TIME MACHINE, THE
Alexander Hartdegen (Guy Pearce) is a brilliant mathematician at New York's Columbia University. On the night he proposes marriage to Emma (Sienna Guillory), tragedy strikes. Incorporating the early theories of Albert Einstein, Hartdegen spends the next four years building a machine capable of travelling through time. After returning to the night of Emma's death Hartdegen travels into the future; first to the year 2034 and eventually to 802701. In the ruins of New York he discovers two species; the human-like Eloi who live above ground and the Morlocks, a mutant offspring who live underground and dominate the Eloi with physical force and mind control. When Eloi girl Mara (Samantha Mumba) is captured by the Morlocks, Hartdegen embarks on a dangerous journey underground to rescue her.
Review by Richard Kuipers:
In a nod to George Pal's 1960 version, Guy Pearce's time machine looks remarkably similar to Rod Taylor's and is controlled by the same diamond shaped throttle knob. Fans will also recognise some of Pal's time-lapse shots being faithfully replicated as Hartdegen takes his chariot for pit-stops in 2034 and 2037 before flooring the engine and winding up in the
year 802701. The basic elements are well enough arranged in this update directed by Simon Wells (the great-grandson of H.G., no less) but this version lacks the crucial ingredients of awe and wonder. In a strangely serious and introspective performance, Guy Pearce's Hartdegen barely reacts to the astonishing discoveries he's making. It's through his eyes we witness events but his contemplative mood doesn't allow us to feel the exhilaration such a fantastic journey should inspire. This is decent enough escapist entertainment but you'll need to overlook some serious flaws. The Eloi seem to speak English as and when plot convenience requires and the largely computer-generated Morlocks are a big disappointment. It's the Jar-Jar Binks syndrome all over again as these digital beasties are clumsily integrated into live action scenes, never convincing us for a second that they are anything but expensive cartoon creations. That said, I did enjoy Jeremy Irons in chalk make-up as the Uber-Morlock. His penchant for hammy acting, still not satisfied even after his indulgences in the dreadful Dungeons and Dragons, at least gives some life to a film that struggles to hit top gear. The class conflict subtext of the novel is also largely submerged in favour of the sappy romance between Hartdegen and Eloi girl Mara (played competently by pop singer Samantha Mumba). Clocking in at an agreeable 96 minutes, The Time Machine doesn't outstay its welcome and supplies just enough popcorn thrills to pass muster if you don't look too closely.
Review by Louise Keller:
We have all day dreamed about time travel at one time or other. I know I have. What would we do and how could we change and tailor things to make a better life? It’s a wonderful fantasy, and for an adrenalin-charged Saturday afternoon adventure, The Time Machine is an enjoyable outing. It is not the film it could have been, and it certainly would have fared better had more attention been paid to the script. But there are enough elements – both visually and conceptually – to enjoy the trip. The film looks great thanks to superb and interesting production design seen through Donald McAlpine’s experienced lens, and the effects work well. I really like the notion of the digital man who appears in the museum as a compendium of all human knowledge. He’s a lonely and isolated soul, trapped behind glass, living as a prisoner to his boundless memories. The highlight is the wonderfully theatrical appearance of Jeremy Irons, whose albino make up and hissing manner make him a kind of cross-dressing Dracula-villain. Irons looks as though he is having a wonderful time hamming it up, and he makes every second of his screen time count. Guy Pearce, however, is badly miscast as Alexander, struggling in the early scenes to portray a bumbling ‘absent-minded professor’ character that totally lacks credibility and is unsustainable. I can imagine George Clooney, Mel Gibson or even Harrison Ford effective in the role of Alexander, and it certainly would have been more satisfying if the script concentrated on the adventure, rather than concocting the semblance of a romance that never rings true. But the Morlocks are frightening enough as they leap-frog around and tunnel violently to their underground kingdom. The way the past and the future are merged in the final scenes is a satisfying conclusion, and the casual toss of his bowler hat by Mark Addy’s David Philby, gives a subtle nod to change. Make haste with less speed; the answers you find may not be what you expect.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Lacking both the gee whizz factor of time travel and the romance of it, Time Machine is a bit of a disappointment, with a few highlights and some fine effects. The script never soars and the direction is old fashioned and plodding, despite opportunities for bravado. Nor is this Guy Pearce’s finest hour. Still, he is perhaps the wrong man for the job – although I’m not sure who the right man would be (without a rewrite). Jeremy Irons makes an eerie cameo in the guise of a highly advanced human, and Samantha Mumba is memorable as Mara, the young woman in the distant future. Excellent production design, cinematography and music work hard to bring the film to life and there are some genuinely intriguing sequences where the story starts to have traction. Once these dissipate, the film starts to drag again. Ironically enough, considering the flights of imagination that propelled the original story, it’s a lack of imagination that binds the film to the floor, where time seems to go a bit too slowly.
Email this article
TIME MACHINE, THE (M)
CAST: Guy Pearce, Samantha Mumba, Omero Mumba, Jeremy Irons, Orlando Jones
PRODUCER: Walter F. Parkes, David Valdes
DIRECTOR: Simon Wells
SCRIPT: John Logan, David Duncan (earlier screenplay), from the novel by H.G. Wells
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Donald McAlpine
EDITOR: Wayne Wahrman
MUSIC: Klaus Badelt
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Oliver Scholl
RUNNING TIME: 92 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 11, 2002
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Home Video
VIDEO RELEASE: October 9, 2002