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Reviews » Theatrical Reviews » The Time Machine
The Time Machine
Dreamworks // PG-13 // March 8, 2002
Review by Loren Halek | posted March 11, 2002 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie

The Time Machine is the remake of the 1960 movie by the same name based upon the novel by H.G. Wells. Starring Guy Pearce (LA Confidential, Memento) as Professor Alexander Hartdegen, this movie has its good parts and its bad parts. All in all it was an ok movie.

The Time Machine is about Alexander's quest to save the love of his life, Emma (Sienna Guillory), from her death in the park after he proposed to her. He spends the next four years after her death perfecting a device that will allow him to go backwards in time to save Emma. He goes back and takes Emma away from the area where she died and takes her to Beeker St. in New York City. He goes across the street to buy her flowers and she is run over by horses and dies again. The next scene has Alexander in the hospital talking to his friend David Philby (Mark Addy) about how he has gone back many times and she always dies. My problem with this is we only see one instance of him going back in time to stop her death, it would have helped to have a few more instances than this in my opinion. While talking to his friend, who thinks Alexander is crazy, he decides he needs to go to the future and see if anyone has the answer to this question: "Is it possible to change the past?"

He goes forward to the year 2030. The neat thing about this time jump, which was not in the prior one, is that you see how his laboratory changes over the years. It is neat to watch season change and ivy grow on the windows. As we get into modern times you see skyscrapers built where his laboratory once was. He stops in the year 2030 and right in front of him is a big screen like they have in Times Square. It talks about how they are planning on building a colony on the moon by making an area inside of it with a bomb. Alexander goes into the local library and comes upon the library's computer archive, played by Orlando Jones, who traverses through two-sided mirrors. It is here he asks his question, but the computer says he is talking about science fiction with the time machine. He even gets information on Alexander himself where he is called crazy about thinking a time machine could exist. Alexander decides he has to go further into the future to find his answer as this time does not have the answer.

He gets into his time machine and is going forward, but the machine is struck by a falling building and Alexander stops in 2037. It seems the bomb idea on the moon did not go as planned and they actually broke apart the moon and the world is slowly being destroyed. He is stopped by the police, but he gets away and goes forward in time. The machine gets jolted again and Alexander goes flying against different parts of the machine which knock him out. We see the world as it changes and that is pretty neat. Eventually Alexander wakes up and it is the year 802,701.

Here he meets the Eloi, a peaceful race who live in huts built into the side of cliffs on a river. Alexander befriends Mara (singer Samantha Mumba) and Kalen (Omero Mumba) and he finds out that there is another race that is living under the ground called the Morlocks. The Morlocks come and take away Mara and Alexander goes to save her. He finds the library's computer (Orlando Jones) again and finds out about the Morlocks and the Eloi. The computer remembers him from 2030 and now believes that he does know how to time travel, although the computer still has no answer for Alexander.

Alexander then goes into the heart of the Morlock area and meets the main Morlock played by Jeremy Irons. Irons honestly does not have that big of a role in this movie and really only serves as a main bad guy. I think back when I read the book and I think Irons' character had a bigger role in the book than in this movie. He talks about how the Morlocks came to be and why they feed on the Eloi. He even gives Alexander somewhat of an answer to his question. Eventually the subtle message is that Alexander can change the future but he cannot change the past. However it is a subtle message and there is no true moral or ethical process that they go through to get to this message.

It is interesting to note that this movie was directed by H.G. Wells' great-grandson Simon Wells who directed Prince of Egypt. Wells had a nervous breakdown during filming and director Gore Virbinski was brought in to oversee the film for about 3 weeks. Virbinski says that he went on Wells' storyboard, but some people believe different. Another interesting note is that this movie was scheduled to come out late last year, but it was held back because of the September 11th tragedy. Although we may never see it, I believe that there were more shots of New York City being destroyed in the year 2037 that Dreamworks/Warner Bros. decided to edit in respect for the victims and their families. 2037 seemed very rushed and it was obviously important to put the moon destruction in the movie as it explains why things are the way they are in the 803,000th century. However I think more should have been shown about exactly what happened. This section is very short and a lot has obviously been left out.

The other problem with this movie is that there is no semblance of cohesive plot in my opinion. I understand Alexander's wish to go backward to save his love and forward to figure out an answer to his question, but there is no moral or ethical weight put on him other than saving Mara from the Morlocks. I never really felt for the character of Alexander and I think this is a problem because of the direction and editing of the movie. I really never felt for any of the characters to tell you the truth. This movie could have been longer I feel. Everything about this movie is neat from the special effects point of view, but other than that there is not much I can recommend this movie for.

Final Thoughts: The Time Machine had a lot going for it. Guy Pearce is an accomplished actor and I enjoy the rest of his work. With the Sci-Fi element and the novel this movie was based on I figured it was going to be good. Unfortunately it seems the visuals came across from the book pretty well, but the heart and soul of the book was lost. There needed to be more substance on the writing and feelings aspect. If that had happened I think this would have been a great movie, but instead it is adequate. Maybe on the DVD they will expand the spots that were obviously sliced and diced. As it stands now I say watch it for the special effects, but do not expect much of a story after the first half hour.
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