by Greg Muskewitz
Awfully inept remake of the 1960 George Pal adventure, adapted from the H.G. Wells fantasy. This time around, the future, our reality, has the classic re-tooled by none other than Wells’ own great-grandson, Simon Wells.If there’s one thing this Wells does, is certify that he should be disinherited. Guy Pearce, usually reliable as an actor, but not here, takes over for Rod Taylor as the creator of the time-altering travel machine. As an impetus for such, however, a new motivation is created: Pearce’s fiancée is shot and killed during a routine mugging in Central Park. (The doctor is presented much more as a schizophrenic than a tinkerer, and is played far too skeptically and aridly by Pearce, who looks deformed with projectile cheekbones, and a mouth that appears as though sponges have sucked it dry.) Doggedly determined to save his fiancée, he is finally able to return to the past via his machine and save her from the incident only for her to be trampled by a carriage at another time and place, proving: it wasn’t meant to be. (Never an issue in the original, this turns into a laughing matter.) Further frustration causes the doctor to haphazardly explore into the future, where he (unrealistically) travels some hundreds-of-millions of years ahead, to when two species occupy Earth: Eloi, a breed of humans that look to be half-caste, with but a new universal language (save for a few, like Samantha Mumba, who have learned English), and Morlocks, blue creatures with super-speed and super-strength. In essence, the story has been bowdlerized, eradicating important pieces of the plot such as the class struggle between the Eloi and the Morlocks. (Previously, the Eloi, desensitized to death led a life of hedonism provided by the Morlocks, who in turn raised them as cattle until rounding up daily groups for the abattoir.) This vapid remake is nothing but a chance to explore not the future, but rather the extent of visual effects; erasing plot structure to make room and reason for the budgetary bells and whistles. (Most of which are, by the way, shallow computer doodling.) Ultimately, the desecration to the original work (in script form) renders the revisualization helpless — it lacks the ideas, the philosophy, the inquisition, the struggle, the frustration, the adventure, the imagination. Simon Wells is too egotistical to see this; his grand scheme of removal and replacement has hokey additions such as a digital librarian, and an “Über-Morlock” (Jeremy Irons). (Does one ever stop to wonder where, since no one knows English let alone German, where this title would have come from?) All the magical elements brought to the original by H.G. Wells himself and George Pal’s direction, cast and crew, have subsequently been stripped in exchange for superfluous computer animation, and greater, more elaborate monsters. Guess what? The blue-painted Morlocks of the original were much scarier. It’s merely another classic butchered for the sake of the unimaginative. Ostensibly, something as under-rated as imagination, at least in the case of the Wellses, is not hereditary.
"Take me to the past to prevent the time I wasted watching it."
With Mark Addy and Orlando Jones.[Not to be bothered with.]
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originally posted: 12/22/03 16:47:16