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Primer is one crazy movie, as far as the complicated plot goes. Has anyone figured out the ACTUAL sequence of events?

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xkcd.com/657 –  atticae Dec 8 '11 at 11:42
Wherever it made sense I’ve differentiated between characters and their doubles by assigning a “revision” number. Other folks have tried to construct distinct timelines to explain the movie but this gets overly complicated and I don’t think this makes sense. We’re given direction that the only timeline that matters is the current one and everytime someone comes back it creates a new “revision”. The only revision that matters is the last one. Getting more info t : essayscouncil.com/dissertation.php –  user11310 Jun 24 '14 at 9:50

5 Answers 5

up vote 21 down vote accepted

Primer is a very complex movie and hard-to-impossible to understand in the first watching. This is due to the fact that we only see a small part of the actual happenings in the story, and the scenes are not in a chronologically correct order.

This is hard to spot, as the scenes seem to fit after each other, but sometimes they are reruns of a scene that is replayed by time travelling older versions of the characters, thus resulting in strange behaviour or dialogues.

One thing to look out for is the earpiece Aaron is wearing in some of the scenes. The Aaron from the future has recorded all earlier conversations, travelled back in time, replaced his earlier self and tries to recreate the dialogues this way, sometimes failing (e.g. in the basketball scene, where he misses the throw). So every time you see an earpiece, you know that this scene is not in chronological order.

I would recommend reading this very good essay, studying the timeline posted in OddCore's answer, and then rewatching the movie once or twice. It helped me understand the movie to a point where I can more or less tell what is going on.

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Here you go. A picture depicting the 9 different timelines of the movie :)


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Care to summarize the image a little bit, because I now have to trust you to know that its a great answer ( which I believe it is) –  Ivo Flipse Dec 8 '11 at 13:07
From the image in timeline 4: "Aaron(2) puts Failsafe(0) to another room (after all, he is inside...)". Not necessarily. Aaron could simply have brought one box back with him, and turned Failsafe(0) off and on again to prevent Abe from going back to the same moment. Aaron isn't in the box once he gets out. –  wberry Mar 13 '14 at 21:40
Once Aaron has used the box, he's always in the box. Remember each box has a distinct A end and a B end once used. Only after you pass the B end in time can you switch off the box. In the case of a fail safe, that would be 3 days, Aaron can't switch this box off for 3 days as he would kill the Aaron travelling back inside the box. –  Tivep Jan 23 at 11:38

I'd also recommend the essay here - that in combination with OddCore's infographic above gave me a much better grasp of it (and that's after watching it twice).

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This is a brilliant movie, here's a step wise explanation of the sequence of events in the movie. The timeline wise explanation makes it a lot easier to grasp.

Primer Step-wise explanation

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Is there any way to summarize or at least quote the information from the external source and make this less of a link-only answer? –  Tom Cody Apr 1 at 17:10

The easiest explanation I have yet found of Primer can be found on a sci-fi/astronomy site called http://www.astronomytrek.com/primer-2004-explained/ Hope this helps.

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