Predestination is one of the coolest time travel movies that have been released in recent memory. It is an adaptation of the short story “All You Zombies” by Robert Heinlein, and it is directed by Michael and Peter Spierig. The film goes heavy into the concepts of destiny, and predestination, just like its title, and also into the creation of time paradoxes. One of the most dangerous elements of time travel, if such a technology can find its way into real life.
The movie boasts some really cool production values. And even if the makeup doesn’t really sell some of the most outrageous parts of the story, the performances of Ethan Hawke, and especially the one by Sarah Snook, who would later jump into Succession, are quite wonderful. The movie’s storyline is quite convoluted, but solving it is one of the most entertaining aspects of the film.
The following paragraphs contain spoilers for the entire movie, as we tried to piece together this enormous puzzle of time travel storytelling.
What Really Happens In Predestination?
The plot of Predestination is very complicated, so there is no better place to start than at the beginning. The film starts with Jane, our protagonist, being born. Jane is placed in an orphanage, where she grows up. Jane displays great mental and physical ability, but somehow she feels like she doesn’t really belong with the other kids.
Jane grows up, and she has decided to be part of SpaceCorp, a sort of NASA institution inside the film’s universe. However, she is rejected for unknown reasons. Jane continues her life, and then she meets a man that becomes his one true love. They spend some time together, and then this man leaves, leaving Jane pregnant.
Jane ends up giving birth to a girl. However, when she wakes up after the birth, one of the doctors explains to her that she was born with two sets of reproductive systems, both male and female. In order to save her life after the birth, the doctors decided without her permission to reconstruct her in the shape of a man, eliminating her female reproductive system.
Jane having two reproducing systems is revealed to be the reason why she wasn’t accepted at SpaceCorp. Before Jane begins her transition, she names her daughter, Jane, after her. All seems to be going well, until one night, baby Jane is kidnapped from the hospital, and she disappears completely from Jane’s life, leaving her with a long life trauma.
Now, Jane begins his transition into becoming a man. She chooses the name John and from that moment, no matter how hard it is he becomes a true man, from his behavior to the way he talks and moves. It is in this form that one night, John meets the Barkeeper, at a bar. They engage in conversation, and it is here that John tells him about his life, which is what we have seen so far in the character of Jane. John blames his unnamed lover for his sad life. After all, he was the one that made her pregnant, which ended in Jane becoming John.
At this point in the story, the Barkeeper introduces John to the concept of time travel. Which is very complicated and rigorous. Apparently, there is an institution that supervises time traveling and no time jumps are executed without their supervision. John and the Barkeeper go back in time, and it is here that John comes to realize that his unnamed lover is himself. Jane fell in love with John. In other words, he got himself pregnant.
From this point, the film changes perspectives, and it follows mainly the Barkeeper, who after leaving John with Jane jumps back in time to stop the machinations of another character called the Fizzle Bomber. The Fizzle Bomber will apparently kill thousands of people with one of his bombs. The Barkeeper fights with the Bomber, but he gets knocked out, when he wakes up another person tries to stop the bomb from exploding but fails. This person gets completely disfigured. The Barkeeper realizes that this man is John, now another time travel agent just like him.
The Barkeeper later jumps back in time, and it is revealed that it was him who kidnapped baby Jane and took it to an orphanage. This means that John not only fell in love with himself in the form of Jane, but also got her pregnant with himself. John is his own father. It is here that the Barkeep jumps back in time to when John and Jane are in love, and he recruits John into his organization. This explains why John tried to stop the bomb that time, and why he left Jane and disappeared from her life.
John becomes a time agent, and the Barkeeper retires to the future. John begins working doing missions across time. One of those missions is to stop one of the Fizzle Bomber’s bombs in the seventies. John goes on the mission and fails, he survives, but his face is completely destroyed. The surgeons try to fix it but decide to give him a new face. It is here that it is revealed that his new face is the one of the Barkeeper.
This means that Jane, John, Baby Jane, and the Barkeeper are all the same person.
The Barkeep keeps working for the organization until he is given his last mission, to create his own existence. Which are the events that we have seen in the story so far, kidnapping himself as a kid, introducing John to Jane, then recruiting John into the organization, and so forth. After this, the Barkeep is given the chance to retire and he does, jumping one last time in time. However, his time travel machine keeps working, so he can keep jumping around as much as he likes.
The Barkeep leaves retirement for another time and keeps jumping in time trying to find the elusive Fizzle Bomber until he finally finds the maniac. It is here that the Barkeep learns that he is the Fizzle Bomber, in the future. The Barkeep afraid of becoming such a murderer kills the Fizzle Bomber, ending his own existence. However, the film points out that the Barkeeper keeps jumping in time after that, which results in him becoming psychotic, which of course results in him becoming The Fizzle Bomber.
Why Does The Loop Exist In Predestination?
Throughout the movie, all versions of the Barkeeper meet a character called Mr. Robertson. Robertson seems to know what happens at all moments. He is also a time traveler and appears with the same look and age at different points in time. It is him who rejects Jane from the SpaceCorp program in the first place, and it is him who retires the Barkeeper after his last mission, not without leaving him with clues about the Fizzle Bomber before he leaves.
It is implied that Mr. Robertson might be the one who designed the creation of this time loop in order to create two things in particular; time travel, and time agents. It is implied that the Fizzle Bombers attacks are in part responsible for the invention of time travel in the first place. This is why Mr. Robertson is so interested in the Barkeeper to retire and find the Fizzle Bomber afterward. He basically has created a person with no past or future.
The Barkeeper is in itself a time paradox, he cannot go further or outside his time loop, which makes him the perfect time travel as he cannot do anything else outside those lines. It is also implied that there are eleven time agents in total, and they are probably trapped inside similar loops just like the Barkeeper, who himself is two agents, both the Barkeepers and John. The loop creates time travel in general and also creates the agents that work into preserving it.
Why does the loop need to be preserved when it is such a hell for the ones living in it? We don’t know, but apparently, it is for the benefit of the greater good.