people in a different set of circumstances and events. If Abe(2) allows himself to interfere with the boys, he will get sucked right back into the new cause and effect loop that Abe(1) and Aaron(1) will create.

If they are successful despite Abe(2)’s efforts, the feedback loop will result with a similar ending, spitting out another Aaron(2). Any interference will just make the boys extra paranoid. Waking up in a closet or attic has that effect on people. Abe(1) will build a box based on receiving the phone call. If Abe(2) notices that Aaron(1) vanishes, it will be proof that Abe(1) built a working box after all. Then Abe(2) will be powerless to stop them from creating havoc. There is always the possibility that Abe(2) understands this. He could keep one of the boxes in the storage facility as his own fail-safe. He would use this only if Abe(1) builds a working box. Then, he could go back a few days and prevent Abe(1) and the new Aaron from time traveling. Unless, Abe(2) exits the fail-safe and finds out that Aaron(1) is already Aaron(2) the time traveler. Then someone would have to come and rescue them all. If only someone a month from now would find out, be able to travel back in time for 30 days or so, and be able to help Abe(1), Aaron(1), and Aaron(2) escape the new loop they are bound to become stuck in.

To do that, you would have to build a very large box, far away from the locales of Dallas. Paris perhaps. Aaron(2) may promise himself to never return. Unless, unless he finds out that Aaron(1) has disappeared along with Abe and Abe.


I came to understand how to use the fail-safe. I thought I had every answer in my mind. As I went to write this page down the first time, I realized while I was writing on the topic of how Aaron should have used the fail-safe, that it was exactly what Aaron did.

Originally, Abe teaches Aaron that you must leave the box running whenever you exit from it, as you are inside the box traveling backwards. While well-intentioned, it is incorrect.

You can leave it on and wait for your former self to get in the box and disappear. But, you can overwrite this part without creating a paradox. This means that, you can skip this part completely. As you exit the box, you are in a new timeline. It does not matter if you leave the box running as you are not in the box. Your travel has created a new timeline that overlaps the original timeline. It would be best to leave the box turned off until the time has past where you entered it in the former timeline. Since you are in a new timeline, turning the box off will prevent anyone else from entering that timeline, which could even be yourself. Thus, Aaron(3) can prevent Aaron(4) from entering the timeline by turning the box off after he exits. Aaron(2) does not do this at first, until he confronts Aaron(3). He then considers how to prevent future selves from interfering with his plans.

Abe(2) learns this step when Aaron(2) tells him that he was confronted by Aaron(3). Then, he will travel back to both drug Abe(1) and prevent any future Abe’s. When any future version steps out of the box, they start writing a new timeline. Besides, every time you leave your time machine on, it seems to create a disaster where time travel becomes necessary. So the machine appears to always lead to havoc.

 As a side note on having a running fail-safe, it becomes useless to have it running for any length of time that is more than can be endured. If it is only large enough for four days worth of oxygen and water, then it becomes useless after four days and must be reset again. The only other option is to build a much larger box, one where more food, oxygen, and hopefully a toilet, can be placed within the box


In ‘The Time Machine’, Alexander looses his beloved Emma and begins his quest to build the machine to save her life. Every effort of his to save her always fails. This is a wonderful part of the script, that he could only invent the time machine because of her death. Therefore, the machine cannot possibly save her life. This creation paradox is ruined in the film when Alexander has this detail explained to him. It gives the audience nothing to figure out. This is a universal theme: either the time machine itself is a paradox or it is an abomination that leads only to tragic events.

Correcting one tragedy may lead to something far worse, a Greek element of story-telling. In ‘The Time Machine’, Alexander’s best friend is Filby. Filby is the name for Aaron’s cat in Primer. (Listen carefully to the fountain scene.) Some people may say that Abe could have used Filby as the first living time traveler. It certainly is not part of the story though. Others theorize that the cat is a reference to a paradox theory known as ‘Schrodinger’s Cat’. Filby is most likely a small tribute to the original book written by H.G. Wells in 1894. Without this early science fiction on time travel, Primer may never have been written.

