The Time Machine: SE (2002)
Dreamworks // PG-13 // $26.99 // July 23, 2002
Review by G. Noel Gross | posted August 18, 2002
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Not unlike sequels, remakes are generally looked upon with a fair degree of enthusiasm by most CineSchlockers. But remakes work best when the source material is reinterpreted in surprising new ways. Two prime examples from the '80s being The Thing and The Fly, which sprang from classic films of the '50s. These were visceral, gooey flicks borne by riveting stories and characters. More recently, Hollywood's efforts to update other "relics" from its past haven't been quite so grand. Tim Burton came closest to success with his Planet of the Apes remake. There's an enthusiasm for the original that bubbles throughout, as well as some amusing new visual twists in the journey. While the makers of The Time Machine (2002, 96 minutes) were much too preoccupied with out-doing the original's FX rather than honoring its legacy or recapturing ANY of its inventive spirit.

The movie: Now here everyone thought Guy Pierce was an amazing actor after seeing Memento. Turns out that bewildered, smacked-by-a-frying-pan look of his ain't acting. He does the same schtick here, only more CARTOONISH as Alexander Hartdegen, a dippy New York professor who invents himself a time machine to save his 1890s girlfriend from getting kilt. His contraption works, but not for its intended purpose. Instead, Alexander finds himself in 802,701 hobnobbing with Irish pop sensation Samantha Mumba and her kid brother who play Eloi, the down-trodden, but mighty talkative future of humanity. Of course, there's also some mole people known as Morlocks who like to pop up out of the ground and drag down Eloi for unscheduled dinner parties. That's when our stammering school teacher goes all rugged-action-hero and stuff gets blow'd up.

The sole purpose for this flick is for some really, really expensive CGI-shenanigans (around $80 million worth). There's an admittedly spectacular camera move from Alexander's greenhouse lab to the moon THROUGH hundreds of years in time. George Pal's famous dress shop mannequins even get an update. Viewers witness physical Earth changes. It's "ooooo" and "ahhhh" stuff. In fact, even the time machine itself is a super-sized, flashier physical embodiment of this entire "bigger is better" project. But it's utterly devoid of the IMAGINATION and CHARM that made George's original a bona fide classic. Speaking of which, every CineSchlocker should own the DVD Talk Collectors Series-worthy disc if only for the "Journey Back" documentary and epilogue with Rod Taylor.

Notables: No breasts. One corpse (plus a king-sized Eloi stew pot). Gratuitous dream sequence. Multiple dart impalements. One Stanley Steamer. Singing librarian. Exploding "time" bomb.

Quotables: Blonde in 2030 digs Alex's ride, "Bet that makes a hell of a capuccino."

Time codes: Breathtaking reveal of the bazillion dollar time machine prop (16:20). The Filby all CineSchlockers know and love -- Alan Young (22:22). Perk up your pointy ears Trekkies (32:51). Jeremy Irons emotes (1:11:48).

Audio/Video: This W-I-D-E-S-C-R-E-E-N (2.35:1) transfer isn't without minor flaws, especially during darker sequences. While all the stops have been pulled audio wise with Dolby Digital 5.1, 2.0 and DTS tracks all on the same disc.

Extras: Two insufferably self-congratulatory commentaries featuring not-so-veiled swipes at the original. Producer David Valdes believes their Morlocks bested Mr. Pal's "blue Smurfs." While alleged director Simon Wells, who flamed out BEFORE the end of principal photography, refers to "poor George" and snottily proclaims Pal's Eloi were no more than "beautiful cattle." One horribly acted deleted scene by purty-boy Pearce (6 mins). Behind the scenes featurettes on the visual FX, creation of the time machine and Stan Winston's development of some downright nasty beasties (15 mins). Gobs of conceptual drawings. Trailer vault. Motion video menus with score. Printed insert with production notes.

Final thought: This creatively bankrupt CGI circle jerk is as dazzling and immediately forgettable as a striptease. Where's the g-string on this thing? Recommended.

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G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.


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