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Overall Rating

Awesome: 9.73%
Worth A Look: 15.93%
Average: 9.73%
Pretty Bad33.63%
Total Crap: 30.97%

6 reviews, 77 user ratings

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Time Machine, The (2002)
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by Erik Childress

"Set The Way Back Machine For.....Oh, Who Cares!"
2 stars

When H.G. Wells sat down to write The Time Machine, do you think he really knew what he would personally do with the contraption or was he just using a science-fiction medium to comment on the deterioration of human society? We’ll swing back to that one later. So many writers and filmmakers have taken their stab at the genre of time travel and many like Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future) and Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko) have even reinvented the plot device to such extraordinary means that the piled paradoxes alone are enough to keep one discussing for days. Now, like Baron Von Frankenstein, director Simon Wells is out to resurrect his (great) grandfather’s work with an updating of George Pal’s 1960 classic film. This modern version, unfortunately, practices what it preaches by taking its theme of forgetting the past by neglecting the rather entertaining first hour in favor of I don’t know what.

Ironically enough it’s Memento’s Guy Pearce in the role of Alexander Hartdegen, an Englishman in the 1800s with a penchant for gadgets. With the Professor’s life in good standing, he’s about to take the leap into marriage with Emma (Sienna Guillory), his lovely Girl Friday. (You have to love a gal who’d accept a moonstone over a diamond and tell you, you did “perfect.”) Just seconds after his proposal, Emma is fatally wounded in a robbery attempt by the least threatening thief in England. Alexander then takes the next four years, not seeking revenge on the slayer of his lady, but in creating a machine that can help him erase the tragic event from ever happening. Never mind that he doesn’t test the machine (not even with a baboon, Seth Brundle-style) before taking his maiden voyage or how the device seems to use the same technology as Joe Dante’s blue “Explorers” bubble, time moves quickly here and there’s none to waste.

Fate is a cruel warden though and Alexander’s quest takes him on a 180 trip into the future to find the answer to the question, “why can one not change the past?” What he does discover, thanks to falling asleep at the wheel, is that in 800,000 years, society has evolved into two species. Anyone who remembers Gary Sinise’s speech to Mel Gibson in Ransom will quickly identify these two beings as the Morlocks and the Eloi. The Eloi are a tribal community living off the cusps of mountains, speaking their own language except for Mara (Samantha Mumba) who has somehow grasped a working knowledge of English, despite having NO knowledge of the long, long ago. The Morlocks aren’t nearly as diplomatic as they exist mainly to chow down on the Eloi like some Logan’s Run-sponsored cattle and obey the commands of their ultra-evolved leader (Jeremy Irons, looking like a Cenobite Smurf.)

For the first 70 minutes, The Time Machine plays along at an entertaining pace concluding with the first Morlock attack that is as exciting and action-packed as anything I saw in The Lord of the Rings. The film is even so overloaded with such lofty themes that it promises to go into that next dimension of science fiction where ideas triumph over action. But when the excitement ceases, the ideas fail to take over and the questions that are raised only give way to more questions that shouldn’t be left unanswered.

Remember the question I presented at the beginning? That is exactly how the film treats the audience. Raise and forget. Intrigue and then go “what?” Even Emma, who is treated early as the emotional focal point of Alexander’s story, is subject to short-term memory loss the second our hero meets Mara. Perhaps because those uptight English chicks don’t reveal the shape of their breasts the way the Eloi do. And if the true lesson learned by Alexander is to live day-by-day and just forget about the past, then couldn’t the same outcome be achieved by simply introducing him to a couple of strong drinks. As Albert Brooks once said, “much cheaper, same result.”

Despite however faithful the filmmakers may have wanted to be to the source material (screenplay or novel) wouldn’t a writer with a thought in his head want to insert a time paradox or two just to have some fun? Consider how Alexander’s machine can travel through time while always remaining in the same stationary space. When he initially travels back in time, wouldn’t the Alexander of four years ago see this huge, shiny machine at some point in his laboratory? Even if he did arrive just moments before the tragic event, the Future Alexander still manages to beat the Past Alexander to meet Emma. Or how about if he manages to save her, wouldn’t he then fail to have a reason to build the time machine in the first place henceforth giving him no outlet to go back and change things? Or an even more interesting poser, does fate always interfere so that the future may be preserved on its predestined path? Time travel is a writer’s dream (or nightmare) and its too much fun to see a film not have any with it.