Every use of time travel incurs serious thought and application of theory. There is no way for the author to write without some paradox. It only has to fit the rules established in the film. Carruth does an excellent job of this in Primer, despite the fact that many of his critics have not understood enough to seriously critic the time travel that is shown in Primer.


 Much has been written and discussed involving TGI or the Granger incident, stroke of genius, mind-scratching and a unique moment in film. Two things must be addressed: the event being recursive and the event being unknowable.

Unknowable: The reason Granger is told about the box and why he is necessary as a time traveler. This part of the script was left open. Carruth did not write or develop the event at all. Rachel getting shot does not fit into the equation here. It may have happened, but then Aaron would have rewritten over that event and lied to Abe that it never occurred. It seems the idea to punch Platt, or some other mayhem, got out of control. In an emergency, Abe sends Granger back through the fail-safe. It is possible that he went to rescue the Aaron in the attic as he seems to try to avoid Abe and Aaron in the car. However, that Aaron could have escaped the attic and cause the mayhem that jeopardizes the Abe and Aaron that we see. Seeing an Abe outside of the house is also a confusing part of the scene. One way or the other, Granger has arrived, made contact with Abe and Aaron, and seriously sent the time line onto a tangent course.

The problem is that Granger(2) is confronted by Aaron before Granger(1) learns of the box. Granger(2) becomes a paradox. Now that contact is leading Abe and Aaron to avoid their trouble but has caused a huge ripple in time. Abe does not inform Granger(1) about the box, therefor he will never learn about the box and arrive in this time line. Yet, here he is. How does the paradox "work itself out somehow"?

Recursive: the events are repetitive and self-feeding or even self-causing. Granger's appearance causes, in effect, his own demise. Thus, there is no way of knowing what has transpired from the present moment for Abe and Aaron to the moment Granger got in the box and rewrote new events. His contact with an Abe and Aaron who are unaware of being in a repetition of the time line are suddenly thrown into circumstances that did not occur the first time through. Rather than solve this dilemma, Abe decides to use his fail-safe. However, if Abe leaves his former self alone, then that Abe will continue to repeat the same events, live through the Granger incident, and continue to fail-safe over and over. Abe must interfere with his former self despite his rules and wisdom. Part of the problem is that if Aaron decides to go back in his own fail-safe, then he will take the time line back to a point before Abe actually experiences the Granger incident. Would that Abe believe Aaron and avoid the Granger incident by avoiding the experiment? Or would he at that time attempt to fail-safe and blindly try to avoid this event?

As Granger's coma deepens, it would appear that his state of health declines as Abe considers the idea of using the fail-safe. Abe should have informed Granger(1) about the box (without knowing the reason why) and avoided any paradox. It could be that Granger was injured by Aaron behind the house, who in turn lied to Abe. Either way, Abe and Aaron are shocked to see Granger(2). Why? This is the first time that they realize that they are not in control. In fact, they are not in the present but the past. From their perspective, Granger arrives from the future. Both learn that one can never know if they are in the actual present or in a rewrite of time.

Abe learns of his needed actions from Aaron when he learns at the bench scene that Aaron has traveled to such a great extent and has recorded his repetition. (Except that the recording does not contain the Granger event since it was this event that helped Aaron see the need to record events, such as the party with Rachel.) There is only one way to break out of this cycle that repeats itself over and over, but this leads to creating permanent doubles of Abe and Aaron. Again, a splitting of the minds. Abe wants to prevent Abe(1) from time travel. Aaron wants to avoid being a paradox and decides to call Abe(1) which will set him on the course to 're-invent' the boxes.


This is my favorite scene in Primer. It has so many classic elements. When you watch this film for the second time, you start to realize how complicated events have already become.

