The Time Machine (2002)
The Time Machine (2002)

Genre: Sci-Fi Adventure Running Time: 1 hr. 36 min.

Release Date: March 8th, 2002 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Simon Wells Actors: Guy Pearce, Sienna Guillory, Mark Addy, Phyllida Law, Jeremy Irons, Orlando Jones, Samantha Mumba, Yancey Arias

 


 

C

olumbia University’s Applied Mechanics and Engineering associate professor Alexander Hartdegen (Guy Pearce) once again nearly misses a date with longtime girlfriend Emma (Sienna Guillory) to frenetically write out mathematical figures on his chalkboard. He’s perpetually distracted by inventions and numbers running through his head. When he meets her in the park that night and proposes, they’re tragically robbed by an armed man who accidentally shoots and kills Emma after she refuses to give up her new engagement ring.

Four years later, Alex is still distraught, burying himself in his work. But now he’s intently focused on perfecting an extraordinary time machine, with which he can return to the past to reunite with his deceased lover. He quickly discovers, however, that no matter how many times he attempts to save her life, she’s destined to die. Traveling to the year 2030, he speaks with the photonic, vocal database NY-114 (Orlando Jones) at a massive library, which offers little help on the subject. Moving just seven years further into the future, he witnesses the moon crashing into the Earth due to the botched demolition of lunar colonies. Hastily retreating to his craft, he’s knocked unconscious after bumping into the controls, causing him to awaken in the year 802701, centuries after the apocalyptic destruction of mankind.

A new treetop civilization has arisen, called the Eloi, though it is primitive and small. English is only spoken by a select few villagers, including the young woman Mara (Samantha Mumba) and the small boy Kalen (Omero Mumba). Alex’s peaceful acceptance into the tribe (as a “wandering idiot”) is short-lived when he’s plagued by a nightmare envisioned by every human, and learns of monstrous Morlock creatures that tag and bag Eloi (like something out of “Planet of the Apes”) to drag them underground.

Despite the clear advancements in special effects, cinematography, sound effects, and makeup, it’s the recognizable greenhouse, jalopy-like vehicle, and a symbolic mannequin that rapidly changes outfits with the fastforwarding of time that are truly welcome (as nostalgic reappearances). But many things have changed from both the famous source material and the 1960 feature by George Pal that aren’t as positive or amusing. The setting has relocated to the United States (to little affect); the original explanation and introduction have vanished, replaced by a romantic reason to invent the time machine; the initial jump into the future also proves to be modernized, with space travel and artificial intelligence; and the need for the stale comic relief of Orlando Jones is entirely questionable.

As an updated adaptation of H.G. Wells’ celebrated novel, the film now tackles the controversial yet intriguing notion of predetermined destinies and the inability to make changes or exert actual control over choices (or the future itself). As a loose simplification, Alex can’t save Emma because she’s the reason for him to build the time machine; saving her would actually prevent the invention’s creation. This concept is bleaker and dodgy in inferences, especially considering the conclusion attempts to toss aside that very notion, which previously governed the entire setup – in favor of action-packed defiance.

The film is also a touch scarier, with the inclusion of the Uber-Morlock leader, played by Jeremy Irons, representing a drastically more graphic arrangement of segregated societies. But the many new ideas just don’t have time to burgeon. With a brief 96-minute running time, the character development, explanation of time travel rules (that this particular film will acknowledge), and the establishment of Alex’s adventures with the Eloi feel as if they’re lacking at least an hour’s worth of details.

– Mike Massie

  • 3/10