H.G. Wells' classic The Time Machine gets another renovation under the direction of his grandson, Simon Wells. Starring Guy Pearce and lots of computer effects, The Time Machine tries to prove it is not only a classic, but a timeless classic.
Most people know the basic story, of an inventor in the 19th century who travels 800,000 years into the future where the human race has split into two species, the peaceful Elois and the deadly underground Morlocks. I have not read the novel but I am sure the movie takes quite a few liberties, such as sending us to a museum in 2030 which features a holographic version of Orlando Jones. Of course, Wells could not have foreseen computers, but the integration of the story arc works.
The Time Machine, at least in the form it is now, is an adventure story with morality to be told. It nails the adventure aspect, but any deeper meaning that H.G. Wells was trying to present is lost. What we get is a visually enticing and intriguing piece of work, but nothing that can be considered as more than eye candy. The result is similar to The Mummy Returns, only with slightly better graphics, less cheesiness, and more authentic action.
Going into the movie, I was not expecting much. Despite my attempts to avoid reviews, I knew the critics were thrashing it. It is safe to say that I enjoyed The Time Machine more than I thought I would, and it's not just that my expectations were lowered. 2002's The Time Machine truly is an interesting modernization of the model, combining Well's classic story with our idea of a future based 150 years after Wells wrote his novel.
The trouble with The Time Machine is the gritty details surrounding the Morlocks and the Elois. Obviously, some of the problems lie with Wells' book, but they still have to be taken into account. The most obvious problem is language. There is no possible way that the English language would survive over the course of 800,000 years. Even if the language used at that time were to be called English, it would not exist in any familiar form. English in Shakespeare's time, let alone in Wells' time, is quite different from the English we speak today. The changes that have taken place have occurred over only 500 years, let alone 800,000. We do not know what languages were spoken ten thousand years ago, and we can only vaguely grasp what the ancient languages of Egypt and Greece were like. In 800,000 years, English would cease to exist in any form. Nevertheless, some of the Elois are able to speak English because they learn it from stone tablets that are the remnants of New York (of course, 800,000 years from now, those tablets would be so faded they would be impossible to decipher). Another big problem is the separate species. Evolution plays its hand with the Morlocks, but the Elois look like normal humans. Human beings did not exist 800,000 years ago, and they will not exist in any recognizable form 800,000 years from now. As for the Morlocks, if they had truly adapted to the underground world, evolution would have not bothered giving them much in the way of eyes, and so forth.
It is also a good time to say that the Morlocks in this version of The Time Machine look awful. Whoever thought of the costume design should have been fired; they are short, stocky, muscular, and have really screwed up faces (except for Jeremy Irons for some odd reason).
The Time Machine is good for two thirds of the movie, but the last twenty minutes are downright bad. Pearce meets Irons and he is established as the main villain, but Pearce decides to kill him before the movie is really able to establish him as a horrible guy. Then, Pearce does something else that doesn't make any sense, and the movie does not decide that it is important enough to explain. The ending just seemed as though it was thought of at the last moment.
The Time Machine was a lot better than I was expecting, but the last twenty minutes really hurts its chances at becoming anyone's favorite movie.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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