The Time Machine (2002)

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The Time Machine (2002)

Post  BoG on Fri Oct 24, 2014 3:34 pm

Latest version of the famous sf novel from H.G. Wells; the famous previous one was the 1960 version.  There was also a telefilm version in 1978.
This film begins in the same year as the 1960 version - 1899 - but veers off into less inspired territory right away, spotlighting some young inventor with a forgettable name (Guy Pearce). It falls back on the stale tale of lost love: the inventor loses his girlfriend to a mugger and this is what galvanizes him to build a time machine, not the search for ultimate answers or the need to explore unseen worlds. And, it gets more clumsy after he builds his machine: he goes back in time and saves his girl from the mugger, but she dies minutes later by other means. Everything about this sequence is poorly conceived; you'd think that after actually saving his love, the smart and obsessed scientist wouldn't let her out of his sight, but no - minutes later he leaves her alone. I had little sympathy for him at this point and thought less of his forthcoming adventure.  Also, though she died anyway, she did die in a different way, so must have changed history if ever so slightly; but, this is not addressed.
Nevertheless, the remaining adventure is not too bad: turning his back on the past, the inventor travels into the future, though he is still driven by thoughts of finding a way to save his girl. He stops in year 2030, checking out a futuristic library (including an annoying hologram played by Orlando Jones).  Going forward only a few more years, he witnesses the destruction of most of Earth's moon, which naturally causes a cataclysm on Earth. His next stop is the same far off year as in the original - year 802,701 - where he meets this film's versions of the Eloi and the Morlocks.  The Eloi are simple, brown-skinned fishermen who live on the sides of cliffs in special but primitive housing. The Morlocks are super-powered versions of the apelike creatures of the 1960 version and live underground; they resemble white apes and are much stronger and faster than common humans. Their command structure is also weird - most Morlocks come across like bestial brutes, but the leader is a very intelligent & telepathic Uber-Morlock (Jeremy Irons).  
It should come as no surprise that the concluding action involves a mano-a-mano confrontation between the hero inventor and the Uber-Morlock. What is also different in this version is that the time machine itself becomes involved, as an engine of massive destruction. This reflects the differences in how films are constructed nowadays compared to decades ago - these days it's all about big explosions; this seems to be the only option to cap things off in films these days. In 1960, it was awesome; in 2002, meh. This film's story does make one game attempt to go beyond the 1960 version, by having the time traveler briefly journey much further into the future in the final act, over 600 million years. But, even this has a meaningless tone to it. BoG's Score: 6.5 out of 10

Time Trivia: Directed by Simon Wells, great grandson of H.G. Wells
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