Mega Time Squad [Fantasia 2018 Review]

If you’re a fan of time-travel comedies, Mega Time Squad is going to blow your mind. The movie, which had its world premiere at Fantasia 2018, puts an ingenious and often hilariously funny spin on the whole concept of how time-travel is used in movies. If you think you can guess where this New Zealand import’s story is headed, you’re completely wrong.

Anton Tennet plays Johnny, a low-level drug dealer who performs errands and chores for a local kingpin, Shelton (Johnny Brugh). One day, he gets the bright idea to stage a heist of his own, making off with the money Shelton has ordered him to steal from a local Chinese-run antique store with ties to a triad. In the process, he also swipes a magical ancient bracelet — one that, when a button on it is pushed, allows him to travel a short way back in time. There’s just one hitch: it also creates another version of him. And according to legend, a demon appears if a time-traveler meets himself.

Needless to say, Johnny uses it. What follows is a madcap adventure in which five different iterations of Johnny are pursued by people trying to get the money back.

Early scenes in Mega Time Squad are highly comical, as Johnny repeatedly gets out of trouble by foolishly generating new copies of himself. One scene, set in a public restroom, is especially uproarious. Then there’s a unique twist in the second half. Without spoiling anything, let’s just say that Johnny and his duplicates don’t necessarily trust each other. (That the character is self-aware about his own disreputable nature is one of the film’s shrewdest jokes.) Everything leads to a climax that finds Johnny and Shelton confronting each other. The way this resolves itself is deeply satisfying.

The special effects used in the movie are so seamless that I assumed director Tim van Dammen had somehow found quintuplet actors to play Johnny. You can’t see the seams anywhere. There’s a jaw-dropping sequence in which all the Johnnies confuse Shelton and his goons by wandering through a house simultaneously. Done in long, steady shots where he repeatedly passes himself, the scene is astonishing to watch. These are, however, just effects. There is only one Johnny, and Anton Tennet does a terrific job playing all the many versions of the hapless character. It is a testament to his abilities that we can keep them all straight.

One of the hardest things for any time-travel movie to achieve is to have everything be airtight, so that there are no “holes” in the plot and so that everything adds up 100%. I’m not entirely sure Mega Time Squad does that. Then again, it really doesn’t matter. The clever premise and appealingly offbeat sense of humor are more than sufficient to make this a comedy worth savoring.

Mike McGranaghan

For more information on Fantasia 2018, please visit the official website.