Aaron’s impulsive use of the time machine, his making a copy of one of the boxes, and putting his former self in the attic have set the stage for a great escapade.

"I was going to give you this big speech about how we’ve been friends for a long time and built up trust and that whole big thing ... but how about this instead." Abe implies that his last approach didn’t work. He knows that Aaron is impulsive.

Abe hopes to try a new approach, teaching Aaron about the box, giving him a few rules about its use. Abe has already built both boxes. This is not his very first trip. Note how Abe is confident that they will see his former self appear at the U-Haul. Later, he shows his experience with his knowledge of the static shock that Aaron experiences.(Again, Aaron may merely be repeating his mistake to avoid altering what occurred the first time Aaron traveled with Abe through the boxes.)

It quickly escalates to having Aaron(1) in the attic. Aaron(2) has his own box. Are there a lot of steps in between, not shown to us? The number is nearly endless. Aaron(2) may have followed Abe’s rules, allowing Aaron(1) to run around undisturbed. This could have led Abe to figure out what was going on and use his fail-safe to reset the timeline. If this happens, Aaron(2) can use his fail-safe, not only going back farther, but erasing Abe’s knowledge that Aaron(2) is already on the scene. In this case, Abe would not even know that he used his fail-safe at all. Such is the luxury of possessing the primary or earliest fail-safe. If Aaron leaves an 8 hour gap, then Abe would never arrive until Monday morning at the earliest. That would allow Aaron to exit his box on Sunday evening and get a good night’s rest. Then, he can calmly proceed to the park bench and begin the day anew.


When Abe first constructs his fail-safe, he cannot imagine that it is fully functional when it turns on. His decision to be a good distance from the box when it powers up leaves him in the dark. When Abe turns on the fail-safe on Sunday evening and drives away, he should have stopped in the parking lot to see if he would indeed be exiting the U-Haul. It was his assumption that it could only be himself since he has not told anyone about this part of the experiment.

If Abe had observed himself exiting from the fail-safe on Sunday, prior to his construction of the second or daily box, he may have become fearful. What event caused me to use the fail-safe? What went wrong? Instead, based on the film, Abe would have observed Aaron exiting the facility. This would cause him to include Aaron in the project of the boxes.

Abe is also convinced at this point that it would be dangerous to contact anyone who exits the box from the future. The film shows this to be both beneficial and harmful. However, if Abe were to see Aaron exiting, he could turn around, look behind him, and observe another Abe watching him. If he left a note on the box for the person exiting, would he find 1300 notes when he returns? If he throws them all in the trash, would there be a huge pile of previous notes there?

When did déjà vu first hit you while watching Primer, the bench scene, the engineer’s joke, or with Granger? I would love to have a video of myself watching Primer for the first time. Everyone sees Abe on the roof before going down to talk to Aaron on the bench, the first time. When you watch it again, you say, "There are two Abes. Abe(2) is on the roof watching Abe(1) talking to Aaron. And Aaron has an earpiece, so it must be Aaron(2)."


This is a common statement from some Primer critics. They have read a few ‘answers’ that they can see are full of errors. Unable to find answers, they conclude there is no solution to Primer. They contend that Carruth made the timeline so complex that anyone can say anything, that there is no true understanding. Has Carruth cleverly hidden plot flaws behind a smokescreen of intelligence? Is this movie a maze with no real exit? Why is everyone’s ‘solution’ online fraught with grave errors?

Consider the fact that if the plot were very simple instead of being complex, it would be hard for the audience to believe that Abe and Aaron were stuck in a loop unknowingly. The whole point of showing the film from Abe’s perspective is to give us his sense of trying to figure it all out. Nothing in the film breaks the rules established for time travel.

True, there is not a conservation of mass as there are two Abes at the same time. But, it is proven to the viewer that this is possible. Carruth shows that you can even interact with yourself. This is the basic foundation that is established. Be careful in making assumptions though. Not everything is as it seems.

