IS “THE TIME MACHINE” AHEAD OF ITS TIME?

CRITIC DOCTOR EXAMINES: Joyce Kulhawik (hottickettv.com), Ed Johnson-Ott (Nuvo.net), Sean P. Means (sltrib.com), Leonard Maltin (hottickettv.com), Gary Thompson (Philadelphia Daily News), Chris Gore (filmthreat.com), Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times) ^ * * 1/2 (out of 5 stars) PG-13
Simon Wells (great-grandson of author H.G. Wells) directs a re-make of George Pal’s classic 1960 “The Time Machine” (based on H.G. Wells’ 1895 book). Wells may be a family member of this great science fiction writer, but does he lack the originality of his grandpa?
The Time Machine is about Alexander Hartdegen (Guy Pearce), a scientist who spends four years inventing a time machine that will take him back in time to prevent the murder of his wife-to-be. He succeeds, but she dies – again. He believes he cannot change the past, so he goes forward in time 800,000 plus years to find the answer. But when the movie ends I was left with a question, “Why was this remake even made?”
Joyce Kulhawik said on “Hot Ticket” (Paramount Domestic TV), “I completely identified with the idea that he was trying to go back and correct something that had tragically happened in his present and that sucked me right in.”
Kulhawik is definitely a sucker. Here’s a heartbroken man who spent four years (four years!) researching a way go back in time to save his wife-to-be. But he only goes back once! Once! For the love of God, if he spends this much time inventing a high-tech contraption to rescue the love of his life, isn’t she worth at least one more rescue attempt? Maybe it wasn’t fate, but simply bad luck.
Ed Johnson-Ott (Nuvo.net) said, “Had Simon Wells ditched the ‘save my lover’ motif and allowed Alexander to be a pure explorer, the film might have been something more grand.”
This film is titled The Time Machine and it should have been a movie about the concept of “time travel.” Imagine the potential fun, the curiosities that one could explore through time travel. Instead, we’re stuck visiting the Eloi and the Morlocks again. Sean P. Means (sltrib.com) adds, “It’s clear Simon Wells & Co. were so hung up on other versions of ‘The Time Machine’ that they never give this one a life of its own.”
A better example of using H.G. Wells’ “Time Machine” is the movie “Time After Time.” Wells (Malcolm McDowell) chases Jack the Ripper into our own present day. The plot was imaginative, different and it worked.
Leonard Maltin (“Hot Ticket”) said on his TV show, “I don’t think this is going to go down as a classic, which in many people’s minds the 1960′s film is. But it’s certainly entertaining and with its faults, I’d still say its worth seeing and the effects are great.”
How can a dull re-make be entertaining, Leonard? Apparently George Pal’s 1960 movie is not a classic in your mind, which explains why your thinking here is crap. Even Guy Pearce’s acting in the beginning looked contrived and awkward. Initially, I felt like I was watching a filmed stage play. Pearce gradually improves, but the story gets worse!
Gary Thompson (Philadelphia Daily News) said, “For every cheesy scene, though, there is a really cool bit – the movie’s conception of a future-world holographic librarian (Orlando Jones) who knows everything and answers all questions, is visually smart, cleverly written, and nicely realized.”
The librarian was cool in the beginning, Gary. But I wonder if the librarian could answer this question: “How could the same computer librarian physically exist, let alone operate, several hundred thousand years into the future?” The very matter in this weak structure would have dissolved from the elements and changing conditions of the earth. And that’s exactly what should have happened because this character (or plot device) was overused.
Chris Gore (filmthreat.com) said, “In the original, George had his eye on blonde hottie Weena (Yvette Mimieux). Sure, she was dumb, but man, what a woman. In the remake, Alex falls for Mara (Samantha Mumba). Yawn.”
Weena was hot! She was a sweet, innocent, beautiful sexy woman with a true heart – and she was blonde! If I were George, I’d wanna stay, too. The love interest in the re-make simply does not compare. I just cannot imagine Alexander wanting to stay in this God forsaking time period with Mara. Again, yawn.
At least the special effects were good. I liked the time machine itself and the transparent sphere that was generated when the device moved through time. The Morlocks were powerful and frightening, and the all-around visual imagery was usually eye appealing. But that’s not enough to save a film that should have been ahead of its time.
Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times) summed the movie up best: “‘The Time Machine’ is a witless recycling of the H.G. Wells story from 1895, with the absurdity intact but the wonderment missing.”
You can avoid a past mistake now by planning to rent the video in the future. Better yet, rent the 1960 version. ^ –CRITIC DOCTOR
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Posted on March 13, 2002 in Features by
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