Ossus Library Index Science Fiction Movie Index

THE TIME MACHINE

Directed by Simon Wells (2002, Dreamworks/Warner Bros.)
Starring Guy Pearce, Mark Addy, Samantha Mumba, and Jeremy Irons

A man travels into the far future to find answers to a mistake in his past.

 

 

2+ stars+

October 29th, 2002 on DVD  
    Visually very, very impressive, but without a lot of substance.

I read the book by H.G. Wells a very long time ago, and only remember fragments of the story, but it seems like they truncated it long before the end of the book. I also don't remember any women in the story, but that could just be me -and they spiced it up, anyway. Not that it matters, because Alexander, the main character and time-traveler, finds what he is looking for in the end, sort of.

From the moment the menu came up for this DVD, I was extremely impressed with the music. Even if the movie isn't terrific, I think the soundtrack might be worth having! I have grown to love chanting in the music of action movies, so there was a lot to like here. It reminded me of the Lion King Rhythm of the Pridelands CD. The peaceful themes when Alexander spends time with the Eloi were also very inspired, and every triumphant moment had an uplifting feel to it. Very impressive.


Also impressive were the visual effects. The colors and textures of the disc were crisp, adding to the already stunning visual palette. I liked the time bubble around the time machine, and the exceptional acceleration of everything around it, from the growing ivy, the changing of the seasons, the re-zoning of the city, and eventually, the complete change of the landscape around him, including a glacial age! It was completely stunning. Also stunning was the small tour of the Eloi village. It really was blissful, as in the book.

The middle of the movie was truly great, though there wasn't much story. The only thing the beginning of the film provided was motivation. I liked the single-mindedness of the inventor trying to fix the past, much better than simple curiosity. The scene of the moon in shards in the 21st century ("you were right, Phillby, we did go too far"), and then as a spatter of dust and shards in the far future, was also amazing, and provided sufficient explanation for an evolutionary shift.

What I didn't like was the way everybody has all sorts of knowledge of what happened. The librarian was a nice touch, even if it stretches credibility that he could survive that long -even with a nuclear power source and a way of storing information beyond what we have now. Still, the character of the librarian was interesting. It is unfortunate that he was reduced to an expositionary figure. The Uber-Morlock was also a raving villain, with a need to tell Alexander everything he knew about the past. An oral tradition like these people must have cannot be trusted, but it appears that this guy was telling the truth.

If the story was thin, the acting was almost non-existent. From the first moment, I didn't like the way Alexander was depicted. It improved somewhat in the middle, but he didn't play the asocial professor or action hero very well. Emma was also terribly played. Though I was sad to see her die (especially the laughable second time, in which she looks like a cardboard cutout), it really was a blessing, for the character was intolerable. Mara was much better, though the character seemed to be entirely too well-educated, and expected unreasonable things from Alexander. When did everybody suddenly learn English -Mara must be an excellent teacher; and she stops stuttering only the next morning! I loved her line about him being a traveling idiot!

The Morlocks were very real, most of the time. At times they looked like people in suits, but much of the time they felt like real creatures, much more real that anything presented in CG even in Attack of the Clones. Their caste division really makes sense and makes for good story, as well. Unfortunately, it wasn't developed much.

As poor as the beginning of the film was, at least it provided Alexander with motivation for making his time machine. When he finds he can't change the past, he looks for answers in the future. The end doesn't even do that. Why does the Uber-Morlock have the answer, when he shouldn't even know about time travel? It he was so smart, surely the Morlocks would have grown beyond simple coal fired gears? He invokes causality to answer Alexander's question, which is not valid when speaking of time travel. Still, it provides us with a firm conclusion, anyway. What I don't understand is the Uber-Morlock saying "you are the inescapable result of your tragedy" -okay, that part is mostly understandable, but what of "and I am the inescapably result of you"? What does that mean? He is implying that Alexander is the cause of the Molocks, but that doesn't make sense. Even the audio commentary doesn't provide a good explanation.

We are led to believe that Alexander and the Eloi live happily ever after, peacefully, but that cannot be. When word gets out that the Uber-Morlock of this region is dead, surely other Ubers will come running. He said that he was not the only one. I didn't feel any reasons for Alexander to stay behind. He had two opportunities to leave, even perhaps to save Mara by going back in time by a day and taking her with him, if he wanted. There were so many potential endings, much more satisfying. Since the movie was way too short, they could have easily been explored.

The DVD features feel like they come off of MTV! It is more advertising than anything else, even when exploring the process of making the movie. Somewhat interesting, but only scratching the surface. It was interesting to note that the director is the great-grandson of the great H.G. Wells. Still, he couldn't save the movie from a lack of story and poor acting.

However, as was the case with Planet of the Apes, if the acting can be ignored, the movie is worth seeing simply for the beautiful visual effects.
 
   

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