Simon Wells has made his living directing animated projects like The Prince of Egypt and Balto. With his first big-budget live-action flick, he was forced to bow out due to exhaustion and Gore Verbinski (MouseHunt, The Mexican) was brought in to finish the final 18 days of shooting. Films are rarely shot chronologically (and why should a film ABOUT time be done so?) and I don’t know which scenes Verbinski finished, but judging on how bad The Mexican was, I’d be willing to venture a guess he had his hand in the lackluster climax, which includes a shot (during the escape) that I could have sworn I saw used twice. Maybe I actually traveled back in time myself.

It’s so great to see Guy Pearce headlining a major event picture such as this and he’s so perfect because he takes the role seriously. Anyone who has seen L.A. Confidential, Memento and this January’s The Count of Monte Cristo, knows the range of this Guy and before the screenplay bails on his character, Pearce makes us feel and makes us believe. Orlando Jones shows up in a very funny cameo as Vox (Latin for “voice”), a sort of futuristic web-based card catalog (who even has knowledge of the original 1960 Time Machine and how it was translated into a fictional Broadway musical.) Mark Addy is wasted in bookends as Alexander’s friend and Jeremy Irons should lodge this on a separate resume that includes Dungeons and Dragons.

The Time Machine isn’t action-oriented enough to keep adventure fans happy and isn’t cerebral enough to please the hardcore sci-fi crowd. Ideas of everything from conformity to individuality, forgetting the past to keeping it alive with memories and accepting your fate to fighting against it are thrown into the mix by screenwriter John Logan (Gladiator) and just lie there like petrified rock, quickly eroded away equivalent to the soil along Alexander’s journey.

A unique approach would have been to parallel the Eloi with today’s current crop of Hollywood filmmakers. Beings with no knowledge of the past and no outlook on the future, for they have once again taken a classic story, one with limitations on its original productions and ripe with possibilities, and have failed to capitalize on improving it. Hopefully a new generation of writers and directors will arise; groups that WILL study film history with their own personal “time machine” of DVD and videotape and someday create a future on celluloid worth exploring.

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originally posted: 03/08/02 08:23:11
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User Comments

