March 8, 2002
Guy Pearce, Samantha Mumba, Jeremy
Irons, Mark Addy, Phyllida Law, Sienna Guillory, Omero Mumba,
and Alan Young
Walter F. Parkes and David Valdes
Arnold Leibovit and Jorge Saralegui
ON THE NOVEL BY:
H. G. Wells
Teenagers & adults
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The Time Machine
By Movieguide Magazine
- The original Time Machine in 1960 was a good natured, thought
provoking trifle that won a lot of fans. The author of the short novel on
which the movie was based, H. G. Wells, often reflected some of the Christian
worldview in his imaginative stories, despite his Fabian Socialist sympathies.
This version of The Time Machine tries hard to be more serious than
the original movie and also to highlight some of the moral and allegorical
elements of the story. It does not always succeed, but it is a valiant effort.
Opening in 1899 in New York City, Alexander Hartdegen is an associate professor
in physics and applied mechanics at Columbia University. He is intrigued by
time travel and gets overwhelmed by his work, including his correspondence
with a clerk in Germany named Albert Einstein. He is also much in love with
Emma, a very beautiful girl who sees something in Alex that may not be immediately
apparent to the audience. As Alex is proposing to Emma in Central Park, a
robber holds them up and Emma is shot accidentally.
Alex dedicates the next four years of his life to building a time machine
to go back and save Emma. He does go back, but Emma is killed in another way,
in a manner that is one of the few laugh-out-loud gaffs in the story. Now,
Alex is determined to find out why he cant change the past.
Forgetting that he just did, because the manner of her death changed, Alex
time travels off into the future to seek the answer to his question. He visits
New York in 2030 where he talks to a computer hologram that contains all the
knowledge of the New York Library and, supposedly, all the libraries in the
world. The computer scoffs at his idea of time travel, so Alex edges forward
to 2037, where he finds out that New York is being destroyed by bits of the
moon that are falling apart due to misguided mining of the earths satellite.
Alex escapes the police and rockets forward to the year 802,701. He wakes
up to being cared for by a young Eloi woman, Mara, and her little brother.
Everything looks beautiful with her agricultural society, which is suspended
on the side of cliffs in unique basket-like cliff dwellings, but, as everyone
who read the book remembers, there is a dark secret. The Eloi are merely sheeple
to feed the Morlocks, a brawny race of underground dwellers. Alex challenges
the Eloi to stand up to the Morlocks when they capture Mara during one of
their Eloi hunting parties.
In the process of going to rescue Mara, Alex finds the Uber Morlock, a devilish
figure, if there ever was one, who informs Alex that you cannot change evolutionary
determinism. Alex decides to prove the evil Uber Morlock wrong and commits
himself to staying with Mara and the Eloi.
There is much good news in The Time Machine, not the least of which
is that the devils attempt to convince Alex that life is fated is proved
totally wrong by Alexs final exercise of his moral free will. The Time
Machine also includes a quote from Scripture, a redemptive willingness
to lay down ones life for others, a recognition that theres a time for peace
and a time for war, and a repeated emphasis on God speed. Furthermore, the
movie shows loyalty, friendship, chivalry, and decency.
That said, the movie has a few all-too-obvious flaws, which are not nearly
as bad as last years Planet Of The Apes or Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.
However, they stem from the same storytelling mistake. As Gene Roddenbury
pointed out in his creation of Star Trek, a filmmaker can create his
own fantastic world, but no matter how fanciful that world is, you need to
be true to the physical laws that you set up in that universe. The Time
Machine does not necessarily break its own laws, but it does ignore them
at critical points, and the audience at the press screening was all too ready
to catch these story flaws. All of these could have been fixed with a little
script supervision. In fact, I was sitting next to a producer, who went on
a long diatribe about how movies get off track when there are too many cooks
in the kitchen.
That said, The Time Machine should be commended for being an exciting
action vehicle. Guy Pearce does a serviceable job, although one wishes they
had chosen a more charismatic hero. He does have angst down, however, to a
fine science. The supporting cast was good, especially Jeremy Irons, who could
be the Devil Incarnate considering his other roles. Jeremy is a fine actor
and brought a lot of power to his scene, at a point when one was getting tired
of all the Morlocks being too similar.
That is another flaw to The Time Machine. Lucas in Star Wars said
that he spent much time in the original movie creating characters who had
individual personalities. Therefore, there are scenes in that movie that are
indelibly etched on peoples minds because of this. Regrettably, the Morlocks
in The Time Machine have no personality except for their leader, the
Uber Morlock. Here too, a little tweaking of the script could have gone a
Some of the fight sequences in The Time Machine are way too frightening
for young children and could have been toned down, because the movie as a
whole is not scripted in a salacious or cutting edge manner. There are many
exciting moments and some terrific camera work, especially as Alex and Mara
flee the Morlock caves.
In all, The Time Machine is an interesting, fun diversion that makes
some good, moral and even redemptive points. It is not for young children,
but older children will not be corrupted by it and they may even take some
valuable lessons away from.
Please address your comments to:
David Geffen, Jeffrey Katzenberg & Steven Spielberg
1000 Flower Street
Glendale, CA 91201
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