The Time Machine

UK release date: Mar 26 2008

cast list

Guy Pearce
Samantha Mumba
Sienna Guillory
Orlando Jones
Jeremy Irons
Mark Addy

directed by
Simon Wells

I wish I had a time machine. I would use it to fly back in time to warnmyself and others to avoid the new version of The Time Machine, thelatest in a long line of big-budgeted, bloated “remakes” that do nothing butgive the original a bad name.

Scientist and inventor Alexander Hartdegen (Guy Pearce) is determined toprove that time travel is possible. His determination is turned todesperation when the love of his life (Sienna Guillory) is murdered by arobber just after Alexander proposes marriage to her. This tragedy drivesHartdegen to want to change the past in order to save his doomed love.Testing his theories with a time machine of his own invention, Hartdegendiscovers that you can’t alter destiny. So he’s off to the future, where heis hurtled 800,000 years into the future. Here he discovers that mankind hasdivided into two races: benign surface dwellers known as the Eloi and acannibalistic underground race known as the Morlocks.

With a great novel as his guide and state of the art computer effects athis disposal to create visual worlds of wonder, director Simon(great-grandson of HG) Wells should have had little to no problem making acompetent updated version of The Time Machine. So much for a surething. Wells displays no ability to create a sense of urgency, dramatictension, adventure or even plain fun. The Time Machine is Wells’ firstlive-action directing gig (he previously co-directed the animated PrinceOf Egypt) and it shows. The film is a dreary, boring, joylessadventure film that makes the recent Mummy films look likeentertainment of the highest order.

John Logan’s screenplay is another major problem. Inhis anemic adaptation, the characters are virtually nonexistent, his hero’sencounters with people and places from other times are slight to say theleast and Uber Morlock (Jeremy Irons), the oh-so dangerous menace of thefuture, is nothing more than a couch potato in desperate need of a day atthe beach.

As played by Guy Pearce, Hartdegen doesn’t come across as a brilliantscientist capable of saving the day. He comes off as a bumbling idiot whoseems incapable of traveling across the street much less space and time.Pearce is a very talented actor (Memento, LA Confidential), but youwould never know this by watching him here. Irons, looking like JohnnyWinter with a spinal problem, continues his career suicide with ahammy ten-minute appearance as the villain, while singer SamanthaMumba shows up to look pretty as the futuristic love interest who, despite800,000 years of evolution, can speak perfect English and seems to have adecent supply of health and beauty products at her disposal.

Even the effects, both computer generated and makeup, are mediocre.Considering that makeup whiz Stan Winston and visual effects house giantsDigital Domain and Industrial Light and Magic were in charge of thesedepartments, this is even more of a letdown. Perhaps they used a timemachine to bring this work onto the set from an era of filmmaking long ago.That would explain the quality of work on display here.

One question that our hero asks at the beginning of the film that beginshim on his quest is “What if?” For different reasons altogether, I foundmyself echoing those words repeatedly while watching The TimeMachine. What if the film’s production actually had someone who knewwhat they were doing behind the camera? What if they stuck to the book moreclosely? What if I said “no thanks” to the screening passes that night?

What if, indeed.

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