THE TIME MACHINE (2002)


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DIRECTOR: Simon Wells

May Contain Spoilers!

Remaking a classic is never an easy task. A poison chalice, with writers, directors and producers forced to weigh up the pros and cons of being faithful without repeating themselves and delivering something fresh for new generation. But what do you do with one of H.G.Wells’ most notable classics? Not this, that’s for sure. Both this and Spielberg’s War Of The Worlds (2005) share two key factors. Both were obviously adaptations of Wells’ key works but they had both been adapted before, by the same producer, George Pal in the 1950’s.

Spielberg’s’ 2005 thriller was a unique and unexpected take on the classic, one which took me a while to accept but now I love it. Simon Wells, Great-Grandson of H.G. himself, took the reins and chose to strip the narrative of any of its heart and deeper messages. In the 1960 Pal version, the time traveller George (Rod Taylor) was a pure explorer, with the story being told in intriguing flashback, as we learn that five days earlier, he had used his experimental time machine on New Years Day 1900.

First we see him travel and experience the world self destruct in a series of wars, including a fictitious nuclear conflict in 1966, until he ends up in the far distant future. There he discovers that man has divided into two species, the humans are farmed, brainwashed cattle and the Morlocks, a race mutated by a life underground following the nuclear wars.

The-Time-Machine-2002The ideas were clever and poignant but what do we have here? First we have a miscast Guy Pearce, a great actor but not the action star for a second-rate action movie like this. In this version, it’s the over mined moon which is crashing down towards the earth, causing the apocalypse, rather than the A-bomb, though how this rather random cause is as poignant as Nuclear War, I don’t know.

The time machine itself, is also nowhere near as iconic as Pal’s, clumsy and cumbersome, it does manage to transport him to the far, far distant future where man has again divided into the cannibalistic and cave dwelling Morlocks and the Eloy, who are now more reminiscence of the humans from Planet Of The Apes (1968). Less science fiction and more rain forest adventure, the Eloy are captured, forcing Pearce in to the caves.

There he meets a member of the brain cast Morlocks, the smart and evil Jeremy Irons, who seems to be able to answer his key question, the maguffin which drives his journey following his girlfriends murder in the opening reel. “Why can’t I change the past”? He can build and time machine but he needs to ask some cave dwelling cannibal to explain a paradox to him, and a crude one at that?

The story is both contrived and hackneyed, missing all the marks of the original, saying nothing about the subject and handling the complex issues of time travel in a way that even a three-year old could grasp. The style is poor and the acting is on such a low-level that Samantha Mumba, manages to look like an Oscar contender, even next to Guy Pearce and Jeremy Irons.

Check out the 1960 original and don’t waste your TIME with this one. Unless you’ve got a time machine of your own that is…

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