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Overall Rating

Awesome: 8.33%
Worth A Look: 19.05%
Average: 25%
Pretty Bad: 9.52%
Total Crap38.1%

6 reviews, 48 user ratings

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by Erik Childress

"Barely A Time-Travel Film. Barely Medieval. Barely Anything."
1 stars

Growing up with Richard Donner’s films was one of the things that helped form my love for all things adventure and fantasy. After all, this is the director who brought Superman to life on the big screen, thrust kids my age at the time into a treasure hunt in The Goonies and then helmed 4 Lethal Weapon films (all of which I enjoy very much.) Sprinkle in a dosage of sci-fi from Michael Crichton and the tables seem to be set for a fun-ol’ time at the movies. It breaks my heart to not only be disappointed by Timeline, but at what an unmitigated train wreck it actually is.

Donner has spoken about the production problems on the film which would make the circumstances of Terry Gilliam’s Don Quixote epic (detailed in the documentary Lost In La Mancha) seem like an overturned catering truck. The major problems with it seemingly stem more from the source material (and the subsequent screenplay) than with lost money, writer’s strikes and studio interference. Donner is left with rather a crocked pot to work with and as it starts out promisingly, it can’t contain a rather muddled and far too insipid narrative past the first act.

A man wanders into the desert, ice cold and with his interiors not connecting all the dots. Members of an archaelogical dig in France discover a message written in their professor’s (Billy Connolly) handwriting from 1357. The message – “Help me.” A science lab has been creating a three-dimensional fax machine (not unlike Jeff Goldblum in The Fly or Star Trek beaming technology) and accidentally opened a wormhole to the 14th century. Welcome to the quick moving, but nicely developed first act.

The lab’s chief, Robert Doniger (David Thewlis playing a rather lackluster weasel) flies in the archaeologists including the Professor’s son, Chris (Paul Walker without dad’s thick Scottish accent), his longtime crush, Kate (Frances O’Connor), loyal history enthusiast, Andre Marek (Gerard Butler) and smart guy in glasses, David (Ethan Embry). There’s also a French guy the movie keeps treating as “oh yeah, there’s this guy too.”

The gang quickly agrees to risk life and limb to save the Prof and only David objects to having his molecules broken down, leaving him to stay behind to help with fax maintenance when one of the “Marines” they send unwisely brings a grenade back with him. The Marine Corps could probably bring a class action suit against the film for portraying the most ineffective soldiers this side of Pvt. Santiago in A Few Good Men.

As we enter the main thrust of the story, we’re left with an overwhelming sense of “this is it?” This is all Crichton, Donner and screenwriters Jeff Maguire and George Nolfi can do with the material? A time-travel adventure that puts a bunch of young turks into the middle of the smallest battle (a turning point, no less) of the Hundred Years War? Sounds like Crichton had a teleplay rejected once for Sliders and decided to do what he always does – put in a lot of fascinating science stuff to distract from the patchiness of the characters and the lack of profundity in the tale.

I enjoy a good trebuchet as the next fella, but Timeline was well past the point of using great action to supplement the minute-by-minute blandness of the adventure. “We’ve got 600 years of knowledge on these guys,” says Chris, convincing everyone they should be able to escape in 20 minutes. Giving Paul Walker that line of motivation is probably not a wise idea since he continually plays characters we can’t believe made it out of high school. But it’s still a solid thought and there’s no coalation between the strategies of a 20th Century male with technology on the brain and the 14th Century soldier unaware of the potency of “Greek fire” until the Prof can “invent” it seven centuries after it had first been utilized. Other than that it's basically escaping from villages that the Big Bad Wolf would have no problems with and hearing the Monty Python cry of “run away, run away!

The story may be stupid and the characters no more careworthy than a tampon wrapper in the toilet, but you’d never expect it to be this dull, dull. dull. My God it's dull, it's so desperately dull and tedious and stuffy and boring and des-per-ate-ly DULL. Observe as Frances O’Connor escapes from a straw hut. Thrill as her and Paul Walker sit in a tunnel. Watch the REAL fire arrows and trebuchets do their thing. And yes, they are real. We’ve been told that no CGI was used during the battle sequences. But, realistically, why? This ain’t Braveheart or some film that depends on realism for added thrills or accuracy. It’s Paul Walker escaping with his costume from Castle Cameos Pictures at the Las Vegas Excalibur.

I don’t know what in the novel made this so interesting to those other than the Crichton loyalists. Its one fresh idea of having the machine unable to match up your interiors after 10 or 11 trips through is completely abandoned to an afterthought. The action is lifeless. The time-space continuum paradoxes are lame and obvious. I’ve haven’t seen villains less menacing since Sonny Bono in Airplane 2. It pains me to say all of this. I’m just going to forget that I even saw it after I forget that Richard Donner had anything to do with it. You go see Timeline if you want to. I’m going to go play a game of Crossbows and Catapults.

