Movie Review: TIME MACHINE [2001]Warner Bros. Pictures
2001
PG-13

“You think I don’t know you Alexander? I can look inside your memories, Your nightmares, your dreams. You’re a man haunted by those two most terrible words, What If?”

Bit late, yes? Not if you consider I waited until tonight to shell out the $4 to rent this updated piece of cinematic crap. But, to make this needless post a worthwhile read (of sorts), I’ll go ahead and count the many ways this movie didn’t do it for me…

First of all, this movie pretty much represents everything I don’t like about Hollywood’s modernizing, or “re-imagining”, older movies. They generally take the classic it’s based on, and cast aside the substance that made it a classic to begin with (the wonderment of the cinematic magic from a bygone era) in favor of slick production and visuals. Throw in characters you can’t really connect with, a script with plot holes big enough to slide a Mack truck through, very stilted acting, and a 90-minute edit job that left the entire product feel disjointed at points, and what you got is nothing more than a modern B-movie for late-night cable…

For those who’ve read the H. G. Wells classic that it’s based on (and that’s a very loose term here, btw), the book was a sci-fi commentary on class struggles, socialism and other philosophic issues of the day. Of course, it took the author’s great-grandson, Simon Wells, to turn it into a mindless popcorn flick. From what I remember, Simon fell ill during the last shoots of the movie, and was replaced by another director for the rest of the production while he recouped (I don’t know the name of the guy, does anyone else?). That, and the movie was constantly pushed back for release dates, going from Fall of 2001 to December of 2001…

Anyway, the movie starts off pretty decently, setting things up with a doomed romance, authentic turn-of-the-century settings and Guy Pearce looking pretty hunky (not that I’m gay, mind you). Then he steps into that time machine…and things lose cohesion very quickly. The motivation is lost from the main character almost immediately- Pearce starts off on a journey to reinvigorate someone who was lost to him in the past, but after he lands on The Planet Of The Morloks, he inexplicably forgets all about his previous years of hard work, dedication and passion, and decides that getting involved in the lives of some jungle-people, who he only met for one evening, is suddenly the greater priority. Needless to say, the rest of the movie is spent in that future, with lil’ ol’ scientist man turning action-hero on us, with the (subdued) hots for a jungle lady with a kid who looks suspiciously like a young Boba Fett from Attack Of The Clones…

This leads to the second mistake Hollywood made here: Time Machine didn’t know what kind of movie it wanted to be. It starts off as a period-piece romance (expected), down-shifts into sci-fi, then settles into an action flick, with little originality, enthusiasm or involvement for the viewer (namely, me). So I didn’t care about the main character because he apparently gives up on the dream, I didn’t care about the people in the far-off future because of the two-dimensional portrayal by the actors (I’m supposed to believe that out of all the inhabitants, only the woman who found Alex can speak English…and fluently, I might add?), and to top it off, a couple of the main stars here seemed like they were just limping through their parts on autopilot. I speak of the “head Morlok” played by the otherwise superb Jeremy Irons. His brief presence there was quite the waste, turning into nothing more than a lame explanation of his kind, and a couple of BOO! moments that fell flat in the execution. Orlando Jones pops in as a photoelectronic hologram from the year 2030, that inexplicably survives the decimation of “modern society” into the far-off future, with no electricity or for that matter anyone else discovering him during the long centuries underground…

Can I say anything nice about this flick? Well, um…the time travel sequences were cool. Otherwise…my advice would be to read the book. Then watch the 1960s version…

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