For example, there are points in the film where one of the boys are the future version pretending to be their former self. You can become confused if you miss some of these turns in the timeline. Beware of the red herring. A smoked fish was used to train hunting dogs to follow a scent. Later, they must learn to follow the fox’s scent and not follow the fish scent, which is much easier to detect. Why do so many people follow that time travel must be the cause of the fungus? Probably, because Aaron has used the fungus to trick Abe. Abe believed it, so you did too. No one followed the fox.


Many people have tried to figure out the ending. The beginning though is even harder. The details can drive you mad. For example, was it a mistake for Aaron and Abe to tell Kara about their time travel? Could that have led Kara to call Mr. Granger? Did she wake up to find Aaron was gone? Did she look in the attic?  Whatever became of the Aaron in the attic?

Ideas resurface in Primer, complicating matters. When Aaron talks about punching Platt, isn’t it possible that this is Aaron’s way of saying he has already done this? Of course, we have to give Abe a break in that he doesn’t know that Aaron has his own box. Later, Aaron tries to wrestle with himself. Or what about Abe suggesting that he could keep the machine safe in a closet. Then, later, he puts himself in the closet.

So as we look at the timeline, every perspective changes our views. Did Abe really stall Aaron by slowly gaining success with the small machine while working on the larger boxes? Or was Abe’s progress hampered by Abe(2)’s interference?

There is a lot of confusion surrounding the point when time travel begins in the film. It starts at a point in time when Abe has the fail-safe kick on. Three days later, Aaron finds it and gets in. Aaron does not hopscotch the two boxes to go back before the box’s creation. It is an interesting theory of time travel to explore but it is not part of the film.

When Aaron exits the fail-safe, he calls Abe. "Hey, tell me you’re hungry. Kara’s at her mom’s and I’m starving." The glitch Abe experiences, is the beginning of the timeline being rewritten. I like how Shane avoids answering this question. It doesn't have to happen this way. Some of the editing could have put things out of sequence. But, it seems that this is a bit like what the experience would be like.


You are Aaron. Your watch confirms that you have reached the A end and it is time to exit as the box is cooling down. It is hard to believe that it is Sunday evening. Now, should you leave the box running or turn off the fail-safe? Are you in the box or not? Will your former self find the fail-safe and get in sometime Thursday? What will happen to you if he doesn’t? What will Abe do if he suspects you are from the future?

Your best option at this stage would appear to be to turn off the box and reset the 15 minute timer for it to run anew. You trust that Aaron(1) will perform the same routine as your past few days, get in the box, and exit this new timeline. Could you convince Abe that the device was too dangerous? Did Abe tell me that the machine was too dangerous to look inside to prevent my time travel? How long has Abe had the boxes at the U-Haul? Abe must have used the box before Monday. How else would he know about the shock? How could he be so sure that his first trading day would be successful? Abe must have gone through this routine before, watching himself return to the box in the afternoon. Was Abe really working on the device at the shop or was that just what he told me? Maybe I figured out that he was keeping me from finding out about the boxes. Maybe he went back a day and erased that entire day from me. Where is Abe now? What did we do last Sunday night? I should give him a call. Hmm, Sunday 7pm. I’ll show him.

Contrary to some popular theories, using the fail-safe does not automatically create a permanent double. You would have to prevent yourself from using the fail-safe, perhaps by eliminating the event that caused you to use the fail-safe to begin with, or you would have to insure that the box was turned off without restarting during your time period.


Shane Carruth is amazed at the life of Primer. Fans discussed its details for years. Theories were cruelly belittled and bitterly defended. Time after time, timeline theories were posted and edited.  If you put up a statement and later edit your comment, Presto, you have yourself a virtual time machine. You can begin to reverse engineer your statements. Most fans believe only their personal theories or ones they have fallen for at Wikipedia.

