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Synchronic: How Watchmen Inspired Anthony Mackie's Underrated Sci-Fi Flick

If your first guess was Richard Nixon, you'd be wrong.

By Josh Weiss
A split of Doctor Manhattan from the original "Watchmen" comic and Anthony Mackie in Synchronic (2019).

To quote Doctor Manhattan: "There is no future. There is no past. Do you see? Time is simultaneous, an intricately structured jewel that humans insist on viewing one edge at a time, when the whole design is visible in every facet."

This God-like view of humanity's woefully limited — not to mention rigid — perception of the space-time continuum served as the main source of inspiration for Aaron Moorehead and Justin Benson's highly underrated sci-fi movie, Synchronic (2019).

RELATED: The costume design secrets behind sci-fi horror Synchronic

While you may have recently spotted the names of the filmmaking duo in major television projects like The Twilight ZoneMoon Knight, and Loki, the co-directors initially cut their genre teeth on ambitious features that dared to add something new to the realms of science fiction and horror. As you'll soon see, their unique treatment of time in Synchronic made them perfectly-suited for Tom Hiddleston and Owen Wilson's latest batch of TVA-based adventures in Season 2 of Loki.

What is Synchronic about?

Steve Denube (Anthony Mackie) and Brianna Dannelly (Ally Ioannides) look concerned over their shoulders in Synchronic (2020).

Now available to stream on Peacock, the film stars Marvel Cinematic Universe veteran Anthony Mackie as Steve Denube, a cancer-stricken EMT who begins experimenting with a designer, technically-not-illegal drug that allows individuals with still-developing pineal glands to travel back in time. The end goal is to rescue the daughter of his best friend and co-worker, Dennis Dannelly (Jamie Dornan). 

It's Back to the Future meets Limitless, shot with all the off-kilter unease of an Alfred Hitchcock joint and finished with a coat of Fincherian murkiness. If that description doesn't catch your fancy, then there might be something wrong with your pineal gland.

How Alan Moore & Watchmen inspired Anthony Mackie time travel film, Synchronic 

Chatting with Thrillist in the fall of 2020, Moorehead recalled how Benson initially floated the idea of making a movie riffing on a lofty temporal concept previously explored in Watchmen and several other works written by the great Alan Moore. The idea — sometimes known as "eternalism" or the "block universe theory" — posits that "time is all happening simultaneously," Moorehead explained. "There's no distinction between the past, present, and future. And he thought, 'What if somebody could take a drug and see it that way?'"

RELATED: Back to the Future Concept Artist On How DeLorean Time Machine Changed

Benson later expounded: "From an emotional standpoint, I think the person who put it best is Alan Moore. He said, with this theory, 'Yes, it can be very scary to think that you're not experiencing time as it actually is, that's unsettling. But isn't it nice, isn't it beautiful that anyone you've ever known who's passed away, anyone you've ever loved, any structure you have ever left, anything, it's not gone? It's not behind you. It's just elsewhere. That's all. Hidden from your perception, but it's not gone.'"

Synchronic is now streaming on Peacock. Want more Mackie-led action? Check out Twisted Metal and If You Were the Last on the streamer as well!

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