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THE TIME MACHINE

Review by Chastity Campbell

Stars: Guy Pearce, Samantha Mumba, Orlando Jones, Mark Addy, and Jeremy Irons
Director: Simon Wells
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, English & French
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Dreamworks
Features: See Review
Length: 96 Minutes
Release Date: July 23, 2002

“Why can't I change the past?”

Film **1/2

Growing up in Kentucky, I used television as my escape from the boredom that was farm life.   One of my favorite movies was the 1960 version of The Time Machine.  Now as I sit down to write this review, I find myself repeating the same phrase over and over again:  some things are better left undisturbed! 

It's not that this new version of an old classic is a disaster, not by any means.   The story has been given an overhaul and starts out on a very good note that unfortunately goes flat after the first hour.

Alexander Hartdegen, the absent minded professor, is portrayed wonderfully by Guy Pearce (Momento, The Count of Monte Cristo).  When Alexander's fiancée is murdered, he locks himself in his laboratory and spends the next four years working on his time machine, so he can go back and save his beloved Emma, played by Sienna Guillory (KISS KISS BANG BANG, Sorted).  After trying and failing to save her, he sets out on a quest to understand why the past cannot be changed, by bouncing around the future till he ends up in the year 802,701. 

Up to this point I was totally ready to embrace this movie and accept it as a replacement for the original.  As Alexander is traveling forward through time, you cannot help feeling awed by the CGI, effects giant Digital Domain created for this time traveling tale.  The use of visual effects and landscape morphing brought about an amazing transformation from the late 1800s to modern day and beyond that is nearly flawless.  Unfortunately however, when he arrives in 802,701 you get the distinct feeling of story melt down. 

From this point on it felt like the story was rushed, and at times struggled to make any point at all.  The Eloi people and their culture felt wasted by the push to get to the special effects.  The Eloi woman who befriends Alexander, Mara, played by Irish pop singer Samantha Mumba, had major potential, but I guess sacrificing character development for big explosions somehow pays off in the end.  

The Morlock people (a.k.a. The Bad Guys) are a fearsome looking bunch that are broken down into two castes, the hunters and the workers.  The hunters go topside for a little take out and steal Mara along with some of the other Eloi people.  Alexander goes in after Mara and is captured by a group from the worker caste.   He is taken to Uber Morlock played by Jeremy Irons (Dungeons & Dragons, The Man In The Iron Mask), who is one of the brains behind the oppressed Morlock people.   I love Jeremy Irons, and after watching him in this movie I have great respect for a man who can take the uncreative dialogue he was given and turn it into something worth watching.   "Underused" is the theme for this movie, because we only get to see a quick glimpse of Iron's character before he is destroyed through some creative time travel.  A cataclysmic time wave brought on by our hero's selflessness takes out the rest of the Morlock's, but as expected, our hero saves the girl and finds a new home in a new time.

Overall, this film left me longing for more story, and better character development.   It's not a bad remake, but I have seen better. 

Video ****

The thing I love most about movies transferred to DVD is the crisp look of an image and the overall ability to see things so much more vividly than in other formats.  This DVD was of great quality overall and the detail visible in the effects were amazing.  All images were crisp and clear and the only blurring we see, was intentional.

Audio ****

I watched this movie on a Sony Digital 32” television with full surround sound, and the audio was at times more intense than the film itself.  Klaus Bedelt's first solo score was amazing, and the 5.1 Digital Dolby Surround brought it to life with amazing clarity.   Dialogue was easy to understand and never dipped or dropped too far below the appropriate mix levels.

Features ***

The features on this DVD were pretty cool, although some of them felt like they were put in just to fill up a section of the disc. 

The commentary tracks follow the whole movie scene for scene and give you an in depth idea of what they were trying to achieve.  It got a bit boring because they seemed to repeat themselves a lot. 

The Archive Galleries were completely full of story boards, and images used to determine the look and feel of the movie.   The behind the scenes section was a little disappointing due to the amount of work that went into the special effects of the movie.  I felt like they could have done more with this section, but just used it to fill up space.

The deleted Scenes section was shortened for this one to a single deleted scene that was disappointing.  

It's not a bonanza of extras but it's a nice compliment to the movie.

Summary:

This movie was probably a dream come true for director Simon Wells, great grandson to the late H.G. Wells, author of the original Time Machine.  It was full of awesome effects and beautifully designed landscapes that will show you just how far movie magic has come.  If you like action movies, and you don't mind the sometimes, choppy plot development, then pop the popcorn, sit back, and enjoy.