Why had no one solved Primer before? Simply that they continued to repeat the errors of others that seemed very confident in their answers. Some people actually used a second identity to agree and congratulate themselves. I have researched these sites extensively to prove that I was the first to solve Primer. Once I started working on the book (no longer in print), I took down my answers from various sites. After the book's success, there were a lot of requests from other countries. So, I eventually had the book posted as blog pages, only in reverse order.

If the movie Primer led to this book, what will this book lead to? If there is nothing more to argue about will those boards die away? (Edit: Yes, they did. I had disagreed at the time.) Carruth took down the PrimerMovie.com site as "all of the answers are already out there." I agree that taking down the site eliminated a lot of wrong answers and needless discussion. But, the evolution and metamorphosis of Primer's understanding was very interesting. I would rather it was still standing. There are still fans born every month, looking for answers. I'm so glad to see so many new fans coming to Primer and this site. A beautiful resurgence of interest.


Here's a few questions that have at times resurfaced and a few brief answers.

Are there 20 Aarons in the attic? No. This is not ‘Calvin and Hobbes’. Whenever there are two or three of yourself running around, one of you is bound to turn off the box to prevent an abundance of yourself. Also, sooner or later, one of you will get the idea that there is at least one of you too many. (Hint: smell your milk first.)

Did Aaron or Rachael die at the party? There is no evidence that this ever happened in the film. True, we can not believe everything that Aaron says. However, death is just simply never brought up in the plot of the film. So it is going too far with what could have happened. If someone actually died, it would not make any ethical sense for Aaron(2) to invite this person to the party deliberately. It is apparent that Aaron(2) never thought to empty the shotgun before Abe mentions it, which would be likely if someone had been shot.

Is Abe in love with Kara? Is Aaron in love with Rachel? These ideas surface when Aaron and Abe have an exchange at the airport. This is just Aaron’s accusation. Likewise, at the fountain scene, Abe is angry that Aaron is time traveling by himself, risking his life for Rachel’s sake. He does not say that he thinks Aaron is in love with Rachel. These ideas are more of their paranoia than reality. When you fail-safe into almost total oblivion, you get a little edgy. Aaron’s decision to leave for France and let Aaron(1) have Kara may seem to Abe that Aaron(2) is detached or indifferent. Abe just doesn’t see the need to escape from the powerful effects of the boxes. His decision to watch over the next week’s events could pull him right back into the next cycle of the boxes that Aaron(1) and Abe(1) are about to build in another day or two. Thus if Abe(2) succeeds, he could cause his own paradox. Abe feels that it is his responsibility to control the future effects of his invention. Aaron seems intent to start anew. His double will continue to live with his family while he continues with his God complex.


 This page has been replaced to answer questions as late as 2012. Some points on time travel theory have been removed as simple, but fun, speculation.

Some people say they prefer a simple solution…Abe does this; Aaron does that; the end. Maybe that is good enough for some people, at least they feel they got it and understand it and off they go feeling good again. That theory though, has a lot of errors and oversights. Can the average viewer see it? No. However, if the solution was that simple, why would such debates have raged for years after the film’s release? And if the complex solution is inaccurate, why did the battle end so quickly? 

I feel it comes down to two different approaches. One person buys everything at face value. This person reads a simple solution and adopts it as his own, often saying that this was the solution that was in his head already. This kind of person listens to the commentary (though extremely sparse in Primer) and accepts anything that disagrees with that solution as a simple director’s error. Example: running Abe is just an editing error, there is no Abe running around 90 seconds besides Aaron’s house before Abe gets out of the car. Artistic license or foreshadowing some will say, or a simple error. The complex approach accepts the Abe we see and calculates how this occurred. It doesn’t look to Carruth to answer and explain this point. Shane took almost a year to edit this. Do you really think he wouldn’t have noticed Abe running around a minute too early?

The solution would seem to be that Abe and Granger set out to go back a day in some urgent need. When they meet the earlier version of Abe however, he doesn't get back in the box and return as the same Abe. Rather, he gets in his own fail-safe, permanently altering events.

Another question lies in the sound editing. Perhaps you noticed that after the outdoor scene at the airport ( sitting at a Sonic ) that their is a continuation of the sound of airplanes continuing for several minutes. This was deliberate. It doesn't seem to play into the plot however. Also, some asked about the sound of the beach during their time travel. Again, it doesn't seem to be significant.


When does Aaron begin to question Abe’s instructions? He is so impetuous to begin with. Why bother following the rules if you can always repeat your day from its beginning? Perhaps he thinks back to Tuesday morning. How did Abe know that I experienced a shock? How did he know I got out too early and not too late? Is he pretending not to know or has he not learned how to use this thing? Could he be suspicious that I am reliving this day? If Monday was his first trip in the box, why does he seem so well-practiced?

Is the box really "too dangerous to look into"? Abe is wrong. The box is not "one-time use only". Wrong or lying? When someone exits the box, he can not be in the box also. It is a new timeline. The box is empty. If I just take a quick peek.

"Stay away from your double." Why? I could teach him what I have learned. Now I know that these things are not true. But in order to insure that Abe thinks I am a first-time traveler, I will have to make the same mistake by getting out too early. I must insure that Abe does not use his fail-safe and erase all of the progress that I have made so far.

"Don’t touch the box when you exit." It has to be to my benefit to turn the box off after I exit. I need some time before anyone else exits from the future. I need to make sure that my double does not ruin things either. I have to keep him out of my hair somehow.

How many experiments has Abe conducted? How many 36 hour days has he lived? Why did he wait so long before he told me? Was that day one of the days that he has repeated? What did he erase?


Solving Primer was like a blind man solving a Rubik’s cube. There are so many possibilities. How long did it take Aaron to realize the need to take Abe’s other box through the fail-safe? Where does he put his box and when does he turn on Abe’s fail-safe, Monday morning? When does he decide to go back and drug his former self? Aaron could try to drug himself before turning on the box. Then if he must fail-safe again, he returns moments after putting Aaron(1) in the attic. But that means if his attempt is unsuccessful, Aaron(1) could really make a mess of things, even preventing Aaron(2) from existing, much like the story, ‘By my own bootstraps’.

Abe’s shock at finding Aaron(2) after using the fail-safe makes him ask "How?" Aaron found the fail-safe to return to the timeline before Abe used the box on Monday. Aaron also realized that after he found the fail-safe on Thursday and went back to Sunday, that Abe(1) sent Granger from Friday to Wednesday evening and may have prevented Aaron(1) from finding the fail-safe. However, it is possible that Aaron(1)  found the fail-safe in the new timeline because he was stuck in the attic and suspected Abe was up to something. After Aaron(2) wrestles with Aaron(3), he decides that using the box could erase himself, making him become Aaron(3). If you do not like your future self, go back and prevent his future, by keeping the machine off. Rework the party with Abe(2) and make sure that Abe(1) is out of commission as well. Trust each other. Trust the recordings. How long has this teeter-totter in time been out of control? It must stop if Abe and Aaron will ever exit and go forward in time instead of continually returning to the past. Even at the great cost of leaving his wife and daughter, to Aaron(2) the most sensible option is to leave it all behind.


Aaron(2)’s confrontation with Aaron(3) leads to a moment of Zen, an awakening. He sees the error of his revision upon revision. The job at hand is to repair the space time continuum. Aaron(2) learns to avoid the consequences that Aaron(3) has experienced. He can assist Abe to avoid the Granger incident as well. First, he must insure that Aaron(1) is drugged, that Aaron(3) is not allowed to exit the fail-safe by keeping it off, and he sees the need to record the day’s conversations. When Abe(2) returns from the fail-safe, he will meet Aaron(2) who will proceed to instruct Abe to gas his former self, shut off his fail-safe, and rewrite the party for the final revision.