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originally posted: 11/26/03 17:05:19
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User Comments

11/01/12 Monday Morning I wanna go back too! But with a rifle! 4 stars
6/07/11 Silkworm Here we go again ANOTHER film about time travel 1 stars
6/26/09 KC It was awful but I still enjoyed it! Great with a few beers late at night. 3 stars
7/28/08 Vickie Johnson a little hard to follow,but very interesting!!! 5 stars
12/16/07 RLK Pretty Good Movie! I really enjoyed it 4 stars
6/25/07 Penny Loved it. It was great. Was a good action packed movie. 5 stars
4/16/07 Christop One of THE WORST MOVIES OF ALL TIME! 1 stars
11/20/06 jazz the movie was confusing yet we enjoyed least i learned some french now...hehe 4 stars
7/29/06 kat it was awesome. i loved it!!!!! 5 stars
5/06/06 Ashley Hinz Enjoyable little time travel piece. 4 stars
3/09/06 Dk Goodish film 3 stars
1/16/06 Jeff Anderson A rare misstep for Richard Donner. Amazingly cheap-looking(for a big budget)& atrocious!!!! 1 stars
10/11/05 Dan Good movie! 4 stars
9/02/05 othree "I wish i could go back in time" & not have watched it, sucks, did Disney make this?! 1 stars
8/19/05 ES Rent it and regret it 1 stars
8/16/05 tatum Nice cast in instantly forgettable film 3 stars
5/03/05 Quigley what a crap-fest! lame battles, atrocious acting, boring sci-fi - must i continue? no way! 1 stars
1/04/05 Cyberdiver I wish i could go back in time, I'd be rich when I came back. ;) 5 stars
11/01/04 Charles S. Lewis though a work of FICTION, It's an excellent movie. I enjoyed it well enough to purchase it 5 stars
10/20/04 arwen Olena this movie was not the best movieever but i enjoyed the french aspect of it 4 stars
6/09/04 Preston Gaddis HORRIBLE 1 stars
5/06/04 Olli B. Good Movie 4 stars
4/17/04 American Slasher Goddess Pretty bad, it should have been much better then what it was. 2 stars
2/09/04 Tom Cruise C'mon people i saw this movie and it was a very good movie 5 stars
2/03/04 Eloise Truely awful. The worst film i have ever seen. 1 stars
1/31/04 Outside Food Girl Isaw it for $1.50, which gives it twoextra stars right there 4 stars
1/23/04 Jenny Tullwatrz Intriguing concept; battle scenes from 1357 too chaotic and confusing, though. 3 stars
1/21/04 Betty White Paul Walker should get a Razzie nomination for his amateurish work in this bad film. 1 stars
12/26/03 Uncle Salty Come on. Really. There are no more words. 1 stars
12/13/03 Donald Fox The war scene was great. The book was better. Actors' lines were too contrived. 4 stars
12/10/03 Desperado While this movie isnt great the book is awesome, just another Chrichton novel wasted 3 stars
12/08/03 Eloise lm i have ever seen, we walked out in disgust :( 1 stars
12/08/03 alex so french are the good guys? Or this movie is biased...Plus, didn't feel like past at all! 1 stars
12/08/03 Joe Plot holes that you could drive a truck through. Characters are lemmings. 1 stars
12/07/03 crazy it was a very good movie,good story too. 5 stars
12/02/03 Setesh Godgrik At leat all the main characters were in this one 2 stars
12/02/03 HangMikeMyersforFuckinguptheCat What did you people expect? Paul Walker's in it!!! 1 stars
12/01/03 wesley cox horrible 1 stars
11/30/03 Marcus Yes, one of the worst movies of the decade 1 stars
11/30/03 twhmmh too many characters, not enough development 3 stars
11/30/03 Xalt Interesting story, but it felt like a lot of details were left out. Read the book too. 3 stars
11/30/03 --- I'd rather be flogged to death by Hitler then watch this movie again 1 stars
11/29/03 Tess Houck Read the book! 3 stars
11/29/03 Jack the Dagger terrible paul walker sucks ass storyline sucks everything. waste of my time and money 1 stars
11/28/03 St Olaf Swimmer So sorry I wasted money on this movie 1 stars
11/27/03 ajay pace is so quick, they gloss over loads of details. Paul Walker is so bad it's funny. 3 stars
11/27/03 Herbert Primig a bit short on plot and charachterization to be sure but action that feels exiting and real 4 stars
11/27/03 Frank Lynch I want my $6 back 1 stars
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  26-Nov-2003 (PG-13)
  DVD: 13-Apr-2004



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