4/25/18 Louise A waste of 'time' - ha ha - watch the 1960 one instead. 2 stars
9/14/17 morris campbell IT SUCKS 1 stars
8/19/15 Carol Watch the George Pal 1960 classic. Just pretend this pointless remake never happened. 1 stars
6/08/13 mike great movie 5 stars
1/16/11 L Lopez Awsome remake of an old favorite. Dislikers should have their DNA resequenced. 5 stars
8/29/08 Shaun Wallner This movie was Awesome!! Loved It. 5 stars
3/17/08 Kirsten Not bad, but I felt the plot was a bit rushed. Iron's character was defeated too quickly 3 stars
5/14/07 action movie fan lame remake-1960 moive is still the best 2 stars
1/28/07 David Pollastrini saw it but have no memory so it must have sucked 3 stars
9/12/06 BOB I understand why some people would not have liked this movie, because you have to think 5 stars
8/05/06 nicklor24 great film, to bad it's underrated, check it out 5 stars
7/13/06 Dan Honestly, what were you idiots expecting? This was a fun, entertaining movie. Dumbfucks. 4 stars
5/08/06 Thomas Semesky How can you make a movie about time travel into a boring waste of time? 2 stars
9/04/05 Eagle We need a time machine to go back and prevent this movie from being made 1 stars
8/19/05 ES A good re-telling, worth a glance 4 stars
8/07/04 Anthony G I would fuck samantha mumba 2 stars
6/01/04 ReptilesNi Completely lacking the charm of the original movie. 2 stars
5/22/04 Bruck Remembrance of a great film 3 stars
12/23/03 Chris It was an OK movie at first but the end was horrible. 2 stars
10/28/03 Lars Kelsen A great ride! 4 stars
10/19/03 Ingo Fine start, but then... 3 stars
6/09/03 Goofy Maxwell Don't see it, or if u must, pull a Rip Van Winkle like Guy Pierce & just sleep through it. 1 stars
6/01/03 Pete a hour and a half just to see Samantha Mumba's tummy. Sucks Ass like a intern 1 stars
4/23/03 LIAM JACKSON brilliant.the uber-morlock should have killed alex.still great though 5 stars
4/10/03 Jack Bourbon Hey! I forgot I saw this piece of dog shit. Too bad that had to change. 1 stars
1/20/03 Jim Not bad but suffers from severe credibility problems once Alex arrives in 802701. 4 stars
10/22/02 teri did the screenwriter just quit right at the end so quickly wrapped up the whole thing? 1 stars
10/06/02 syrius effects are pretty good, but H.G. Wells is rolling over in his grave 2 stars
9/02/02 AshFan Guy Pearce and the effects are great, but its' stupid script and ending ruin some of it. 3 stars
8/13/02 Monster W. Kung An utterly disappointing film. Damn you, Pearce. 2 stars
7/30/02 soelsen i thought it was good....kinda hard to follow though 4 stars
6/02/02 Chris Not a complete waste of time. What was with the ending it was pretty good till then. 3 stars
5/17/02 viking a sci-fi classic becomes a run of the mill CGI extravaganza 3 stars
4/29/02 Little L Absolutely loved it! Whoever says it doesn't live up to sixties one's standards is stupid 5 stars
4/27/02 Jill and Bart worst movie we've ever seen in our lives. BORING!!!! 1 stars
4/24/02 Danielle Ophelia Someone ate H.G. Wells' masterful novel...then chucked it back up. A maudlin surface-skim. 2 stars
4/23/02 Rautron Zero The 1960 Original is by far a better film, but this film s Interesting 3 stars
4/18/02 Emily shitty 1 stars
4/12/02 Aaron Nelson Pretty good remake of the 1960 Pal film, although the last 20 minutes lost it a bit 4 stars
4/10/02 emp not that bad, probably should wait for the video 4 stars
4/10/02 Kelly Mears The Special effects are cool. Plot is nothing special. 3 stars
4/10/02 The Grinch Good, mindless fun, with good special effects. 4 stars
4/08/02 Roy Smith Saw the "ending" far in advance, rather stupid, all FX only 2 stars
4/08/02 Connoisseur you people are too hard on movies these days. this movie is fun 4 stars
4/07/02 angie I enjoyed this film. Fine family entertainment. But then that's why I watch movies. 4 stars
4/05/02 Edfink Lombardo Good visual effects, fun storytelling, with its only downfall being its slow pace... 4 stars
4/04/02 Monster W. Kung ...and after going through it backwards, Guy Pearce wastes our time. 2 stars
4/02/02 Flick Chick cheezy and boring 2 stars
3/27/02 Chris ¿¡ Samantha Mumba and Guy Pierce have no character in this movie, at all. 2 stars
3/23/02 Larry You should to see it's not bad 4 stars
3/23/02 mahone the director should get the death penalty 1 stars
3/19/02 malcolm a lot of fun, jeremy irons looked like a wicked Powder 4 stars
3/18/02 your mom the visual effect were pretty good. 4 stars
3/17/02 Rampage Crud, crud and more crud. If you haven't seen it, thank God. 2 stars
3/17/02 R. Johnson Total, uninflected, piece of crap! 1 stars
3/16/02 H. G. Wells I can't believe they have talkies like this, who would've thought twas possible? 5 stars
3/16/02 Artist Freak Light on plot, but stuff blowed up real good. Don't expect great art and you'll be happy. 3 stars
3/14/02 bianca it was great. lot better than most people think 5 stars
3/14/02 NiceGlamourShotErik SUCKED BIG ONES 1 stars
3/14/02 Hotaine Ran right out and bought the book after this to cleanse my soul. I felt so dirty. 1 stars
3/12/02 ajay not as bad as HBS says it is. maybe that's why I liked it, I was expecting shit 4 stars
3/12/02 spaceworm Time trip cool; O. Jones,fun; Irons, NO! Scipt, where? 2 stars
3/12/02 raiven message to screenwriter: rent the 1960 version to see why yours sucks 2 stars
3/12/02 brent young superficial at best. maybe a rental... maybe. 2 stars
3/11/02 sandy I enjoyed this film. Fine family entertainment. But then that's why I watch movies. 5 stars
3/11/02 Rockitman007 I enjoyed this movie enough. 4 stars
3/11/02 Ziggy Stardust What claptrap! What drivell... i was hoping soo much for it to be good... but noooooooooooo 2 stars
3/11/02 Just another guy Nice effects, no story. Go rent the original. 1 stars
3/11/02 Jimbobwe Erik was dead on (except that this version is set in New York, not England). Way bummer... 2 stars
3/11/02 Benjamin Leatherman Ana llright movie. Everything seemed to make sense to me. 4 stars
3/10/02 ChicoJake maybe rent it if you are bored 2 stars
3/10/02 jojo great movie not to hollywood ,classic science fiction,and guy pearce as always is awesome 5 stars
3/09/02 Joe Deblow The Gayness Machine 1 stars
3/09/02 Kisuta A light, entertaining movie. Could have had a lot more detail. 4 stars
3/09/02 Butterbean Jeremy Iron's exposed spine was the coolest thing about this movie 3 stars
3/09/02 STEVE would not see it for a hundred bucks! 1 stars
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  08-Mar-2002 (PG-13)



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