Science fiction and fantasy                                            

The Time Machine

directed by Simon Wells

You can't change the past. Otherwise we would keep finding time tourists taking up all the best spots on the beach and making fun of our fashions. You can however update old classics, as in this attempt to bring the H G Wells novella and 1960 movie to a modern audience.

Rather than updating the story to a modern timeframe, it begins in the late Victorian era. This costume drama beginning makes the scientific elements harder to believe. Guy Pearce plays Alexander, your stereotypical forgetful prof. He is in love and about to be married. When his beloved Emma is killed, he creates a time machine to go back and prevent the tragedy.

Only there are complications, so he travels forward in time in an attempt to fix things. Although the plot is an old one, it comes across as a completely modern piece once he uses the machine. He takes a trip to the near future, then goes to the very distant future where two species, the Eloi and the Morlock, inhabit the Earth.

Alexander befriends the peaceful Eloi and stays with Mara, played by Samantha Mumba. But the Eloi are being preyed on by the Morlocks, who snatch them once in a while. The Morlocks are fierce and ugly orc-like creatures.

There is plenty of action, and the effects are excellent. The primitive world of the far future has a fantasy feel to it, and the Morlock's tunnels in particular are reminiscent of Tolkien's orc-pits. Jeremy Irons comes over all gothic dark lord or fairy king as the Uber-Morlock, with his pale skin and bondage attire. It's one of those laughable supervillain roles, and he makes a fair pass at being menacing in spite of the camp getup.

Samantha Mumba and Guy Pearce are adequate in their roles. However Pearce doesn't convince as a romantic lead because the spark between himself and Mumba just isn't there. This is more of a weepy movie overall, although there are elements of action and adventure towards the end. It needs a passionate leading man, even if the character of Alexander isn't an especially gung-ho type.

These points are mostly mere nit-picking. Pearce successfully conceals his Australian accent and doesn't come across as wooden. The main problem with this movie is that at 96 minutes it's over too quickly. Plot, effects and acting all come together to make a very watchable whole. Sure, time travel is impossible as we know it without huge speeds and vast expenditure of energy. The old chestnut that changing the past will radically alter the future is glossed over, and technical details are ignored. But that's not the point, it's not hard science fiction by any means. The look and the subject matter are based on fantasy, and considered that way it's an acceptable story.

The movie isn't too taxing on the mind, with only light doses of real science and philosophy. Coupled with love scenes that go no further than hand-holding, and not overmuch violence, it's a film aimed at the whole family. It's good, but it probably won't blow you away.

Film Details

Year: 2002

Categories: Films

  Kids     Science fiction

Classification: PG

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3 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson