The bad reviews I read about this movie didn't do
it justice. This is a really bad movie, easily the worst of the year
so far. And considering the excellent material from which the screenplay
is taken, it's amazing how bad The Time Machine is. The original
material is, of course, The
Time Machine, written by H.G. Wells in 1895 and considered the first
real science fiction novel. The travesty of this film is made worse
by the fact that the director is Simon Wells, the great-grandson of H.G.
Wells. Old H.G. must be spinning in his grave. In fact, the only
good thing about my trip to the movies last night was sneaking into Ice
Age to see the new trailer for Star
Wars: Episode II - The Attack of the Clones. It looks great.
If the movie is anything like the trailer, it should be an improvement
on Episode I. There
have now been four trailers for the new movie without one glimpse of Jar-Jar.
I know it's too much to hope for that he isn't in Episode
II . I figure George Lucas is playing with our minds. Sigh.
I guess I have to get back to my review but there's not much to say.
The Time Machine follows the bare-bones plot of the book. Our hero,
Dr. Hartdegen (Guy Pearce), an absent-minded professor, has
been transplanted to New York city, where he lives a happy chalk-dust encrusted
life until his fiancee is murdered. This motivates Hartdegen to lock
himself in his room for four years to build a time machine so he can go
back in time and change history. He is successful in the former but
not the latter. He then sends himself into the future to find out
why he can't change the past. We see the world changing around the
machine as it transports the doctor (no, not Doctor
Who) faster and faster into the future ending up around the year 800,000.
This special effect is actually better in the 1960 version of The
Time Machine, which tells you something about the effects in the new
film. They seem to be purposely retro but maybe they were just cheap.
Anyway, Hartdegen ends up in a future where humans have diverged into two
species, the Eloi who look like they just stepped out of an episode of
Survivor right down to the
soundtrack and the Morlocks who look like they just stepped out of Planet
of the Apes and live underground. In the book, this story was
a social commentary. The Eloi represented the idle upper-classes
of England and the Morlocks, the new poor working class of the Industrial
Revolution. In the movie, it is just stupid. The cast, apparently
realizing that this movie is a lost cause, sleepwalk through their
roles. Guy Pearce, who generally picks strange but good roles (Memento,
The Adventures of Priscilla,
Queen of the Desert) really blew it here. He looks gaunt and
clueless in The Time Machine. Also wasted in The Time Machine,
is Jeremy Irons who plays the evil Uber-Morlock. He suffers from
a bad case of Evil Genius Syndrome which, of course, leads to his demise.
Orlando Jones (Evolution) is the only light touch in this film, playing
a computer generated character at the New
York Public Library , who is still operational after 800,000 years.
(See the new Planet of the Apes
for similar examples of reliability.) Samantha Mumba, a singer turned
actor, plays an Eloi who befriends Hartdegen. In the book, her character
is a child, but here she is grownup allowing for some dumb romance.
She speaks perfect english, learned from ruined inscriptions from New York
buildings. The only thing that would have made this more unbelievable
would be if she had a Brooklyn accent. The only characters, who are
at all with it, are Hartdegen's best friend (Mark Addy, famous for being
the fat guy in The Full Monty)
and his housekeeper (Phyllida Law, Emma Thompson's mom). They seem
relieved that Hartdegen has disappeared so that they can get on with their
lives. What can I say? Read the book.