At the bench scene, Aaron(2) seems well rested and prepared. Abe, however, has lived several 36 hour days prior to his four day trip through his fail-safe. Abe is now self-aware. He is in shock to see, not Aaron(1), but Aaron(2). Abe will rejoin his friend Aaron(2) at the bench when his trip is equally successful. Without interference from their former selves or their future selves, they can run through the party, avoid the Granger episode, and finally exit the feedback loop in time. They are at fault for creating this disaster in time. Neither one can see what the other is causing. So Abe has been unaware of all of Aaron’s rewrites.

This shift in forward power to standing down with their continual use of the fail-safe is the reverse engineering of the timeline itself. While some fans have done a decent job in writing a forward timeline, they fail to see how it must go forward by retracing its origins. It is a bit of a mirror image with Abe and Aaron now fully aware of how to use their boxes to their fullest potential. Thus, the first bench scene will be repeated with Abe(2); the Abe who gasses Abe(1).


I started to write that Abe and Aaron were like the two super-powers of the USA and the Soviet Union in the cold war. I did not want to imply any metaphors in this purely fictional tale, even though the boys have the same substance, the same elements of escalating their powers by their unabated use of the boxes. I threw the page away and went to rent a movie. It was there that I fell into shock. I would stumble across the movie, that I will from here on out, refer to as the ‘Fail-Safe’. I knew what it was before I even watched it.

After watching the film ‘Fail-Safe’, I had no doubt that this film from 1964 shaped the actions and emotions that are so vividly displayed in ‘Primer’. Man was not meant to mediate his own possession of unyielding power. It is the spying and meddling into each others affairs that leads the Russians and the Americans into a nuclear disaster. The more complex their worlds became, the greater the odds for catastrophe. Things got complicated far too quickly. There is time only for actions and reactions, but not for contemplative thought.

"We let our machines get out of hand." the president says. Adding, "Do we learn from the future or do we let it happen again?" The only logical conclusion is that the machine that controls nuclear responses should not have been built. Each side needs to be completely open and honest with each other. Their lack of trust led to all of the problems.

They must trust one another and stand down their mobilized forces. Abe and Aaron land in the same predicament. It runs parallel with this must-see film. Note, if you read the book, the final solution is carried out in the last chapter entitled, ‘The Sacrifice of Abraham’. Shane Carruth placed this linking of Abe’s name with his use of the military term, the fail-safe.


Abe and Aaron are not just ungrounded from time, but are suffering an emotional detachment as well. At the fountain, Abe wonders why Aaron is willing to risk his life for Rachel. Aaron does not have the same feelings for his family or his own personal welfare as he use to have. Aaron thinks that since he feels and thinks differently, that he must even look differently. Living in the past is very trying. Aaron is living a lie, a deception to his friends and family. The primer universe is a fairly selfish place.

Living days over and over is bound to make life quite boring. Is Abe different in that he is more stable or just that he has not traveled as much as Aaron has? It is likely that Abe has spent so much time on ‘the thing’ that his relationship with Rachel has suffered, even deteriorated. She has a boyfriend at the party. "She practically begs for this to happen."

Abe seems different too. Just by living 36 hour days or traveling in time for several days with minimal amounts of food and sleep can impact your whole life in itself. When Abe and Aaron finally find out what the other has been up to, it pushes them apart in two different directions. This is the very nature of the box. It drew them together and it spit them out. Paranoia has also played a leading role in their distance from one another.

How much impact did it have on Carruth’s life? Years of work with no guaranteed reward. Even without the Sundance awards, I hope that the fans praise and interest would in itself be enough of a reward. I appreciate that Shane researched the science behind time travel rather than just writing down a bunch of mumbo jumbo, like ‘The Sound of Thunder’. We must then, examine the science behind ‘Primer’ as well.